Welcoming a dog into your home can bring plenty of love and joy into your lives, provided you take proper care of your new canine companion. Keeping your dog happy and healthy should be your top priority, so by coupling this quick guide with more detailed advice from your vet you should have delighted dog who’ll love you very much. Remember – you should make sure you have dog insurance set up as soon as you’re taking your dog home so they’re covered from the moment they’re yours.
Vets – Taking your dog to the vets
One of the first things you’ll want to do with your new dog is to pay a visit to your chosen vet for a check-up on your dog’s general health. This is especially important for new puppies, as your vet will be able to check for possible health concerns and figure out what can be done to stop things getting more serious.
You can talk to your vet about vaccinations, neutering and other preventative measures you might need to consider for your dog, even if it’s just so you’re aware of things for the future.
However old your dog is, this first vet trip is incredibly valuable for making sure your dog is as healthy as possible while they’re settling into your home, which can also reduce any additional stresses you or your dog might have in this settling in phrase.
Feeding – How much do I need to feed my dog?
Your dog will probably always be happy to see two things – you, and food! Depending on its breed and how old your dog is, you’ll need to adjust how much food your dog will likely need. Every dog is different and you’ll get to know their individual needs as you look after them, but as a general guide this is how much you could start to feed your dog:
8 to 12 weeks - four meals a day
3 to 6 months - three meals a day
6 months to 1 year - two meals a day
1 year onwards - one meal
However, each pet is individual and some breeds' requirements will differ, where you have concerns as to the amounts and frequency for feeding you should always seek veterinary advice.
In general, most dogs have reached adulthood by around 12 months old, but for larger dog breeds it’s can be better to stick to puppy food for a stretch longer. The quality of food will also matter, so try to limit the amount of “human food” you’re giving to your puppy as it lacks the nutrition your dog needs to grow. Your vet can advise on specific dietary requirements for your particular dog breed, including the ideal amount of food to avoid them becoming over or underweight.
Water is vital in keeping your dog healthy. Without access to clean drinking water, your dog can become dehydrated quicker than you think, so make sure they can get a proper drink at all times.
Environment – How do I make my dog comfortable at home?
Making your dog feel safe and comfortable in your home is a key step in helping them settle in, giving them a spot that’s warm and quiet where they can have some space to themselves. This can also make it easier for them to sleep since they’ll feel safe and protected against threats.
You can use a training crate or dog bed as their safe space, just make sure it’s the right size for them and has clean bedding provided so they can get comfy. Wherever their safe space is, you shouldn’t use this as a punishment for bad behaviour – especially crates.
Giving your new dog toys to play with will also keep them entertained and happy, giving them something of their own to chew rather than having them find their own improvised chew toys in shoes and cushions.
In terms of your dog going to the toilet, you’ll need to be able to let them go every few hours or so. Whether that means taking them on a walk or giving them an appropriate place to go to the toilet, you’ll need to make sure they can relieve themselves in a specific spot to avoid any problematic accidents.
Exercise – How much exercise does my dog need?
Just like people, dogs need to be able to get out and about to burn off excess energy and calories that’ll keep your dog in good health and good spirits. The amount of exercise your dog will need will vary on their breed, age and general health, but with a little hands-on research you should get a sense of what works for your dog. You can ask your vet for specific advice on how much you should be walking your dog, and you should also bear in mind that young puppies are still developing their muscles and bones, so don’t be tempted to go for very long walks too soon.
Typically, you’ll be taking your dog on walks for their exercise, which can vary for short walks around neighbouring streets to longer trips around a local park, but exercise can be more than just walking.
Playing games with your dog, along with the right supervision and training, can help to satisfy your dog’s natural instincts to dig, chew and chase. This can also minimise some more destructive behaviours your dog could develop that can result in overturned bins or torn pillows.
Grooming – How often do I need to groom my dog?
Something that all dog owners have in common is having to keep up with the task of dog grooming. Brushing your dog regularly can help to reduce shedding and keep them clean to reduce the need for bathing, but sometimes a bath is unavoidable – especially if your dog is fond of jumping into puddles.
Brushing alone can keep your dog’s coat in good condition, removing dirt and tangles while helping to keep the natural oils of your dog’s coat in good shape. It also gives you a good chance to inspect for any evidence of fleas so you can remedy any issues quickly.
Bathing your dog can be done more or less frequently as needed, from every few weeks to as little as once a year. There are plenty of guides or video tutorials for how to wash your dog properly which can show you exactly how you should go about it, but a big point to always bear in mind is protecting your dog’s eyes and ears as soaps and shampoos can cause irritation.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on their dental hygiene by brushing their teeth regularly and using chew toys, as well as making sure their eyes, ears and nails are all in good condition. While you vet will take a look at these during check-ups, it’s a good idea to do your own home checks while grooming.
Why is my dog barking so much?
There’s a lot of different reasons your dog might bark, especially considering it’s one of the main ways dogs can express how they’re feeling. Dogs bark when they’re happy and playing, as a way of saying hello or getting your attention, but if your dog is barking consistently when left alone or for a reason you can’t quite identify then it’s best to talk to your vet.
They can help you to figure out what might be the cause, or refer you to a clinical animal behaviour specialist who can potentially diagnose the root of your dog’s constant barking and help you to form a process or programme to treat your dog.
Is it okay for my dog to play with other dogs?
For a lot of dogs, playing with other dogs at the park or dogs you know through friends or family can be fun for your four-legged friend. If your dog enjoys playing with other dogs during its early years, it can be a sign that your dog will be a more social animal as an adult. So long as everything is friendly, regular play dates with other dogs are fine.
However, if your dog seems to be scared or displays aggression towards other dogs, it’s best to avoid these sorts of situations. While it might seem like a good idea to keep trying to get your dog used to company, it can make the problems worse. Talking to your vet or a clinical animal behaviour specialist can give you the right advice and help your dog get used to being around other dogs.
If you already have a dog then you should try to house them together if you can, provided that they’re friendly towards each other. They should still have space to be able to get away and enjoy some time alone, as well as having their own toys, water bowls and beds.
You should never leave your dog unsupervised when with another animal or person, as this can lead to deliberate or accidental harm which could be avoided by proper oversite by you – the owner.
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