Owning a dog is a long-term commitment. Dogs can live for up to 15 years or more but for that to be a happy healthy life you will have to be a responsible owner. Take care of your dog’s health and wellbeing and you will be rewarded with years of unswerving love, devotion and dedication.
Before you decide to get a dog, think about the costs: for instance vaccination, worming, food, toys, collar and lead, identity tag… just to begin with. Puppies are cute but they will poo and make puddles in the house and they may chew things – especially the things they shouldn’t.
Your dog will need your time too. He should not be left alone all day. A dog left home alone can get bored and may become a barking and destructive dog as a result. Leaving a dog unattended outside is not the solution. He may escape the garden or yard. As a result he can roam the neighbourhood, may be stolen, cause a traffic accident or injure a person. You would be responsible.
When you bring your dog home the first thing to do is to give him a collar and an identity tag with your name and telephone number. The 1985 Control of dogs Act requires that all dogs must wear an identity tag. In 2015 it will become compulsory to micro-chip your dog. This micro-chip has a unique ID number that can be read by a scanner passed over the dog's body. Your details are kept in a central database (don't forget to register your details on the database on line or check the veterinarian did it) so when your pet is found and scanned it can be returned home. In the case of a stolen pet being found the owner's identity would be indisputable and putting a tag on his collar that says he is micro-chipped may deter thieves.
Professional care is essential for your dog's health. Vaccination against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, leptospirosis and kennel cough is essential. Many dogs die each year without these vaccines and an annual booster is recommended. If you have any doubts about your dog's health, trust your instincts and contact your vet. Early diagnosis can save money in the long-term.
All dogs will have worms at some point in their lives. Puppies are at high risk as worms are passed from the mother before birth and afterwards through her milk. Puppies should be wormed from two or three weeks of age and then on a schedule advised by the veterinarian until they are six months of age. Adults should be wormed at least three times a year. The dog may not show any signs of illness except when large numbers of worms are present. Worms may cause weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, swollen tummies and death.Round Worms and Tapeworms are perhaps the most common and easily treated. Heartworm and Lungworm are more serious and life-threatening. A cure, if possible, can be expensive. Prevention by regular worming treatment is definitely the best option
Neutering is the most responsible and safest thing to do to prevent unwanted pups being born. Puppies are cute but they can be a handful and a responsibility requiring the attention of a veterinarian and good homes to be found for them. Neutering also brings health benefits including reducing the chance of cancer.
There are sometimes other benefits too with male dogs less likely to be aggressive and less likely to pee in the home. Female dogs have two seasons a year and if un-neutered may leave marks on floors and furniture. A female in season is driven by her hormones to find a mate and so must be kept at home. Un-neutered males will travel miles following the scent of a female in season leaving one owner with a missing pet and the other with a crowd of males at their gate.
The Dogs Trust (www.dogstrust.ie) is an international charity running a subsidized neutering scheme. The scheme entitles people receiving social welfare payments or pensions to have their dog neutered for a maximum cost of €20. To find a participating clinic: 1890 252 928 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Food & Drink
Make sure your dog ALWAYS has access to fresh water. Your dog should also have a balanced diet. This is very easy to give him as most commercial dog foods are designed to supply these needs containing the right proportions of protein, fat and fibre. Puppies need special food that is higher in protein for their first year for growing strong bones, healthy teeth and muscle.
Family leftovers alone are not good for your pet as they may contain salt, spices, herbs and incorrect levels of fat. Leftovers can also be poisonous to your pet. Unfortunately, there are many foodstuffs poisonous to dogs and which can KILL them. For more information visit:
www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/pets/general - select the ‘poisoning’ tab.
Grooming involves care of the coat, ears, eyes, bums, teeth and nails. Your dog should be groomed on a regular basis. If you do not feel confident about doing this yourself seek the help of a professional groomer.
Short-haired dogs will usually need just a weekly brush to help their coat stay clean and shiny.
