Caring for Dogs

A comfortable bed

A cosy bed is important for dogs. This should be kept in a quiet, dry, draught-free area. Make sure you choose one that can be cleaned easily and thoroughly, and do this regularly.

dog flat out on back

Cleaning up after your dog

Part of providing a suitable environment is making it clean and hygienic. Dog faeces can transmit diseases, as well as parasites such as worms. Make sure you clean up after your dog using a plastic bag or ’pooper scooper‘, especially if there are children around. Dog owners and people responsible for dogs have a legal obligation to do this when in a public place, under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

Do dogs need a companion?

Dogs are very social animals meaning they don’t like to be alone – but you should think carefully about the time and money needed to care for more than one dog.

A single dog needs plenty of human company and it’s important that they aren’t routinely left on their own for more than four hours a day.

Who should care for my dog if I go on holiday?

If you go on holiday, you need to arrange for someone responsible to care for your dog. Dogs can be booked into kennels or, alternatively, a friend or professional “pet-sitter” could look after them. Well-run kennels won’t allow dogs to board if they haven’t been vaccinated, so make sure you check your dog’s vaccinations are up to date well in advance.

If a friend or “pet-sitter” is looking after your dog while you’re away, make sure they know about your pet’s requirements. Leave them a list of information, such as how much food and exercise your pet needs, any medication they might be on and how to give it, and your vet’s contact details for emergencies.

How long can I leave my dog alone for?

Dogs shouldn’t routinely be left alone for more than four hours. Boredom can cause dogs to bark or be destructive in the house.

When should a puppy start to eat solid food?

Puppies are usually ready to eat solid food when they are about five weeks old.

How often should I feed my puppy?

Initially, puppies need four meals a day but this can be reduced to three a day at about 12 weeks. At six months, they can have two meals a day, which can continue for the rest of their life.


What should I feed my dog?

Your dog needs a healthy, balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs.

Feeding a complete, commercial dog food is normally preferable to a homemade diet. It’s not easy to achieve the correct balance of nutrients if you make your dog’s diet yourself.

Do dogs of different ages need different food?

One of the best ways of making sure you give your dog the necessary nutrients is to feed according to ‘life stage’. This means feeding a different diet depending on whether your dog is a puppy, adult or senior dog, because dogs of different ages have different nutrient requirements. For example, puppies need more calories in their food because they are so energetic. Several leading brands of commercially available dog food offer different foods for different life stages.

How much food should I give my dog?

Follow the packet feeding guidelines so that you know how much to feed. Weigh the food out to check you’re getting it right. Feeding the right amount of food is important because obesity is the commonest nutritional problem seen by vets and causes health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.

How often should I feed my dog?

It’s generally best to feed an adult dog twice a day. Avoid feeding your dog immediately before travelling, to avoid travel sickness, or within an hour before or after vigorous exercise as this can lead to a dangerous condition called ’bloat’.

What treats can I give my dog?

Most dog foods these days are complete, meaning they contain all the nutrients that a dog needs, in the right amounts. If extra food is given, as treats, your dog must do something with the extra calories. If your dog isn’t being exercised enough, the calories will be turned into fat.

The only time you should really give food treats is when you are training your dog using rewards. If your reward is a food treat, try to use something healthy such as small slices of carrot. However, if your dog is only interested in less healthy food, such as small pieces of sausage, reduce the amount of food given in the main meal so that there aren’t too many calories on training days. Dog obesity is a big problem and causes health problems.

At other times you can show your affection for your dog in ways other than food. Dogs enjoy games, walks and affection. You don’t need to use food to show dogs that you love them.

Food and water bowls

Your dog will need constant access to fresh, clean water from a clean bowl.

These should be easy to clean. Stainless steel bowls, or heavy pottery ones are fine. It is important to throw out any uneaten food after your dog has finished eating to make sure it doesn’t go stale or mouldy. Replace bowls if they become chipped or cracked.


Puppy Socialisation

What is socialisation?

Socialisation is one of the most important things you can do for your puppy. It’s all about letting them meet people and other animals, and letting them experience lots of everyday sights and sounds, especially in their first few weeks of life.

Why is it important to socialise my puppy?

Socialisation has a big influence on the behaviour and temperament of your puppy that will affect their behaviour for the rest of their life. A well socialised puppy is more likely to grow up to be a friendly and outgoing dog. If socialisation isn’t done properly they’re more likely to be anxious and fearful as adults. Anxiety and fear are unpleasant feelings that reduce a dog’s quality of life.

In addition, anxiety and fear cause problem behaviour, including aggression, so a lack of socialisation results in dogs being given to rehoming centres or even being put to sleep. Tragically, this happens to thousands of dogs every year.

When should I socialise my puppy?

Puppies need to be socialised when they are young because of the way a puppy’s brain develops. Between the age of 3 and 8 weeks, a puppy wants to explore and investigate everything that’s new. But after about 8 weeks, the brain changes and instead of wanting to investigate new things your puppy is more likely to be nervous of them and back away. Exposure to a range of people and animals and different places and experiences is therefore crucial before 8 weeks of age.

The earlier you start socialisation, the better. In fact, socialisation really starts at the place where your puppy was born so you should get a puppy from a place where it has been amongst normal everyday sights and sounds, like the vacuum cleaner, TV, hi-fi and washing machine. After 8 weeks socialisation is still important and the brain is still developing. At this age puppies will be naturally wary of new people and situations so the way in which you handle their encounters is very important to make sure they stay relaxed and unafraid.

How should I socialise my puppy?

Let your puppy gradually meet and experience different things, but before you start, remember these golden rules:

  • The experiences must be good ones! If your puppy seems anxious or afraid when they’re doing or seeing something new, calmly end what they’re doing. Don’t try to comfort or reassure your puppy as this will make them think that there was something to be scared about. Just be positive and upbeat and do something different. This is very important because otherwise your puppy can develop fears and phobias.
  • Build up new experiences gradually; for example, go to a local row of shops before a shopping precinct; a quiet road before a busy road etc. When your puppy is calm and relaxed, give them occasional praise and healthy treats so that they enjoy the experience.
  • Don’t introduce too many new experiences in one day. Three a day is a sensible number, remembering to repeat them as often as possible once your puppy is happy with them.
  • Supervise play with other dogs carefully. Don’t let the play get too boisterous.

Do puppies need their vaccinations before they can meet other animals?

This is an important point. Puppies normally go to their new home at about 6 weeks of age, and at this age you should take your puppy to your vet to find out when they can be vaccinated. It’s important because socialisation involves meeting other animals, but your puppy needs to be protected from diseases first. When you’re at the vet’s, ask about puppy socialisation groups (sometimes called “puppy parties”) which lots of vet practices run to let puppies learn to socialise with other puppies. You should also ask for advice about socialising your puppy with dogs that are known to you and that are themselves fully vaccinated.


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