how to care for dogs

Caring for Dogs: A Guide

When thinking about adopting a dog or puppy, there’s more to it than just choosing the one you like the best — even though that’s important too! Consider the care, time, training, veterinary needs, vaccinations, and microchipping. Put some time into thinking about how you’ll welcome your new family member.

In this article you’ll find a guide to different dog breeds, followed by some tips and information on incorporating your dog into your home.

Different Types of Dogs

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 178 dog breeds, and separates them into seven main groups: Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Toy, and Working. There’s also a Miscellaneous group, consisting of breeds not yet recognized by the organization as part of the main groups. Here’s some information on each group:

Herding Dogs: This group includes the Border Collie, the Welsh Corgi, and the German Shepherd. Dogs in this group all display herding behavior and make great companions for farmers. They’re good pets for anyone who’s interested in thorough training. These dogs are intelligent, and sometimes have a hard time suppressing their herding instincts — they’ve even been known to herd their owners and other people.

Hound Dogs: Popular breeds of hound dogs include the Dachshund, the Greyhound, and the Whippet. Most of the dogs in this group — or their ancestors — have been used as hunting dogs. Many hound dogs — like the Bloodhound and the Beagle — have incredible senses of smell and are often referred to as scent hounds. Hound dogs make good pets not just for hunters, but for the general public as well.

Non-Sporting: Poodles, Dalmatians, and Bulldogs are all examples of popular dogs in this group. Dogs in the Non-Sporting Group don’t have much in common with each other in terms of size, shape, and personality. Different breeds within this group make suitable pets for different households. Bulldogs, for instance, are sedentary and ideal for those who aren’t very active.  While Dalmatians, on the other hand, are energetic and require daily exercise, good for those who lead active lives.

Sporting: Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniels are examples of popular breeds in this group. Sporting dogs are intelligent, and some are used as service dogs. They make great companions for families with children. However, some breeds in this group have become so popular that they’ve been subjected to over breeding, which can lead to health problems.

Terrier: Popular Terrier breeds include the Airedale Terrier, the Russell Terrier, and the Scottish Terrier. Originally, these dogs were bred to hunt foxes, large rodents, and other burrowing animals. They are named after their predisposition to dig in the dirt — the word terrier comes from the Latin word for “earth.” Terriers have feisty personalities and are great for people who  have time and interest in training.

Toy: The Toy Group includes small dogs that were bred to be lap dogs, like Chihuahuas, Pugs, and Pomeranians. The most obvious trait these breeds have in common is their small size, but many of them are also known for their generally happy nature and distinctive facial expressions. Breeds in this group make great pets for apartments and smaller homes.

Working: Siberian Huskies, Saint Bernards, and Rottweilers are all popular breeds in this group. Working dogs were bred to perform a variety of tasks, from pulling sleds, to performing rescue missions, to guarding livestock. Because they’re so large, dogs in this group aren’t usually recommended for first-time owners.

Miscellaneous: The Miscellaneous Class includes dogs that haven’t yet been recognized by the AKC or placed in a breed group. If there’s significant national interest and widespread breeding of a particular type of dog, they could be recognized.

caring for dogs

Before You Adopt a Dog: A Checklist

Before you bring home your new puppy or dog, you’ll need supplies. Here’s a checklist:

ID tag: Include your phone number, address, and microchip information, if your dog is microchipped. Microchipping is the surest way to get your dog back if it strays away or is picked up by another family.

Collar: If you’re adopting a puppy, make sure the collar you buy isn’t too tight. As your dog grows, monitor its size by slipping two fingers underneath. If it’s too tight, you’ll need a bigger size. If you’re adopting a fully-grown dog, measure their neck and buy a collar that size.

Harness: You may want to walk your dog using a harness, which can be safer than just a collar if your dog pulls a lot during walks. Harnesses, while not offering you as much control, will prevent injuries to your dog’s neck.

Leash: You can choose between a standard or retractable leash for dogs. The AKC recommends standard leashes for best results. Nylon leashes are lightweight, well-constructed and strong — great for training puppies. Leather leashes are durable, but puppies might chew on leather. Larger dogs would need heavier leashes for better control.

Bowls for food and water: You’ll want a dish that holds at least two cups of dry food, and one that can hold at least a quart of water. Make sure your dog has a constant supply of fresh water! Bowls can be ceramic, plastic, or stainless steel. A travel bowl is a good idea to have, as well as a puzzle bowl, to prevent your dog from eating too quickly. Most pet supply stores have these items.

