Keeping Your Dog in Shape
A happy dog is...
Well! Keeping a dog in shape is, in truth, very similar if not identical to keeping a human in shape. There are a number ofthings that need to be adressed that vary depending on what the size and breed of the dog is that I will try my best to go over.
Of course the old saying 'a happy "blank" is a healthy one' applys here and dogs are no exception. The requirements to keep a dog happy usually changes based on the breed but overall they need a healthy diet, regular play/exercise, proper grooming, and the occasional visit to the veterinarian. A note to any prospective animal owner, research the pet before you buy it. Most pet mortalities are due to improper care by the owner.
Lets start with where to get the best references. The best sources to go to in regards to taking care of a specific type of dog will almost always be breeders. Breeders make a living by doing exactly what the title suggests. They breed dogs with certain characteristics to either sell or show and because the dogs overall health is so important to the success of either selling the offspring or the overall score the dog recievesin the show, they will of course know how to answer the questions best.
The second best place and likley a lot easier to get in contact with that the breeder, is your local cat and dog veterinarian. Veterinarians specialize in the areas they study just like human doctors (except that animal medicine is a lot harder) so making sure you're going to the right kind is a good idea. A veterinary office will have a lot of tips as to how to keep an animal healthy (trust me I worked at one once).
Keeping the dog healthy
So lets say you get specific information on how to take care of your breed of dog. Now you need to apply it! What does this entail?
Make regular visit to the veterinarian maybe once every six months or so to check the overall health of the animal. If the dog is a puppy you'll need to visit once every few weeks or months dependingon which immunization shots the vet reccomends.Regular checkups for your dog are generally inexpensive if nothing is wrong. The doctor should spend some time eling you whatis going on, f they found anything, and give you any advice they have to improve the healthy of your dog if needed.
Make sure your pet is free of infestations including fleas, worms, and other nasties. These can carry illnesses or hamper the functioning of the internal organs if infestations can get out of hand.This include giving them a bath regularly even if they don't like the water.
Do not make diagnostics yourself (within reason)! If you think something is seriously wrong with your pet, even if you are confident that you know what it is, you are not a veterinarian. Keep in mind that animal hospitals are not able to EVER accept customer diagnostics and are NEVER aloud to make diagnostics over the phone.
Here is where the 'within reason' part comes in. One of the most important things about owning an animal is knowing their personality. If their personality ever changes ad there is no clear reason why, that's bad! But for the most part if things are normal you can almost always figure out why they are behaving a certain way based on their body movements, facial expression, and the tone of whatever you'd like to call the sound that your prospective breed makes (I refuse to qualify the sound that some dogs make as barking :P)
Maintain a healthy and consistent diet for your dog. This is both important in keeping them in shape, and alive! If your dog has a food they like, they eat it, they have good body weight (meaning they don't feel like skin and bones when you touch them), and they are happy and active don't change it! Changing a dogs food can sometimes cause problems for them.
Play time! Be sure to spend ample time with your dog. Dogs are social animals that when in the wild roam in groups called packs. It goes against a dogs nature to be alone and you as their owner are part of their pack (this is why they get really sad when you leave the house.) If you have a big dog playing with them around the house is likley not enough to keep them in good physical shape. Big dogs will need to be taken to a dog beach or a park where they have lots of room to run.
Take small bits of time out of your day to be affectionate to them even if it's just a short ruffle of the fur.
How to spot nutrition or health problems
Pet your dog often, know what it feels like when they are well fed. Doing this on a regular basis can help you find bumps that develop on or under the skin so that they can be caught early if there is any chance of them being malignant.
When a dog is not eating correctly the easy way you tell is when you pet them. They will feel boney (more so than usual since you can usually feel a slight bit of bone even when they are healthy.)There is a very large amount of things that can cause this and the easiest way to get an answer is to go to the veterinarian. It's possible they have developed an allergy to the food or developed a cavity in their old age, whatever the issue is the doctor should be able to find a solution.
When a dog is not drinking correctly, well lets do a test on yourself so you can understand this better. Look at your arm. Now pinch a bit of your skin and let go. See how fast it returns to its original shape around your arm? That's a good thing. When an animal is dehydrated to unhealthy levels the amount of time it takes for the skin to return to it's normal appearance increases. If you aren't sure how to get your animal to drink, take them to the veterinarian office. The vet should be able to give them water directly into their skin. Now they will look like they have a water baloon under their skin when this is done but don't panic! It works well. Looks funny, but works well.
Dog training can be as important to their physical health as it is for their mental health. Believe it or not, training a dog is a lot like training children and also doubles as quality time spent with them.
Spending time training your dog is likley to establish you as the alpha in your little dog pack. You're the one that calls the shots. if something isn't to your liking you need to tell them you're upset with the tone of your voice. The dog doesn't understand words most of the time, but they will understand the tone.
Positive and negative reinfocement should be utilized, not just the negative. So on the other hand if the dog does something right, give them a treat. Tell them they are a good dog and hug them or pet them or something.
If you're not good at enforcing rules or just training in general, there are dog training classes you can sign up for.
Is your dog happy?
So then, is your dog happy? Does it exercise regularly? Eat healthy food and drink on a regular basis? Is it happy to see you when you get home? If so then you're probably doing a good job.
Oh yeah and that unconventional love thing? That's a lie. Dogs don't uncomventionally love their owners. They love the people that love them. How do I know? I took care of a neighbors German Shepard and he decided to break out of his back yard and live in mine when the lock on the back yard gate was completley broken.
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