Let’s discuss some aspects of caring for, living with, and loving a dog that sometimes even dog owners ignore.
If you know me, you know I love animals more than words can express. In particular, I adore dogs.
When working with a new client with dogs, I ensure those little ones have an adequate, clean, and comfy place to sleep (I will celebrate big if I hear they share your bed!).
I will note where they eat and drink and inquire about (and observe) the type of relationship my clients have with their pups. It’s in my nature to look out for these defenseless, loving beings.
Many never notice when I clean their companions’ bowls and feed them fresh food from their pantry and serve them fresh water. I try to be discrete to avoid my fellow humans from feeling self-conscious.
But today, I’d like to address a couple of things about living with dogs. I might ruffle some feathers, but I am not apologizing for that — not this time.
Dogs deserve all our love, compassion, and more! As humans, we owe them big. Dogs, as we know them, did not exist in nature. We created them by domesticating their wild ancestors. We created this type of creature that depends on us. It would be absurd to turn our backs on them by neglecting their complex needs. Dogs are intelligent, sentient, social beings, and often caring for them with “just the basics” won’t do.
Why do you “own” dogs? If the answer is purely practical, please look for a loving, deserving family for them. Dogs love and need love. They are much better than us at seeing through our intentions and feelings. Dogs know when they are not loved. That can break a dog’s heart and spirit. So, if you have dogs but do not love them — truly love them, do yourself and the dogs a favor and rehome them asap.
Now, continue reading if you have dogs because you genuinely love and respect them. On behalf of my canine friends, I have some pointers that might not be the usual things we consider.
Microchip your dog(s) and keep the national registry updated about pertinent changes like moving (duh!). Also, don’t forget to include them in all possible national registries. Registering your dog(s) will substantially increase the chances of finding your fur babies if they ever get lost. There is no point in using the technology if you drop the ball by not keeping the registries up to date.
Create a name tag with your phone number and address (not the vet’s) for the dog’s collar. If the dog gets lost, it is easier to reunite him with the owners if he has a tag on the collar with the home number, given that the vet’s office is not open 24/7.
It is essential to have that tag because not everyone will be willing or able to take the dog to a place to scan the microchip. And, as I learned the hard way once (happy ending, though!), not all sites have scanners that can read all kinds of microchips.
If your animal sleeps in the room with you and the metal sound of their ID plate bothers you, consider following a routine to remove the collar last thing before going to be and putting it back on first thing in the morning.
Adopt, Do Not Buy!
Millions of animals need a good home out there! Don’t pay hundreds of dollars for an animal when so much love dies every day in shelters! Dogs get depressed and heartbroken in those places. They know why they are there. They feel the rejection and void in their hearts. Yet, ironically, these are the most grateful, intelligent, and graceful creatures you will ever find.
Besides, whenever money is involved with animals, inevitably unscrupulous behavior follows at some point. Nothing good ever comes from seeing animals in terms of dollars and cents. If you only knew the horrors these animals go through in places like puppy mills (that supply pet shops), you would definitively consider adopting instead of buying.
Spay or Neuter
Be a responsible owner and spay or neuter your dogs. There are way too many pups out there in shelters waiting for a loving family. Avoid the heartache of dealing with a litter of puppies. Chances are puppies will end up in houses where they are less than cherished, especially if the owners of these puppies did not have to pay a hefty price for them.
If you have chosen to share your home with an animal, be kind. Animals deserve so much better from us. They did not choose to be your pet. You did.
Do not get a dog and ignore him or leave him outside. Dogs have socialization and love needs. They also feel the heat and the cold. The “house dog” is okay for cartoons and stories (perhaps), but it does not cut in real life.
If you kennel your dog(s) when you are not home, ensure that the kennel has adequate ventilation and that the dog has access to clean water.
There are water bottles for kennels that work with gravity and water demand as the dog drinks. These eliminate the mess.
Remember that the dog will do his best to avoid soiling the kennel, but do not push their limits or abuse their good nature and respect for you. You don’t want their bladder to explode or the dog in pain. Keep in mind that you have a kenneled dog at home. Either go home at the usual time and allow them to go potty or make arrangements with a neighbor or paid service to walk the dog at some time during your absence.
Ensure the kennel has a soft surface for the dog to rest. For example, get a kennel cushion or place a couple of plush (clean) towels inside the kennel.
