In many ways your role as a dog owner who comes with similar responsibilities as the role of the parent. A domestic dog whilst tracing its ancestry back to the walls of the wild that are more than capable of looking after themselves is no longer in a position to do so.  A domestic dog is not permitted to hunt for its own food (and many breeds would be incapable of doing so in any case) and the concept of survival of the fittest which works well for wild animals is not such a great concept when applied to pets.

As such here are a few dog care tips there will give your pet dog the best chance of surviving and prospering

Train your dog
Dog training is little more than modified packed dog behaviour where you as the Alpha dog show your pet dog what is expected of them.  The basic commands of sit stay and come are not just tricks to show off to friends – these are lifesaving skills they can prevent a dog from chasing after a cat or a car onto a busy highway.  There are a puppy obedience and dog training classes in almost every suburban area and we recommend you take advantage of them.

Keep in mind some breeds are more intelligent than others, and some breeds are more wilful both of which will impact on the trainability of your dog.  Expect working dogs to be very trainable whereas hound dogs and livestock guardian dogs in many cases will always treat your commands as suggestions.

Microchip and licence your dog
Many thousands of dogs get lost every year and it’s a sad fact that local councils and dog shelters have insufficient resources to look after lost dogs for very long. Micro chipping allows dogs separated from their owners to be quickly reunited with them.  If your dog does become lost and ends up in a shelter and you make it their own time to save them? Expect to be hit with a large fine before the wall lease your dog to you.  If your dog is aggressive with strangers although breed considered aggressive and difficult to rehome your dog may have less than 24 hours before it is put down. Don’t leave it to chance. Microchip your dog.

Immunise your dog
Australia is lucky in that we have no rabies in either the wild or domestic animal population but there are still many diseases that can be debilitating or fatal to your pooch.  Parvovirus to name but one. Additionally, unless your dog is fully vaccinated no dog kennel will take your dog when you wish to go on holidays.

Protect your dog from parasites
Dogs are especially vulnerable to many types of parasites. Flees and mites can make life very unpleasant for your dog whether they have an allergy to the flea’s saliva or droppings or simply from their incessant biting.  Even more dangerous are paralysis ticks and heart worm both of which are potentially fatal.  See your vet for the best recommended treatment of the day – treatment types are always on the improve so rather than trying keep this page updated with the best treatment please speak to your vet.

Grooming your dog appropriately
Note I say appropriately rather than just listing how you should groom your dog because that is going to differ depending on the breed of dog.  Some shorthaired breeds will require little brushing and only the occasional bath where others will require constant brushing and clipping.  In most cases human shampoo or detergents are unwise choice for washing your dog as they can irritate your dog’s skin and strip protective oils from their fur. Choose a dog shampoo instead and speak to your breeder about recommended washing intervals.

Claws should be kept trimmed lest they curl under and cause problems with your dogs toe pads.  Dew claws should be kept especially short lest they catch on obstructions and tear the dew claw which is very painful to your dog. Ears should be kept clean, teeth should be brushed(yes dog teeth require brushing or they will rot, there is nothing more disgusting to a dog’s breath and rotten teeth) and your dogs fur and skin should be regularly checked for injury or infestation.

Shelter
Appropriate shelter should be provided depending on the breed and your location. Use your common sense. A small hairless terrier or a whippet is not going to last long outside in subzero temperatures whereas a woolly sheep dog will probably be unfazed being kennelled outside in the snow. Regardless of where you live or what your dog breed, your dog should always have a sheltered and dry area to rest and sleep.  Like people, dogs prefer to have something soft to sleep on especially the thinner dogs that are less well padded.

Many dog breeds are simply not suited for outdoor life and are best kept indoors

Food
The most important thing to note with your dog’s food is that they require variety. Don’t expect your dog to do well on a diet made up of the cheapest dry food available. In the wild dogs are primarily carnivores but are also omnivorous scavengers and supplement their diet of meat with grasses and fruits so ensure their diet contains a mix of vegetables as well as meat.  Great carrots, Apple and other vegetables mixed into premium dog food will be greatly appreciated by your dog. Is your dog a bad farter? Its likely caused by high fat levels in cheap canned dog food.(Editor’s note – I call it “chum bum”).