Food: Do some research and choose a healthy, nutrient-rich dog food. Dog food companies adhere to standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Not only do they prove that these standards have been met, they also test to support these claims of nutrition. At the end of the day, your dog has to like what he’s eating. If he doesn’t like it, no matter what it costs or contains, then he won’t eat it.  

Crate: There are pros and cons for crating your puppy or dog. Crates give dogs a place for privacy to go to when they want to be alone. Plus, if your dog is crated while you’re at work, it will keep them out of trouble and danger. The crate should be large enough for your dog to be able to stand up and turn around. Many crates come with adjustable panels that can expand as your puppy grows.

Bed: If you don’t plan on having your dog sleep with you, buy a bed so they have a place to call their own. Be sure it’s machine-washable and well-constructed.

First aid kit: This is something many new pet owners don’t think about, but it’s a good idea. You can either buy a ready-made kit or make one of your own. Here’s a list of what to include:

  • Gauze bandages
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ipecac syrup
  • Bandaging or Coban Tape™
  • A needleless syringe for liquid medication
  • Activated charcoal tablets for absorbing poison
  • Phone numbers for your veterinarian, the animal emergency hospital, and the Pet Poison Help Line at 1-855-289-0358 or 1-888-426-4435
  • A handbook of first aid for animals

Toys: Start with a ball, rope, chew toy and puzzle toy. Most puppies and dogs love toys to burn off energy and to keep from getting bored. A bored puppy or dog might get themselves into trouble by chewing things he shouldn’t, like your couch. Buy toys that will stimulate your dog’s brain, as well as channel his overabundance of energy. Just don’t give your dog toys that look like other things in your home that you don’t want them to chew, because they won’t be able to tell the difference.

taking care of dogs

Bathing and Grooming Tips

Get some grooming tools, including a fine-tooth metal flea comb. For dogs with thick, shaggy or long coats, get a wire slicker brush. If your dog is short-haired or has a double coat, use a natural bristle brush.

If your dog has a short-haired coat, brushing weekly will help stimulate the natural oils and dander. But if your dog has a long shaggy coat, you’ll want to brush it daily to prevent matting. A curry brush or rubber grooming mitt will help remove loose hair fast.

If your dog’s hair is matted, gently work baby oil or liquid detangler into each mat. After a few minutes pass, use your fingers to separate the mat gently and then carefully brush sections that have been loosened. If these tactics aren’t working, you may need to make an appointment with a professional groomer.

As for bath time, you’ll need protective eye drops, cotton balls, dog shampoo, a brush, and towels. Place a rubber mat on the bottom of the tub to give your dog more secure footing. Fill the tub with warm water and gently brush before putting him in the tub to remove loose hair and tangles. Place cotton balls in his ears so water doesn’t get into them.

Shampoo your dog’s coat and gently lather into the skin. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and take care to not get shampoo into their eyes. Then towel dry until damp. At this point, let your dog air dry or use a blow-dryer on low. If it’s cold, keep them in a draft-free warm area until completely dry.

Don’t forget that dogs need their teeth brushed, just as humans do. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste formulated specifically for dogs and brush every day. Have your dog’s teeth cleaned professionally once a year if needed as determined by a veterinarian.

Trimming your dog’s nails may take practice and patience, but it’s also something that needs to be done regularly. It will save your floors and carpets from wear and tear and keep your dog from having a broken nail. The sooner you start clipping his nails, the easier it will get. Just be extremely careful not to cut into the quick and cause the nail to bleed.

Check in With Your Veterinarian

Search on Veterinarians.com to find a veterinarian in your local area. If you adopted a puppy, bring them in to get vaccinated and neutered or spayed. In the United States it’s mandatory that all dogs older than 12 weeks be vaccinated against rabies.

Puppies should be vaccinated at six weeks old and repeated every 2 to 4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old. After this initial vaccination procedure your dog should be vaccinated at regular intervals for the rest of its life. Talk to your veterinarian about the intervals, and check when repeat vaccinations are necessary.

If your dog is spayed or neutered, you’ll have fewer behavioral problems, they’ll live longer and stay healthier. Studies and research have shown that having your pet spayed or neutered is beneficial for their health. Evidence has shown that not only are pets that are spayed/neutered less likely to develop cancers, but overall, they are healthier. Many veterinarians will perform spay or neuter surgery on animals as young as eight weeks old.

If you’ve adopted an older dog, bring them to the veterinarian for a first-time wellness exam, along with all the medical records you have.

Keep these tips in mind and above all, enjoy welcoming the new addition to your family!