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How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner
By Lisa King
Dog Ownership 101
Being a responsible dog owner starts before you even get a dog. Before visiting a shelter or calling a rescue, be certain that you have the time, energy and finances to properly care for a new pet. Here are a few rules to follow before the fact:
1. Don’t get a dog for your children unless you are prepared to do 100 percent of his care, if not right away then when they move out of the house. This is the voice of experience speaking.
2. Do your research and choose a breed or mix whose activity level matches your own. If you’re a couch potato, don’t get a Border Collie. If you want to go running or biking with your dog, forget the Pug.
3. How much space do you have? A large dog will be miserable in a studio apartment, while a small lap dog will be quite comfortable.
4. Do you want to deal with all the training required for a puppy? Adopting an adult dog who’s already housetrained puts you ahead of the game.
Now that you have an idea of the type of dog you’d like, go online and search local shelters for a dog who fits your requirements. If your heart is set on a purebred, these can sometimes be found at shelters. Breed-specific rescues are also good sources for purebred dogs. If you go to a breeder, do some research to ensure she’s reputable. DO NOT buy a dog from a pet shop—these adorable puppies usually come from puppy mills, which keep breeding animals in deplorable conditions.
Dog Health Tips
Once you get your dog home, follow these 10 tips to ensure he has a long, happy and healthy life.
1. Take him in for regular vet checkups. Spay or neuter your dog if it hasn’t already been done. Keep him current on shots, dewormer and flea and tick protection.
2. Give your dog plenty of exercise according to the needs of his breed or breeds.
3. Train your dog. Take him to a training class or train him yourself by consulting books, magazines and online resources. He should know basic commands such as “Come,” “Leave It,” “Sit” and “Lie Down.” Keep him on a leash when not in a secure, fenced yard. Even a well-trained dog with a strong prey drive can be distracted by squirrels or other small animals and run into traffic.
4. Brush your dog regularly to prevent mats. The frequency of brushing depends on his coat type. Take him to a reliable groomer if he is a breed that needs more complicated grooming, such as a Poodle or a Maltese. Keep his nails clipped. If you’re nervous about clipping them yourself, have your groomer or vet do the job.
5. Wash your dog regularly. Depending on the dog’s coat and environment that can mean once a month, once every couple of weeks or even more often if he gets into something nasty. Use a high-quality natural shampoo. Don’t wash him too often, though; too-frequent baths can cause dry, itchy skin.
6. Secure your dog in the car, either in a crate or with a harness that hooks onto the seatbelt. A dog who’s loose in the car becomes a dangerous projectile in a crash. If he’s in the front seat, or God forbid on the driver’s lap, he can be killed if the airbags deploy.
7. Provide proper ID for your dog so he can be returned to you if lost. Attach a tag bearing his name and your phone number to his collar. For added safety, consider having your vet microchip him.
8. Feed him the best diet you can afford. Your options are many: kibble, canned, frozen raw and freshly made cooked. Find a food that makes you both happy. Keep dishes clean and always provide plenty of fresh water.
9. Be a good neighbor and pick up your dog’s poop. Cleaning up after him even in your own yard is important to keep harmful bacteria out of groundwater.
10. Provide plenty of love and affection; it will be returned tenfold.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”
Dog Walking Etiquette
By Stacy Mantle
Walk Your Dog Each Day
In a world where many different species enjoy walking each day, it’s important to understand the rules of the road for canines. The rules below are not hard and fast, they aren’t legally binding and they aren’t meant to be regulated. They are intended as good “common sense” rules for any pets who enjoy walks.
1. Respect personal space. Whether you’re on a trailhead or at the dog park, there are people who will not love your dog. Even fellow dog lovers are hesitant around other breeds. Some small-breed lovers will be in complete fear of your large-breed dog no matter how friendly, and vice versa. Never force your dog on another person or animal.
Teach your pet to keep his nose to himself. People don’t generally like to be sniffed—particularly if they are running or walking or just enjoying the day. Keep your pet under control and never allow her to pull at the leash in search of a quick sniff of another dog or person.
2. Leashes are required. Besides being good common sense, leashes are required by law in nearly every state and that includes state and national forests. It doesn’t matter if your dog is friendly, it doesn’t matter if your dog always listens. If any other person views your pet as a threat, they can legally defend themselves, which can lead to tragic results.
Keep your leash short. This can help eliminate problems with tangled leashes, territorial sidewalk users and other such problems. The only exception to using a leash is in a designated off-leash area.
3. Clean up after your pet. You should not allow your pet to urinate or defecate in a person’s yard, a golf course or in a public park. Urine can leave ugly brown spots and create problems for a property owner. Look for a public, remote area for your pet to do her business. If an accident does happen, be courteous and clean up after your pet. It’s the law in most municipalities and it makes for good neighbors.
4. Not all dogs are friendly. You should never assume that because your pets are friendly, other people’s pets are friendly, too. Don’t allow your pet to approach other animals without an invitation. You never know how controlled the other animal may be.
5. Be respectful of other species. Cats are going out on walks more frequently, as are birds, ferrets and even other lesser-known and more unusual species. This is why you should never allow or encourage your dog to chase any type of animal. Your dog may interpret a cat to be a squirrel, leading to disastrous consequences. Train your pets to recognize and be receptive to other species.
