Attention all dog owners! Are you familiar with your dog’s 5 welfare needs as laid out in the 2006 Animal Welfare Act? This states that anyone responsible for a pet must pay attention to five important aspects of care: Environment, Health, Company, Behaviour and Diet.
When you adopt or buy a new puppy or adult dog, he or she is totally reliant on you to provide a safe environment, a healthy diet, daily and emergency health care, companionship, training and outlets for natural behaviours. Read on to find out what each of these means for you as a dog owner.
Provide your dog with a quiet area somewhere in the house where they can retreat and sleep undisturbed by your family. All dogs need their own bed. Some will prefer nest beds with high borders that they can curl up in, especially if they feel the cold. Others will prefer a wide, flat bed where they can stretch out. A dog crate with a comfy cushion can provide a feeling of security for nervous dogs.
A new dog should be registered with a local vet as soon as possible. Keep their number in your phone contacts list or in your wallet at all times. Regular check-ups are advisable, particularly for older dogs. Dogs and puppies need to be vaccinated for several common illnesses. A primary course of vaccinations should be followed up afterwards by ‘booster’ jabs to help maintain your dog’s immunity.
You should seriously consider neutering your dog as soon as they are old enough. Neutering often makes a dog more manageable in terms of temperament and of course you will be ruling out the possibility of unwanted litters. Thousands of unwanted dogs are put to sleep across the UK each year thanks to careless breeding.
Fleas and worms can cause your dog a lot of health problems if left unchecked. Regular treatments with good quality flea and worming products will help keep your pet in great health.
Daily health care for your dog should include a dental routine (brushing regularly and providing dental chews or toys). Grooming is also important and can help you spot other issues such as a skin irritation or lumps in your dog’s body.
Your dog relies on you to provide a healthy diet which meets all their nutritional needs. Look for the word ‘complete’ when choosing a food as this means it has been prepared with the right amount of vitamins and minerals for all round health. Follow packet guidelines and weigh out your dog’s food carefully to avoid your pet gaining excess weight.
Use small, low fat treats when training and try to avoid giving treats at other times. If you do feed treats make sure the main meal is adjusted to account for the extra calories.
Constant access to fresh water is just as important as a healthy diet. A water fountain can encourage your dog to drink more and will keep the water oxygenated and clean.
Dogs need training and socialisation from puppyhood onwards and can quickly develop negative behaviours if left to their own devices. Positive reinforcement of correct behaviour using rewards (e.g. treats, a pat or a game of tug) is more effective in the long term than shouting at your dog when he does the wrong thing. If you are new to dog ownership, we recommend taking your puppy or adult dog to training classes. An experienced trainer will be able to demonstrate effective and kind ways to educate your pet and turn him into a good doggy citizen. Find one on the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website here: www.apdt.co.uk
Boredom breaker toys can help keep a very energetic dog occupied and steer them away from unwanted habits such as chewing furniture or shoes.
Scheduling time in your day to spend with your dog, for play, socialisation, training and just general bonding is vital but hopefully this is part of why you decided to get a pet in the first place. Dogs do not like to be left alone, even for short periods. Generally it is good practise not to leave your dog for longer than four hours a day. If you have to leave your dog alone try to take them for a good long walk just before you head out so they will be more likely to settle and fall asleep.
If you are going on holiday consider taking your dog with you; there are plenty of dog friendly holiday locations around the UK. If that’s not possible, take him to a kennel or organise a pet sitter from www.dogsit.com. A friend or family member popping in once a day is not sufficient company for your dog but you could always ask them to live in your home for the period you are away.