Long-haired dogs need more attention to avoid knots and tangles leading to mats. These mats can cause your dog discomfort and hold on to water and dirt. Comb your dog once or twice a week at least, with special attention to the areas where mats form easily: under the legs, on tummy and chest. Special grooming aids are available.
- Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks don't necessarily need to be a fact of your life or that of your dog. Look at his skin after each walk and check for any signs of fleas or ticks. Never just pull a tick off. You may leave the jaws/mouth of the tick buried in the dog's skin which is uncomfortable and a source of infection. You can get a "tick hook" from your veterinarian or pet shop or ask your veterinarian to show you how to do it safely. Your veterinarian will also advise you on the best form of flea control.
Dogs have natural oils in their coats and a natural doggy smell. This can become strong and occasional bathing will not harm your dog. Regular washing of his bedding is essential to keep him clean and to help prevent flea infestation.
To Bath your dog place a rubber mat in the bath - you will also need a hand-held shower attachment. A rubber one which fits over the taps is fine. Make sure you have old clean towels to hand and mild shampoo. Lift the dog into the bath and wet him thoroughly all over with the warm water but leave his head dry. Shampoo him all over including his paws between the pads, rubbing it in to loosen the dirt; he will enjoy the massage. Talk to him gently while you do this to calm him. Finally, wet his head and rub in the shampoo being careful to avoid his eyes. Once his head is wet he will want to shake himself. Watch out! Rinse him thoroughly, again being careful not to get soap in his (and your!) eyes. Squeeze out the excess water with your hands and then rub him down gently with a towel. Put that towel on the floor and lift him on to it giving him a further dry with a fresh towel. If your dog will tolerate it, it is ok to dry him with a hair dryer set on a low level.
Check his bottom for any bits of pooh which may have caught and dried there. Gentle trimming and a clean-up with a baby wipe will sort that out.
Ears should be a nice pale pink and have no bad smells. Red and smelly ears and excessive scratching by your dog are signs of an infection and will need the attention of the vet. Dogs with hair inside their ears or with floppy ears (covering the ear canal) should be given special attention as their ears get more easily infected.
Eyes should be free of dirt. If you see any bits in the corners, gently wipe away with kitchen towel. Never use cotton wool as it may leave fibres in the eyes, making things worse. Eyes that are sticky or constantly watering will need to be checked by your vet.
Nails should be short and smooth. Walking your dog regularly helps to keep them this way. Dew claws are slightly higher up the legs on the inside and can grow really long because they are not worn down by walking. They should be checked and clipped. some dogs also have dew claws on their hind legs too. If you are not sure about clipping your dog's nails, take him to a professional groomer or the vet.
Healty teeth are white and healthy gums are pink. Dogs get a build-up of tartar or plaque on their teeth just like we do. 80% of all dogs over the age of 3 will suffer from some form of dental disease. Like humans, this is a cause of bad breath and can lead to other health problems including heart disease. Brush your dog's teeth regularly. You can get special dog toothpaste and toothbrushes. The toothpaste comes in different flavours like poultry or malt which dogs like. Never use human toothpaste. If your dog suffers from severe tartar or plaque your veterinarian can clean and polish his teeth.
Your dog needs regular exercise. A daily walk will use up his excess energy and keep him trim and fit. It will help him with boredom too; he will be more relaxed afterwards so if you have to leave him at home for a while take him for a walk first. The 1985 Control of Dogs Act requires you to keep your dog under control at all times in public - this means on a lead.
Scoop the Poop
Be responsible about your dog's mess - PICK IT UP! It isn't just nasty to tread in but also carries diseases and worms that can cause illness in humans, especially children who play on the ground. There are lots of different ways to clean up after your dog. The cheapest and most environmentally friendly way is a compostable plastic bag. Remember to dispose of the bag in an appropriate bin afterwards. If there is no bin where you are, take it home and put it in your bin.