Is Your Family Ready To Get a Puppy?

Owning a dog is a huge commitment, and when you decide to get a dog you have a duty to take good care of them and make sure all of their needs are met. It seems simple enough- feed, walk and play with them but there's quite a bit more to it than that. Vet bills, behaviour problems and boarding kennel costs when you go on holiday are just a few of the problems that might crop up, and so it's important to really think about the practicalities before taking the plunge. Do you have a suitable, safe environment with enough space? Will you have the time and energy to keep them exercised? Would the dog be left alone for long hours every day? Dogs personalities can vary wildly even within the same breed, so it's fair to say you never know quite what you're going to get until your furry little friend arrives in their new home. If you're still happy to go ahead with adopting a dog then congratulations- it's one of the best things you'll ever do! If you're a new dog owner, or are a looking to adopt a dog or puppy here are some key issues to take into consideration.

Nutrition and Exercise
Buying your dog's food throughout the course of their life is one of the main expenses when it comes to owning a dog, and if you have a bigger breed they will get through it quicker than you'd expect! Deciding whether you'll feed them wet or dry food or a mixture of both is your first decision and whether you'll be 'free feeding' (giving your dog constant access to food and refilling their bowl when it's empty) or feeding at set times. Free feeding can work well for many dogs, particularly in multi dog households. With constant access to food there's no competition or aggression around it. This isn't something that can be done with all dogs though, as some will to overeat if they're given constant access to food, and if your dog shows any food aggression it's wiser to feed them away from children and other pets. Your dog needs a healthy mix of nutrition and good exercise so keep an eye on their bodyweight, in most breeds you should be able to see a defined waist from above and be able to easily feel (but not see) their ribs. How much exercise they need will depend on their size, age and personality- but as a general rule if your dog is restless, misbehaving or being destructive taking them on longer walks can help massively.

You don't need me to tell you not to leave a dog in a car on a hot day, but sadly many dogs meet their fate each year in this way. Many owners pop into shops and forget the time or get held up, and it takes a surprisingly short time for dogs to overheat and die in these conditions. If you think you're going to have to leave your dog unnattended in the car at any point, even for a couple of minutes just do the sensible thing and keep them at home! If your dog is outside in the garden on a hot day make sure they have access to shade and plenty of water, I personally don't agree with keeping dogs outside for long periods especially in extreme weather, but if that's something you want to do then ensure they have a proper kennel area that's sheltered from the elements. It's also important to take care with exercise during hot days, exercising them early in the morning or late evening when the sun has gone down is your best bet.

Short and medium haired breeds will require very little in the way of coat grooming, just a quick comb through every now and again to remove loose hair and keep them looking shiny. However certain breeds will need regular grooming, and some might even need regular professional grooming to keep them comfortable and their coat clean and healthy- this is definitely a cost to take into consideration when you're deciding on breeds. Longer haired dogs will probably require a 'summer haircut' which is best done by a professional, as cutting it too short or shaving to the skin can lead to sunburn and overheating. Most dogs nails will stay short if you take them on regular walks, but if you usually walk them on soft surfaces such as grass or they cant walk very far for health reasons you might notice their nails getting too long; you can buy special trimmers and do these yourself or leave it to a vet or groomer. If you plan on cutting them yourself my advice is to have a read online first, as cutting them too short and exposing the nail bed- known as the kwik- will cause pain to your dog and could even lead to infection. Dog safe face wipes are perfect for messy eaters, and ear cleaning drops are good if like mine your dog has a tendency to take a running jump into any lake or river they lay their eyes on!

Vaccinations, Fleas and Worms
All appropriate vaccinations are essential, when you first get your puppy (or a dog with an unknown vaccination history) they'll need two vaccinations over the space of a few weeks which protect them from illnesses including kennel cough, parvo, distemper and cainine hepatitis among others. It's then recommended that you go for annual boosters, this is also a good chance for your vet to check your dogs weight and do a general health check. If you walk your dogs in fields and woods, near rivers or take them around other dogs you're more likely to come into contact with fleas, and so having a quick acting flea treatment on hand is an essential. Left unchecked worms can also become a problem and cause nasty side effects, and so a dewormer that's the correct dosage for your dog's size will need to be used every three months. Heartworm is particularly dangerous in dogs and can be fatal, it's not found in the UK but if you live in an country that's affected it's so important to protect against it.

What tips do you have for new dog owners?