Dogs are very social animals and that is why they make such good pets. They are a pack animal, so minimum company is two. They thrive on plenty of company whether it be the family, another dog or other playmate.
RSPCA recommends you take the time to research the species or breed you are purchasing well before bringing it home. This way, you can be positive your choice of pet will be appropriate for your lifestyle and you will be
thoroughly prepared for its arrival. Purchasing a pet should never be an impulsive decision.
RSPCA shelters receive thousands of unwanted and abandoned animals each year. These are often the result of an ill-considered decision. Before you make the decision to become a pet owner, consider the following points.
All dogs need a place where they can feel secure and safe like the den they would have had in the wild. A sheltered area out of the rain and cold is essential. They will need access to fresh water and a place to toilet. Responsibilities will need to be allocated. Your dog will feel more settled if there are regular patterns in place. If you have a puppy, you may want to proof your house for chewing and lots of activity. Make sure your yard is escape-proof!
Dogs should be provided with a clean, comfortable and safe environment.
- If your dog sleeps outside, the area must:
- • be escape-proof i.e., be fenced-in
- • include sheltered areas
- • contain a warm, dry, draught-free kennel
In NSW, you are legally required to have your pet microchipped and registered. Costs for registration vary according to whether your dog is desexed or not. Check with your local council for further details. If you move, it is important to update your details with the local council. It is also a good idea to have a tag on your dog’s collar with your contact details.
Your dog will require annual visits to the veterinarian for vaccinations and general health checks. Taking your dog to the veterinarian once a year is equivalent to you visiting the doctor once every five years. However, it’s also important to treat your dog at home regularly for worms and fleas.
All dogs need regular health checks and need to keep their vaccinations up to date. Minimum health care should include regular worming, heart worm prevention, flea control and teeth cleaning. There are lots of products and some dry foods that clean teeth. Any changes in eating, drinking, urination, defecation or weight loss or gain should be checked out with a visit to the veterinarian. Theses days, there are treatments available for many problems ranging from diabetes to arthritis.
The RSPCA veterinary hospital can provide veterinary care for your dog, from regular veterinary checks to specialist surgeries.
Since humans domesticated dogs we have selected them for different purposes, leading to the development of breeds. When choosing a specific breed, it is important to look at what the breed was developed for e.g., the working breeds, such as Cattle Dogs, Kelpies and Border Collies are extremely active and intelligent, which is not suited well to being alone in a yard all day. Breeds that have been selected for fighting are more likely to fight. Many breeds have inherited health problems which may need veterinary intervention or management and so costs will be incurred.
All breeds have breed societies, so it is wise to find out about a breed’s characteristics before you acquire one to make sure the pet is appropriate to your lifestyle. Remember that pets can live well over 10 years, so it is a long term commitment. A crossbreed dog may be more robust and have the best of the breeds.
Feeding a balanced diet appropriate to your dog’s age and lifestyle is fundamental to the health of your dog. Dogs love meat, but they are not carnivores: they are omnivores and can live on both vegetable and meat-based diets. Meat alone is not balanced in nutrients, roughage, vitamins or minerals. Often the easiest, cheapest and most convenient way of ensuring correct nutrition is to feed complete balanced products prepared by good pet food manufacturers.
- Feed your dog a high-quality premium commercial food that is appropriate for the life stage and health status of your dog. You can offer some natural foods occasionally to provide some variety. Natural food may include:
- • fresh, raw meat
- • raw meaty bones
- • vegetables
Choose human-grade raw meat and raw meaty bones because pet meat, pet mince, pet rolls, pet meat and bone products can contain preservatives that can be detrimental to the dog's health e.g., sulphite preservative-induced thiamine deficiency, which can be fatal. However, avoid sausages, sausage meat and cooked manufactured meats, as they can contain sulphites.
Most brands these days have a range of 'lifestyle foods', i.e., foods with nutrition levels aimed at the specific age or activity of the dog, with feeding guides on the packaging.
Generally, younger and very active dogs should be fed at least twice daily. Aged dogs also often benefit from smaller, more frequent, feeds.
Home-cooked diets can be prepared, but this should be done in consultation with your local veterinarian or a pet nutrition guide to ensure it is completely balanced and provides everything your pet needs in the correct ratios. Part of getting it right is to monitor your dog’s body condition, or amount of body fat. With a puppy or dog that is in ideal condition, you should be able to easily feel the ribs, but not see them.
Bathing and Grooming
Dogs should be bathed when necessary using a shampoo specifically prepared for dogs.
- Regular grooming is essential. If you establish this habit early in your dog’s life:
- • grooming will be an enjoyable activity
- • it will provide bonding time
- • it will become part of a routine
Puppies have a ‘critical socialisation period’ from between about three and 17 weeks old. Puppy Preschool classes are recommended, as is taking your dog to off-leash parks to socialise with other dogs (but only after the dog has been fully vaccinated). Training is important as it:
- • provides mental stimulation
- • keeps your dog happy
- • tires your dog out, if combined with exercise
- Remember to reward good actions with a pat on the head, a food treat or a pleasant tone, and to ignore ‘unwanted’ actions.
Training should always be based on positive reinforcement training and kindness.