Caring for Dogs

Caring for dogs is a rewarding and sometimes challenging experience. Dogs have many needs including a broad spectrum of physical needs as well as emotional and cognitive needs. Many dogs will complain with a growl or bark when their needs are not being met. Some dogs will engage in destructive or aggressive behavior. The more knowledge you have about how to care for your dog, the happier you will both be.

Basic Physical Needs

A dog has basic physical needs including shelter, food, water, daily exercise and protection from harm. Your dog should always have access to shade and a place where he can go and stay dry if it is raining. He needs to be in an enclosed space where he can't get out into the street or someone else's yard. He always needs to have access to fresh water, and food needs to be available twice per day. Make sure he gets at least a 30 minute walk per day. Most medium to large breeds need at least an hour of exercise daily.

A dog also needs plenty of air and freedom from extreme temperatures, either under 55 degrees or over 75 degrees farenheit. Even a car with the windows cracked is not suitable. If you need to leave your dog in the car, the windows should be at least half way open. The outside temperature should be such that the inside car temperature stays between 60 and 70 degrees with plenty of air circulating. A dog should never be left in a car for more than 2 hours even in ideal circumstances. If your dog is panting when you return to the car, it was too warm for him. If he's shivering, it's too cold. Make sure fresh water is also available.

Nutritional Needs

A dog needs access to high quality food every day and constant access to fresh water, and there are certain foods that are not healthy for dogs. Change your dog's water daily and clean the dish daily. Thoroughly disinfect the dish once per week. Use a dish that is glass or ceramic unless you plan to replace a plastic dish the minute it has even one scratch where bacteria can live. It's best to feed your dog twice per day and not allow access to food at other times. Look for a food that consists of mostly whole protein, some fruits and vegetables, and very little to no grain. Also look for a food that contains no corn, soy, gluten, liver or chemical additives. The best food is found at a reputable pet store and has mostly natural, whole ingredients.

Social and Cognitive Needs

A dog can get bored and lonely, leading to aggressive, destructive, clingy or anxious behavior. A dog is a highly social animal and normally lives within a pack. The pack can be the family and can include or not include other animals. A dog needs to learn to socialize with other dogs at an early age—whether he'll be living with them or not. Even a puppy as young as 8 weeks old can go outside to meet other dogs. Until his immune system is more developed, keep him on a leash and away from animal feces so he doesn't get ill. Then take him to the dog park regularly.