10 Things Every Dog Owner Needs
What do you think is the most important item a dog owner needs?
So you are thinking about getting a dog? Well before you adopt or buy, make sure you know what you are getting into. I grew up in the country and we always had several dogs, but they were able to roam and fend for themselves so the amount of care they needed was minimal. A lot has changed in that regard for me. I am now a city dweller with a small city lot so owning a dog in town has meant providing a different amount of care.
Based on my experience, here are 10 things every dog owner needs:
1.) An Understanding of the Breed
The breed matters -- a lot. My family chose to get a 'pound pup' and in all honesty, I doubt I would do it again. I would only considered adopting or rescuing a dog if it was:
- still a pup (less than 4 months old) and
- had only been confined to a pound for less than a month.
This is based on personal experience and the challenges, such as fear aggression, that we have dealt with.
The reason you want to know the breed is to understand the animal's overall traits and temperament -- including its weaknesses or propensity to diseases. Some breeds are better around children than other breeds and some breeds are more prone to bite, bark or howl.
How the animal looks may be an important attribute to you as an owner, but in the long run, how it behaves will outweigh any potential 'cuteness' you may see in the dog.
2.) Ample Space
Even the smallest of canines need room to roam, to play and to just lounge around. My dog is 40 pounds, high energy and can easily hike for a couple hours and still be willing to do it all over again in the same day. To deal with her energy level (because a tired dog is a happy dog -- which creates a happy owner), I walk her 30-45 minutes every day and on some days I take her out in the back yard and have her fetch a ball. Just 10 minutes of chasing a ball can expend as much energy as her daily walk.
3.) High Quality Collar (and leash)
Since you are going to be walking your dog -- hopefully every day -- you need a collar and leash that can hold up. A well-trained dog will not pull on the leash or collar when they are being walked, but there will be situations when you will need to control the animal with the leash.
My dog is a nervous animal and I learned one day while walking to a store that traffic made her jumpy. At one point she tried to dart away, but since the collar was adjusted correctly and could withstand her strength I was able to contain her. (I have since started working on solving her fear, which is a slow process).
Some people use a choker collar when training their dog, I have never understood the need for such a drastic approach. Even though my dog is naturally skittish, she responds well (like most dogs, I think) to positive reinforcements instead of brute force -- which is really all the choker collar is doing.
Regardless of the type of collar you use, pay the few extra bucks to get one that is comfortable and durable.
How to Read Pet Food Labels
Pet food, just like human food, has certain standards. Pet food falls under four basic categories:
- 95% rule: 95% of the product must be the named ingredient -- Example: Beef for Dogs
- Dinner rule: 25% of the product must contain the named ingredient -- Example: Beef Dinner for Dogs
- With rule: At least 3% of the ingredient must be used in the product. -- Example: Dog Food With Beef
- Flavor rule: A little more vague, but enough of the product must be present so the flavor is known
4.) Quality Food
When it comes to dog food, you get what you pay for. If you opt to go the inexpensive route, expect everything from a gassy dog to loose fecal matter. This is because cheap dog food has an overabundance of 'filler' or lower quality materials in it.
There are two situations which are common in many homes that lead to behavioral problems. They are:
- lack of exercise and
If you keep your dog well exercised, it will reduce potential behavioral issues, but to really stay on top of the problem, give the dog something to do. I try to spend a minimum of 5-10 minutes every day or two training the dog or teaching it a new trick. This gives the animal something to do and limits the dog's need to find something to do.
But I also supply Versa with a couple of toys and chews she can play with. My dog will toss one of her chewy toys up in the air and catch it and repeat over and over until she tires out. She has toys both in the house and in the yard.
6.) A Good Vet
Keeping your animal healthy is relatively easy. Feed your dog high quality food, exercise her regularly and take her to the vet -- at minimum once a year. Besides keeping the dog current on shots and vaccines, it helps the vet prevent potential problems.
7.) Reputable Kennel
There will be times when you need a kennel. It may be for vacation -- or that you simply need a break from the dog. Find a reputable kennel and use it often enough that the dog feels comfortable there. The kennel I use, offers doggy day care where the dog can be dropped off for up to 10 hours during the day and it will be 'treated' to play time with other dogs and given plenty of outside exercise. I used this service several times when I was getting ready to leave on vacation, I started taking Versa to doggy daycare to acclimate her to the new surroundings. In Versa's case, it also has helped reduce her fear aggression.
I am a believer in crate training. I believe it builds on a dog's natural instinct to have a 'den' or comfort spot that it solely theirs. But whether or not, you crate train, they are an essential tool when you need to leave the dog home alone.
When purchasing a crate, make sure it is large enough for the dog to fit in comfortably, but don't presume bigger is better. Get one designed for the dog's height and weight. This will become the 'go to place' for the dog when you are not home -- or maybe even at night when she sleeps. It needs to be well-made and easy to clean. If you travel much and intend to take the crate with you, it also needs to 'break down' easily.
9.) A Bed
When it comes to beds, my dog is spoiled. She has a thick foam bed inside her crate and in front of the TV. She also has a thinner one inside my bedroom and beside my desk.
You can spend as little as $15 on a bed to pretty much as much as you want to spend. I spent about $30 for the thicker foam beds and what I like about all of the beds I have purchase is the bed's cover can be removed and washed. I also occasionally hang the padding itself on a clothesline to air out.
10.) A Groomer
Depending on the breed, your dog may requires regular grooming. Since Versa is a short-haired dog, I do not have to deal with this, although she does require quite a bit of brushing. Because, contrary to popular opinion, short hair dogs shed a lot.
Your dog will need its toenails trimmed periodically. Some dogs, like mine, just don't like having it done and training them to accept it can be a long process. There is also the possibility of cutting the nail to the quick.. If you are unsure of how to trim the nail or don't have the patience or desire to teach your dog to accept the trimming, it is probably in your's (and the dog's) best interest to have a groomer or vet trim the nails.
If you put these 10 items in place, the transition for your new dog will be much smoother. Also, when you first bring your dog home, take a little time to acquaint the dog with its new home and neighborhood to help your dog feel at ease in her new environment.
© 2014 Charlie Claywell