Many human foods are toxic to dogs. Human chocolate for starters, several types of nuts including Macadamia nuts contain a toxin that can cause organ failure in dogs. Dogs don’t tolerate diets high in fat and not only will you be rewarded with a dogs hind flatulence if you feed them a high fat diet you will greatly shorten their life by damaging their pancreas.  Even occasional high fat treats can be dangerous with the deaths of dogs reported

Dogs have been known to die after eating items such as the contents of a tub of margarine.

Puppies need to eat regularly, as often as four times a day until aged three months up to 12 months they will need to 3 meals a day. Bloat caused by over eating or gulping air is due to a ravenous eating action is very dangerous in large full chested dog breeds so regardless your dog may be very large they will likely do better with two or three small meals a day rather than one large portion that may be wolfed down a to cause problems shortly after .

Your dog should have access to fresh water all day not just at mealtimes.  You dogs water bowl should be changed at least every second day otherwise it becomes a tepid pool of bacteria

Vet Care
Your dog should be regularly checked by your vet who will give you a vaccination schedule and depending on your breed make a recommendation on how often you should visit. Unless you’re planning on breeding your dog consider getting your dog neutered as a neutered dog will exhibit less aggression, not contribute to an unwanted litter of puppies and suffer from fewer health issues associated with reproduction organs.  The family with your vet as wise to keep the number of an emergency debt in your wallet as accidents generally happen outside the home when you’re walking a dog.

Exercise
Depending on your dog’s breed it will require more or less exercise but all will still require some.  It goes without saying working dog breeds will require more than sedentary livestock guardian dog breeds or toy dog breeds. Exercise can take the form of walking, swimming or jogging with your dog – be aware herding dog breeds may willingly run with your in the middle of a hot summer’s day but will certainly not thank you for it later.  Make sure you choose a breed whose exercise needs are a good match with your exercise desires. Don’t get a dog that requires lots of exercise if you prefer as your main form of exercise vigorous changing of channels on your TV remote. A highly intelligent, highly active under exercise dog will quickly develop behavioural problems such as barking, chewing, digging and overly protective behaviour.

Throw a ball, or a frisbee and resist the temptation to throw them a stick. 99 times out of 100 the stick trying will work out just fine but if you throw it enough times you are highly excitable stick chasing dog is very likely to cause itself an injury with the sticks splintering and piercing its gums, cashing between teeth, or even puncturing the back of their throat protruding out through their neck.  Your vet will attest to the humble stick being the greatest cause of injury to dogs.

Be alert to changes in your dog’s behaviour
Without a speaking voice to alert you to what pains them, its up to you to be alert to changes in your dog’s behaviour as an indicator of something amiss with their health. Changes such as a sudden increase or decrease in appetite, excessive drinking, excessive or difficulty urinating, extremely runny faeces or difficulty defecating are all clear signs that something is up with your dog. Many of the conditions that cause these symptoms such as snakebite, a twisted bowel, pancreatitis and others are all very treatable conditions if caught early but if not they are likely to be fatal.

Less obvious signs include panting when there is little reason to believe your dog is hot. Dogs often pant in order to cope with pain. Perhaps your dog as it gets older is becoming more wilful and doesn’t respond to your calls as quickly?  Or perhaps this is just a sign that your old dog is going deaf.

Dogs suffer from many of the same ravages of age that humans suffer from including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, cataracts  even late onset diabetes. Many of these conditions are very manageable especially if caught early so be alert to changes in your dog’s behaviour and you may be able to prolong and improve your dogs life.

Whilst this is a long list of care most of it is common sense and if you use a generous helping of it is very likely that your dog will enjoy a long and happy life that is relatively incident free.