Raising a puppy is an immensely rewarding experience, whether you already have furry members of the family or are adopting your first dog. While your journey will change dramatically depending on the breed and personality your dog, you’ll soon wonder how you ever lived without.
In addition to being amazing additions to the family, dogs are also a lot of work. They need everything from leash training, to healthy diets, to daily walks. For example, did you know that many dogs kept as pets suffer from malnutrition and obesity? Also, behavior problems like aggression, barking, and chewing on or tearing up furniture are related to not getting enough exercise. These problems go on to affect your pet's quality of life, their behavior, energy levels, and even longevity. If you want to ensure that your new family member is as healthy and happy as possible, you'll have to take extra steps to care for your dog.
Building good habits, socializing your dog, and being mindful about his or her diet will help you care for a healthy dog who is comfortable well into old age. We’ve compiled 4 keys to raising a puppy that all dog owners should be mindful of.
4 necessities for raising a puppy
Make Regular Visits to the Vet
No matter what breed or age your dog is, regular vet checkups can be life-saving. You probably already know that your dog has to go regularly, but how often depends on their age, medical history, and size.
Here’s a general schedule based on age:
0-4 Months – Every 3 Weeks. Your puppy will get important vaccines for rabies, distemper, and parvo, alongside prevention for Lyme disease, kennel cough, and other health problems.
4-12 Months – Every 2-3 months. Here, your vet will ensure that your puppy is growing well and shows no signs of health problems. If it’s recommended for your area, your vet will start a heartworm and flea prevention schedule, and your puppy will likely be spayed or neutered.
1-7 Years – At 1 year, most dog breeds are considered adult. If you have a large dog breed, you may have to wait 6-12 months longer to reach this stage. Your dog should go to the vet for a yearly checkup, even when not sick. They should get distemper-parvo and rabies booster shots during the first yearly checkup, and then every 1-3 years depending on your local laws. Your vet will also recommend changes to diet, additional checkups, and a heartworm and deworming schedule based on your dog and your area.
7+ Years – After 7 years, most dogs are seniors and will need extra care. You should take your dog to the vet at least twice yearly, and be extra conscious of any changes in behavior that may indicate health problems, such as a change in water consumption.
Prevention is better than a cure for both dogs and humans. Don’t wait until your dog is sick to invest in preventive measures like vaccinations and deworming.
Tip: Ask your vet about natural treatments to prevent allergies and kennel cough while at the vet, and talk about nutritious treats and snacks to keep them healthy.
Invest in Behavioral Training
When you think of your dog’s health, it’s common to jump immediately to physical health. However, mental health is equally as important for your dog. A study from Animal Cognition showed that dogs can smell humans’ emotions, and when exposed to sweat produced from a fearful human, dogs showed more signs of distress and sought out more comfort from their owners. Alternatively, when exposed to odor samples from happy humans, dogs were more willing to interact with strangers and were generally friendlier.
Training plays a large part in keeping your dog safe and social. A well-trained dog is typically more engaged and less bored with his or her surroundings. Training allows your dog to learn how to react in different situations and helps them stay calm and friendly despite any triggers such as a fearful human nearby.
A well-trained dog is also generally safer since you can tell him or her to sit instead of crossing the road, teach your dog not to go in dangerous areas, and build up good habits (like walking) that will benefit your dog's health for years to come.
Promote a Healthy Diet
Obesity and nutrient deficiency are among the most common health problems for domesticated dogs. These issues affect your dog's quality of life and longevity, but it's an easy fix. Combine quality food with portion control and the occasional snack, and you’ll have a healthy dog.
Don't assume that cheap dog food provides the nutrition your dog needs. Most store-brand dog foods are primarily made up of flour and water with added nutrients and flavor. These can eventually lead to malnutrition, tooth decay, gastrointestinal problems, and obesity.
You don't have to choose all-organic or raw-meat based diets, as there isn't enough evidence to show that these are beneficial to your dog. Instead, you should invest in high-quality dog food with a high percentage of meat. For example, you can feed your dog a high-quality canned food supplemented by quality kibble, and have a healthy dog. Avoid human food, as many of the seasonings used aren’t good for your dogs.
Don't leave food out all day. Puppies should be fed 3-4 times per day, but adult dogs only have to be fed twice per day. If you leave food out too long, some dogs tend to overeat, which will eventually lead to weight gain and obesity.
Tip: Be mindful about the snacks you give your dog. Most dog treats are about as healthy as human candy. Instead, opt for nutritious alternatives that your dogs will love just as much. For example, dogs 6 months and older can have raw honey, and not only do they love it, it’s great for their overall health, digestion, and allergies.
Finally, clean water is an important part of a healthy diet. Clean your dog’s water dish and replace his or her water daily, ensuring it’s always full. To prevent bacteria and tooth decay, set your dog’s water away from his or her food bowl.
Exercise (A Lot)
Dogs need a lot of exercise. No matter what the age or breed, your dog has a lot of energy. Most dogs, even small breeds, can benefit from approximately two hours of walking every day.
While it is crucial to pay attention to your environment (for example, no dog will benefit from being forced to run in the middle of the day in very hot weather), dogs need exercise. If you can plan four 30-minute walks each day, you are giving your dog the best chance of being healthy, happy, and well-adjusted to living inside a home.
Owning a dog is a lot of work, but after you and your dog build up good habits, it’ll be much easier to live healthily for both of you. By taking small steps to keep your dog healthy, you will ensure that your new best friend lives as long and as well as possible.