I love meeting first-time dog owners. They’re so enthusiastic about their new family member and all that the future has with them. I want to do everything I can to make sure they are receiving sound advice to build a bonded healthy relationship. Because I talk to so many dog owners, I see some of the same mistakes over and over. They probably don’t seem like mistakes, especially to a new pet parent, but they sure can cause problems with a dog’s health and behavior in the long run. If you have just acquired a dog or are a seasoned pet owner, here is a list of the most common concerns we have when a new pet enters your home.
- Owners are not hands on enough. Dogs need lots of handling throughout their lives. They’ll be visiting the veterinarian and maybe seeing a groomer routinely. They’ll meet kids, neighbors and strangers who may want to pet them – with permission, of course. They need to have their teeth brushed and their nails trimmed, and they will likely need to take pills or other types of medication. The best thing you can do to prepare your dog for all of this necessary attention is to get him used to having all parts of his body handled. He should be willing to let you touch him anywhere, including his paws and more private areas. It’s important for them to learn that not all touching causes discomfort. By getting them used to handling before it is imperative will be helpful for future issues. The best way is to make this a daily activity. While he’s lying next to you or on your lap as you watch television, handle his paws, grasping them firmly but kindly. Look inside his ears or give them a sniff. Lift up his tail and check out his behind. Stroke his belly and give the groin area a going-over. Lift his lips and look at his teeth. You get the idea. This is also a way for you to learn what’s normal so you can monitor his body condition and catch problems early. Start brushing his teeth on day one. The earlier he’s accustomed to it, the more accepting he’ll be of it as a normal part of his life (and decreasing the number of anesthetic dentals too) . Same with trimming his nails. Do one or two nails a day, just barely shaving off the edge. Be careful not to “quick” him.
- Food is not measured. Of course it’s important for puppies to grow, but we don’t want them to grow too much or too fast. That can add undue strain on their still-forming musculoskeletal structure, which can lead to orthopedic problems later in life. Talk to your veterinarian about the best type of food for your dog. Growing large breeds can benefit from diets that permit slow but steady growth, while small dogs tend to need energy-dense foods. In either case, it’s important to measure your dog’s food and give it at specific times rather than free feeding (leaving food out all the time). This helps ensure that he doesn’t eat too much and become overweight. You will also be able to monitor appetite better in case your dog becomes ill for any reason.
- They don’t take house-training seriously. One of the most common reasons dogs are given up to shelters is for behavior problems – and one of those problems is pottying in the house. This breaks our hearts because all it takes is scheduling, consistency, praise and rewards starting right from day one. Take your dog out at specific times: first thing after he wakes up, after every meal, after playtime and just before bedtime. During the day, set a timer to go off every one to two hours after the previous potty time to remind you to take him out again. Go out with him. If you don’t, he won’t know why he’s out there because you won’t be there to say “Go potty!” Once he does his business praise him! Make sure he knows he did a good job, then let him have a little playtime. He won’t want to pee and poop right away if all you’re going to do is drag him back inside once he’s done. When he’s in the house, prevent accidents. Don’t give a young or new dog the run of the house right away. Keep him where you can watch him. If you can’t watch him, put him in his cozy crate, exercise pen or small dog-proofed room (I like a laundry room or bathroom). As he gets older, he’ll be more physically able to hold his urine and stool for longer periods. He will also have learned that he gets to go out at specific times — and that outside is the place to go.
- They don’t consider Pet Insurance. It’s not if an accident will occur but when. Accidents happen- to all of us. Consider pet insurance from the very first vet visit. This will help establish that your pet is healthy and screen for preexisting conditions (yes, pets can have policy exclusions for preexisting conditions just like humans). Every dog owner should have a plan for when that emergency happens. If you are able to set aside savings excellent! If this is not financially feasible consider pet insurance where you can set the deductible. Many companies will cover up to 90% of expenses once the deductible is met. Considering an emergency surgery for internal bleeding and broken bones from an accidental hit-by-car can run upwards of $8,000 it is best to be prepared before you are faced with a decision made based on a financial hardship. Pet insurance allows you to provide the best care your dog deserves without having to place a financial limit on him. Staying prepared before an incident occurs will decrease the amount of stress during.