Find a good location for the kennel. For example, avoid direct sunlight or dangerous spaces with access to electrical cables. When the kennel is in an area with a fan or windows, leave the fan on and window blinds or shutters open for the dog to enjoy natural light. It is best not to cover the kennel with towels or blankets. The dog enjoys seeing the surroundings.
Maybe leave the tv on or the radio at low volume for entertainment?
Consider also leaving a chew toy inside the kennel.
When the dog is very young or getting used to living in your home, leave a piece of clothing or bedding with your scent.
By the way, a kennel that is the appropriate size allows the dog to stand upright and move around. Ensure the kennel is the correct size for your dog. Can you imagine spending your days in a cage where you can’t even stretch your legs? That is a form of torture (and even then, the dog still loves you. Dang! We don’t deserve them).
Some breeds are supposed to skip bathing (or so I’ve heard — like the puli dog). Even if your dog does not share your bed, please bathe them from time to time, groom them, clip their nails, express their anal glands (yep, that too!). Don’t want to do this yourself? Hire a grooming service. Don’t have the resources for that and don’t want to do it yourself? Don’t have a dog!
I have heard many times, “we don’t want the dog inside because he smells.” And who’s fault is that? I bet you would smell ten times worse than any dog if you stop showering for several weeks.
When bathing your animals regularly, homes with pets tend to develop strong odors when not following proper hygiene. Therefore, wash their beds and clean their quarters as often as possible. Make this part of your cleaning routine (as in schedule it!).
Walking The Dog
Smile, for God’s sake! I can’t tell you the many times I have crossed paths with people walking their dogs that look so miserable and act so anti-socially that they don’t even answer a “hello.”
It is your privilege to be in the company of such a magnificent creature that loves you! If this thought does not make you smile, read the seventh paragraph above again.
Allow your dog to sniff around. What is the purpose of walking your dog if you constantly pull the leash when all the dog wants is to “read the news”? Smells are to a dog like Facebook or Instagram is to you. That is how they know who is around and what is happening. Their daily walk might be the only socialization the dog will get in his entire day!
Consider using a harness instead of latching the leash to the dog’s collar. When the dog pulls away or if you pull the dog, the collar hurts tender tendons in the neck. This kind of injury can be serious. And speaking of leashes, avoid those retractable ones. There have been too many instances of those leashes causing severe injuries to dogs and humans alike!
Food And Water
Thoroughly clean your dog’s bowls daily with soap and water, regardless of the type of food you feed your dogs. If your dog eats wet or raw food, you must adhere to a schedule to remove and discard leftovers and wash the bowls after every feeding.
When it comes to the water dish, it is not just a matter of replenishing the water. Every time a dog drinks water from a bowl, the saliva goes into it, and mixed with the water, it creates a slimy film in the bowl. So let’s keep those bowls squeaky clean and grant them constant access to fresh, abundant water.
Consider a raised feeder for their bowls for medium or large dog breeds. It is hard for taller dogs to eat or drink from a bowl on the floor. These raised feeders also help their digestion, given how they eat their food more comfortably.
Avoid human food. Yes, to human-grade food for dogs, but the food should be prepared according to their particular needs and calibrated in composition and caloric value.
Do not give dogs your chicken bones and things like that. Some dogs might behave as if they were garbage disposals. But they are not and should not be treated as such. Avoid feeding them the family’s leftovers, and much less, the food that has spoiled in your fridge. You and the dog will both pay for awful consequences.
If your pup eats dry food, transferring the food to a sealed plastic container in your pantry (floor level) will keep the food clean and fresh. Also, you will quickly know when to buy more, and the food will be accessible and easy to serve. Do not keep the dry food bag open in the garage!
Hopefully, your dog has a comfortable bed of his own or at least a comfy, cozy corner to sleep in and feel safe. Wash the bed at least every month if the bed has a removable cover. When dogs sleep on blankets or towels, wash all that stuff regularly. Dogs need a clean place too!
Invest In Training
Better to have a trained dog than to spend the few years he lives with us yelling at the poor creature when he does the wrong thing. Dogs are intelligent creatures. It is us, humans, that are inconsistent and impatient with them. How are they supposed to learn when we do not show them what we expect? (But then again, we all know some people should have taken IQ tests before having human children!)
