When you adopt a puppy, you are committing to having that dog be a part of your family for up 10-13 years, or longer in some cases. Dogs have long lives and they need lots of exercise, and regular care. It is important that you think long term before adopting one!
Here are five tips to help you ensure that if you do adopt a dog, it stays fit and healthy.
1: Dogs Need Lots of Exercise
Dogs thrive on physical activity – after all, they were born to live in the wild. Most breeds need at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day, if not more to stay healthy and live a long and happy life. The exact amount will depend on their age, and how healthy they are. Dogs will feel better and look more healthy if they are exercised properly. Don’t just put your dog in the backyard to run around a bit for exercise – take them out to the park or a local woodland, or let them run on the beach.
There are dog treadmills, which you could use in a pinch if the weather is really bad, but whenever possible you should get your dog outside in some fresh air, surrounded by greenery, for proper exercise.
2: Dogs Shouldn’t Be Fat!
Dogs, just like humans, have an ideal weight, and it can be lighter than you think – some breeds are actually ‘fit’ when you can see their ribs. Some aren’t, though – so it pays to do some research. There are apps and websites such as SlimDoggy that will help you to figure out what your dog’s ideal weight should be based on their age, activity level, breed, and other factors. You can find out the dog’s daily target calorie intake using that as well, and it will help you to figure out what you should be feeding them. A dog that is overweight will end up at risk of health issues, just like a human would.
If you’re not sure whether your dog is a healthy weight or not, then you should seek advice. Your vet will be happy to discuss any concerns that you might have, and give you guidance regarding what you should be feeding them as well.
3: Keep Track of Your Dog’s Diet
Once you know what you should be feeding the dog, measure out the portions of dog food, take into account treats, and keep track of your dog’s walks and other activity too. This might seem a little hardcore for taking care of a dog, but it’s well worth doing because it will help to address a lot of health issues before they even crop up.
If you leave your dog alone during the day, use an intelligent pet feeder rather than just serving up a huge amount of food. This will help to reduce the risk of overfeeding. For treats, consider using raw vegetables.
Remember that chocolate is toxic to dogs, and so is the artificial sweetener xylitol. So, make sure that if you’re feeding your dog ‘human food’ from the table, then you should make sure that it isn’t potentially toxic. Educate your friends and family members too, so that they do not unwittingly give your dog something that could be dangerous to them.
4: Take Care of their Teeth
Just like humans, dogs should pay special attention to the health of their teeth. Brushing helps to promote good dental health and will help to prevent gum disease, tartar build-up, tooth loss, bad breath, and infections. There are doggy toothpastes on the market, and dog toothbrushes as well. You should clean your dog’s teeth every day, just like you would clean your own.
If your dog does not like having his teeth brushed, then try to clean them using a cloth to protect your fingers, while you rub around the dog’s mouth to wipe the teeth and gums clean. Do keep trying to clean the teeth with a toothbrush occasionally so that they get used to it, though, because brushing is a far more effective way of cleaning the mouth.
5: Regular Vet Visits Alert You to Problems
Young dogs need regular trips to the vet for vaccinations. Some breeds will need regular check-ups for potential genetic issues. All dogs should go to the vet for an annual check-up to have it serve as an early warning system for the potential health issues and to ensure that any vaccinations are up to date.
The check-up is a good chance to discuss dietary issues, weight, oral health, fur condition, and other potential warning signs of health issues. There are many health issues that dogs are prone to that are eminently treatable if they are caught early, and you can use the trip to the vet to put your mind at ease as the dog gets older. In addition, if the dog is used to going to the vet from time to time for a quick check-up, then they will be more relaxed when they have to go for treatments.
Adopting a dog, whether that is a puppy or an older dog from a shelter, is something that is well worth doing. Owning a dog is rewarding and it will rapidly become a part of the family.
If you have children, then having them get involved in taking care of the dog is a way to teach them personal responsibility and to get them involved with day to day household chores too. It is not a good idea to adopt a dog just because a child wants one – think of the “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas” campaign – but if you are happy to take care of the dog yourself, should your child prove uninterested, then the dog could be a fulfilling addition to the family, and older kids do tend to get very close to their four-legged friends and enjoy taking care of them.