By Carol Bryant
If you are reading this article, chances are you either have a dog (or more than one) and/or know someone who shares their life with one or more dogs. As a society, we have begun to humanize our pets and while some might shake their heads in disbelief and disagreement, we in the doggie know embrace the special bond shared with our canine family members. Here, then, are ten ways to be the best dog owner you can be to your one (or more) pooches:
10 – Unplug electronically each day for one-on-one time with your dog.
Pull yourself away from anything and everything electronic: Turn off the phone, step away from the computer, shut down the tablet device, and keep the television off. I do this every day for at least 60 to 90 minutes so I can spend quiet, bonding play time with my dog. If the weather is pleasant, we trek to the nearby park or just take a neighborhood stroll. It sounds very simple, but if your dog could, he’d thank you for unplugging.
9 – Don’t feel the need to justify your relationship with your dog.
I practice the dogma of living well, and that includes life with a dog. I will never not share my life with a dog and this is the path I take. If you are a dog lover of the highest order, embrace it and hold your head high. If you and your pooch are happy and someone at work, in your family, or a circle of friends doesn’t “get” the bond you share, don’t take it personally. Life is too short to worry about the opinions of those who do not follow the word of dog.
8 – Seek veterinary care on a regular basis.
Though we live in a day and age of immediate access and instant gratification, there is no replacement for the skill and knowledge of a veterinarian who knows your dog and his health history. Any new lump should be checked, any unusual changes in behavior merit a vet visit, and a wellness screening just might save your dog’s life.
7 – Feed a healthy diet and maintain a feasible weight.
According to a study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of all dogs and cats in the United States are obese. Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s size at every check-up. Once your canine has reached maturity, ask the veterinarian for his optimal weight. Portion control, minimizing treats and table scraps, and ensuring all family members are aware of Fido’s feeding plan are all pivotal for success. Dogs should never be too thin nor too heavy, as both extremes can lead to a host of health anomalies as well as a shortened life span.
6 – Brush your dog’s teeth.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3. If pet parents don’t attend to the dog’s teeth, oral disease can hit the kidneys, liver and heart and seriously affect a dog’s quality of life. A good rule of thumb is to brush your dog’s teeth as often as you would your own; at a minimum, once a day. Hit tartar where it counts: in the bristle!
5 – Dogs are social animals, and they belong inside.
Dogs are social animals to their inner core. They are pack animals, meaning they thrive, survive, and must be nurtured with other living beings (and not a second dog, left in isolation with them). Dogs need human interaction and stimulation. A bored dog is an unhappy dog. A dog that is left outside to his or her own thoughts is unfair and unhealthy to the dog. Imagine being wrapped up in your own mental isolation because you were born a dog and someone placed you outside 24/7. This is not only unsafe, but unhealthy and puts the dog at risk to the elements, wildlife, and most scary: the ill intentions of unsavory people.
4 – Never leave a dog alone in a car or tethered outside.
In the winter months, pets can freeze to death even in a short period of time. Cars act as a refrigerator in cold months. In warmer weather, a car acts like a greenhouse and dogs can suffer a painful death. A dog alone in a car, no matter the season, is a target for thieves. A dog left tethered outside without supervision just for a “quick trip inside the store” is a target for heaps of trouble: from theft to harm.
3 – Never spank or hit a dog.
No matter how upset you are or what the dog did to frustrate you, hitting/spanking/slapping a dog is never appropriate. Yanking the dog back to you not only demonstrates how amazingly powerful and scary you are, but teaches a dog fear. Dogs who are slapped after messing in the house or chewing a shoe are simply learning you inflict pain. Dogs trust us, believe in us, and give us second chances. Give them a break, don’t hit, don’t slap. Teach, strengthen the bond, and simply care for them.
2 – Teach your dog to be a good canine citizen with positive reinforcement.
The American Kennel Club launched the Canine Good Citizen Program in 1989. It’s designed to teach responsible dog ownership behaviors to pet owners, while dogs learn basic training and good manners. The core of the program is the 10-step testing process. Whether pedigree or mutt, spunky Sparky or golden oldie, dogs of all shapes, sizes, and ages are eligible. I had my dog certified and we had fun learning the basic things required to pass, too! The bonding experience was worth it and I really learned how to interact better with my dog. Even if you don’t want the official title and papers for your dog, if your pooch can pass the basics of the CGC, then he or she makes for a well-rounded, accepting canine member of society.
1 – Be your dog’s advocate.
Know what vaccines you want for your dog and how often you want them administered. Read ahead, talk to those in the know and get a second or third opinion if need be. If something doesn’t feel right or sound right, never be afraid to question a veterinarian or anyone else who comes into contact with your dog. Dogs count on us to do what is right by them and for them. Be the voice for your pooch as he would be for you, if only he could talk. Then again, dogs pretty much talk with the wag of their tails and the love for us in their hearts.
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