Keep Them Healthy
The least you can do for your dog is to ensure that he has an annual checkup with the vet to receive their shots and, at minimum, one thorough dental cleaning per year. Bacteria from the gums can easily affect the heart of a dog.
Of course, every time the dog looks or acts strangely, you should take them to the vet to ensure his wellbeing.
Do not forget the heartworm medication every single month. It is deplorable to see a dog suffering from heartworms when this is easily avoidable.
Treat those fleas!
Can you imagine what the dog goes through living with an infestation of fleas 24/7? Well, don’t treat the fleas, and you won’t have to imagine it for long. Enough said!
Put that baby blanket to good use
Before bringing your new baby home, allow the dog to familiarize himself with the baby’s scent. A used baby blanket is great to place in the dog’s kennel or bed. The reception of your baby by your furry friend will be much different.
Don’t break their heart!
Please do not neglect your dog or feel you have to keep the dog out now that you have a baby. That is a sure way to break a dog’s heart and create resentment towards your baby. Dogs are (or should be) part of the family. They naturally bond with babies and love caring for them! If you feel you do not have enough love to share now that you have a child, find a loving family that does not feel that way. The dog deserves it!
Train early on
Consider engaging a trainer before the baby arrives. A trainer can help you and the dog work on walks with a stroller and other foreseeable situations you might want to prepare. Advance training will decrease stress arising from bringing the newest family member home. Primarily, work on barking at the door and greeting visitors. These are two areas where significant challenges arise upon bringing a new baby to a home with dogs.
Dogs And Kids
Dogs and kids are a great combination only when the children have learned to respect the dog.
Some people think it is pretty funny or speaks highly of the dog when their children do all kinds of things to their dog, and the dog does not bite or snarl. This only speaks highly of those persons’ stupidity, I’m afraid. They are pushing their dogs’ limits, potentially creating a dangerous situation for both child and dog. The dog is being harmed, abused, or at least disrespected. Adults model a terrible example for their children this way.
Children need to learn, early in life, that dogs need to be respected and cherished, and that is why the dog shares the home with the family. What part of this is funny or should make the dog owner proud? I do not have a frigging idea!
Things We Do That Dogs Hate
Think it is so cute and funny to dress up your dog for Halloween or whatever other occasion? Newsflash! they do not share your views on this. So do not do this ridiculous thing! Dogs don’t like the feel, and they know how stupid they look.
Face to face loving
Do not love your dog by placing your face in front of theirs. Dogs hate it! They might tolerate it because it is you, and they love you and do not want to disappoint you. But they do not like this a bit.
Leaving them outside
Some dogs are suited for cold climates, but others are not. If it feels cold to you and your dog is not a furry snow beast (like our Great Pyrenees), consider getting them a size-appropriate jacket for those moments when there is no other option than going outside.
Do not presume that being dogs and having fur is automatic protection. Freezing weather is probably an instance when your dog won’t be bothered if you dress them warmly (just jacket and booties, no clown customs, please!)
If your dog sleeps outside, bring them inside unless outside is their choice (some breeds are like that)! They are part of the family. If you do not think a dog’s place is inside the home, again, DO NOT HAVE A DOG!
It is a crime to leave a dog outside when it is too hot or too cold in many states. There is a reason for that — it is an aberrant act of cruelty!
The dog’s fur not only protects him against the cold but also insulates him in the heat. Some people think they are doing their dog a favor by shaving off the hair when it is too hot out there. Unfortunately, this makes the dog lose their natural protection against the heat. Unless the dog is very matted and there is no better solution than shaving the hair, do not do such a thing!
Do not ignore your dog(s). Dogs look for eye contact as a reassurance of your love. So please look at them, smile at them, talk to them. Often.
Tomography images of the dog’s brain have shown that when a dog sees his beloved human, the brain lights up in the same manner the human brain behaves in the presence of a loved one.
Whoever abandons an old dog because he has become an inconvenience or no longer as much fun as they used to be, deserves the same treatment by their children.
In neglecting or rejecting an older dog, that is the lesson they are teaching their children. So, wait for it — Karma is a bitch and is coming for you one of these days.
If you have the privilege of sharing your home with an animal, then honor that. Honor them! Don’t consider that a privilege? Then allow someone else to give those creatures the love, happiness, care, and honor they deserve.
For the love of dogs!