6. Announce your arrival. When running or walking with your dog, it’s always polite to inform those ahead of you that you’re coming up behind. This can be done with a simple “Behind you” or “To your left” announcement, letting them know you’re planning to pass. This is particularly important when using public walkways.
7. Teach children. Nearly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year and more than 72 percent of those are children. We have to begin educating kids (even other people’s children) on the proper way to approach an animal. This begins with you and your dog. Let parents and children know they need to approach slowly, ask to pet your dog and always keep their faces away from the dog.
8. Elevators and enclosed areas. When in an elevator or other enclosed area of a public building, your dog should move to the back corner of the elevator and sit quietly near you as people get on and off. Keep your pet on a short leash, as some people have a real fear of being in an elevator with a dog.
9. Stop and sit at crosswalks. Your dog should always stop before a crosswalk and sit quietly beside you. While not all dogs can be trained to do this, it’s important to work up to it. Not only that, it could save their lives if they ever got loose.
10. The five training commands. Come, drop, leave it, heel and sit-stay are the five basic commands every pet should know before walking out the door. If your pets cannot do these things, you should focus your training until they can.
Owning a pet is about being a responsible pet owner. You are responsible for teaching your pets good etiquette as they will not learn from others. Together we can make the world a better place for our animals and other humans.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com
AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Award
By Audrey Pavia
If you’ve got a purebred or mixed breed dog who listens when you tell him what to do, is good with other dogs, and is just a joy to be around, he’s a perfect candidate for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award. And if your dog’s behavior leaves something to be desired, start working on fixing it, with the CGC as your goal.
In order to earn a CGC award, your dog has to pass a 10-step test that consists of the following:
- Accepting a friendly stranger. While you have your dog on a leash, a person will approach you, say “Hello” and shake your hand. Your dog is expected to stay calm and ignore the person. Your dog is not to jump on the person or show any aggression.
- Sitting politely for petting. The stranger who approached you will bend down to pet your dog. Your dog is expected to stand calmly while being petted. He’s not supposed to jump on the person or shy away.
- Appearance and grooming. Your dog will allow someone to groom him and examine him (touch his ears and lift his front feet) while you are holding his leash.
- Walking loosely on leash. You walk your dog across the examination yard on a loose leash. Your dog doesn’t pull on the leash, or refuse to follow.
- Walking calmly through a crowd. At least three people will stand in the examination yard while you walk your dog through the group. He is expected to walk quietly past without jumping on people or straining at the leash.
- Performing the sit and down on command, and staying. You will ask your dog to sit. You will then ask him to lie down. Once he has performed these commands, you can keep him in the down position or put him back in a sit, and then tell him to stay. You then step back away from him. He is expected to stay in place for several seconds.
- Coming when called. Someone will hold your dog while you walk away from him. Once you are 10-feet away, you turn around and call your dog to you. He is expected to return to you immediately.
- Reaction to another dog. Someone with a dog on a leash will approach you and your dog. Your dog is expected to ignore the handler and the other dog. He is not supposed strain on the leash, act aggressive or behave in an out-of-control way.
- Keeping calm during a distraction. Your dog will be asked to act confidently during two common distractions, such as dropping a large object nearby or having a jogger run past.
- Waiting calmly for his owner while being supervised by a stranger. You will hand your dog to someone and then walk away and hide out of sight. Your dog is expected to wait quietly during the three minutes when he can’t see you. He is not to bark, whine or act unruly.
If your dog doesn’t sound up for all this, simply enroll him in one of the many CGC preparation classes being held all around the country by dog clubs, pet stores and private trainers, such as an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer or ABCDT. In this class, your dog will learn to do everything required of him on the test.
Once your dog passes the test, he receives a certificate from the AKC in the mail and the right to wear a CGC tag on his collar. If he’s a purebred, he’s ready to tackle any other AKC performance event, such as obedience, agility or rally. If your dog is a mixed breed, he can still compete in these types of competitions through non-AKC clubs.
For more information, visit the CGC section of the AKC website at:
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.
Christina O’Bryant has loved being around animals since she was a little girl, when she started volunteering at a local shelter at the age of 13. In 2009, just having graduated from high school, she learned about Animal Behavior College (ABC) and was happy to find out that Continue reading
This past weekend we posted tips and guides to help your Furry Friend get the most from their next visit to the vet. Because of their popularity, we’ve consolidated the whole lot from Friday, Saturday and Sunday into one easily accessible location. Continue reading
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President John F. Kennedy proclaimed in early 1962 that National Poison Prevention Week should be observed in the third week of every March. The goal was to raise awareness about poison prevention nationwide. Currently, American poison control centers report Continue reading
Dogs are just like people: mostly well-adjusted and a little neurotic… and sometimes equal amounts all at once! Accepting this fundamental conflict is part of being a pet owner. If your dog has their “less than perfect” moments that cause you a smile or a sigh… no worries. All dogs do. However, if your dog demonstrates more serious behaviors that cause you or anyone nearby to feel fear, uncertainty or Continue reading