Canis lupus familiaris
Its wild ancestor is the Gray wolf (Canis lupus) and because of this, they are first and foremost, carnivores, not omnivores. Dogs have been used for pets, hunting, herding, pest control, draft, show, sport, rescue, fighting, research and even meat. There are over 150 dog breeds registered under the AKC, and the domestic dog is one of the only species of animal to have as much variation within its breed, regarding size and appearance (ex. an Irish Wolfhound and a Chihuahua). According to the AKC, the top ten most popular dog breeds are: Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, Boxers, Poodles, Rottweilers, and Dachshunds.
Does it really matter whether or not I should research what kind of dog I want?
YES. Even if you are adopting an animal at the humane society, they give you an educated guess as to the breeds of the dogs under their care, because it helps determine how to care for them. True, they are all dogs, but some dogs require different care than others. For example, you wouldn’t need to brush out a lab’s coat as often as you would a golden retriever’s. You also wouldn’t need to exercise a pug as often as you would a rhodesian ridgeback. Knowing ahead of time what breed of dog you are getting is crucial to understanding exactly what care you will need to be providing. On top of that, some house rental companies won’t allow certain breeds in their apartments or houses, even if you have a mutt! If it shares some of the same blood as a dog on their list, it usually isn’t allowed.
I can’t tell you how many dogs I see on craigslist because their owners are moving and they can’t take the dog with them because the housing complex doesn’t allow their breed. Most of the time it’s the American Staffordshire Terrier, a dog with a lot of terrible publicity as of late. You are responsible for planning your future ahead to figure out whether or not a dog would be conducive to your lifestyle. That includes thoughts like, “Will I be able to care for this animal if a loved one dies?” or, “Can I afford this animal, with all of the attention and money it needs, and if so, will I be able to pay for an emergency, like if it broke its leg?”
Okay, I want a dog and I’m stable. How should I go about buying one? And should I get an adult, or a puppy?
Obviously, there’s a lot of debate when it comes to whether or not you should buy or adopt a dog. Honestly, I vote for adopt, and here’s why. I believe that there are thousands upon thousands of dog breeders in the US, and with the immense number of dogs already in shelters, what reason do they have to keep producing puppies, other than to make money? They may say that they only breed their dogs once a year, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter whether it’s once, or a hundred times a year. The problem is a whole. All dog breeders are responsible for the crisis seen in rescues and humane societies across the country.
It’s not like they’re selling the puppies, knowing they’re going to end up in a shelter. Most responsible dog breeders will actually take back what they bred! So, if you want to be a part of this never-ending cycle, be my guest. I can’t stop you, but if I could smack you from inside the computer screen, I would. Now, if you’d rather help stop the problem, rather than allow it to continue, I’d tell you to start figuring out what kind of dog you’d like most, if you’re looking for a particular breed, and then search your local humane societies, small rescues and even look statewide! I’m a big believer in adopting the dog mill and puppy mill rescues, so there’s always that option.
If you really want a greyhound, there are national greyhound adoption events! They’re usually young, being retired from racing, but there are older ones that are always looking for a good home! There are rescues for specific breeds like boxers, mastiffs, chihuahuas, etc. But most of them will have some mixed blood, so it’s not like you’ll be buying a purebred animal.
Once in a great while, usually during the spring, you’ll stop by the humane society and find puppies! It’s usually because someone abandons them, so if you’re looking to adopt and own a puppy, be patient! Spring is probably the best time to look!
Now, as far as whether or not you should get a puppy or an adult, it depends on how much work you’d like to put into it. If you want to be woken up by wails and yips and barks all night long, and have to deal with a dog that doesn’t know the meaning of scratching at the door to be let out to go potty and needs to be let out at least every 30 minutes, then get a puppy. Puppies, like babies, are a lot of work. They have sharp teeth that will pierce skin when they’re playing, and they don’t understand the words “calm down” or “stop”. They can, however, be trained from a young age (anywhere from six weeks up) to sit, lay down, stay and roll over. Generally, the ten to twelve-week old puppies are a little better at following directions, in my humble opinion. Puppies will also require a lot more exercise (all that energy has to go somewhere!) and funds, because you’ll be buying puppy food, probably pee-pee pads for when you leave for work, training supplies like tiny, pea-sized treats, as well as everything else needed for a dog, like bowls and a bed and possibly a kennel.
With adults, you don’t have to worry about whether or not their food will give them diarrhea. Unless you know the dog has allergies, most of the time, they won’t react as badly to dog food as puppies will. Obviously, this depends on a lot of things, like the brand of dog food, how often they’re being fed, and whether or not you took the time to slowly switch them from one brand to another. It’s incredible how many people ask me why their dog doesn’t feel too good after they switched their food, and I learn that they did it within a day. Adults are usually already pre-trained. The one thing about adults that you would need to consider is their baggage. Some dogs (and even puppies!) don’t do well with small children or other pets. If you’re unsure about whether or not this would be a problem for you, I’d consult with the rescue or humane society you’re adopting from to see if they’ve noticed any issues during training and behavioral tests.
Okay, I’ve decided on adopting/buying a puppy/adult. So what do I need?
Excellent question! Walking into pet stores when you’re adopting or buying an animal and needing to get supplies can be stressful. It’s like your body disconnects from your mind and you end up buying either too much or too little. Here’s a basic supply list you’ll need.
- dog bed – get something that’s relatively cheap. For the first few months to a year, this pup will tear it apart.
- crate (optional) – this is for when you’re at work and need to keep them some place or for training, or for travelling. It comes in handy, and I suggest buying one that they’ll grow into, otherwise you end up wasting money.
- puppy gate (optional) – for separating your puppy from the rest of the house.
- puppy play pen (optional) – this allows your puppy to have a little more space than a crate, but doesn’t let them get into trouble while you’re gone!
- pee-pee pads (optional) – unless you’re able to wake up every 30 minutes to take your puppy out to go potty, you’ll need these.
- food – the humane society or breeder should tell you exactly what they were feeding the puppy. You’ll need to buy that exact brand and use it for a week or two, until he becomes adjusted and then you can slowly begin to switch him to your choice of food. Just make sure to get a puppy food, not an adult dog food. Yes, there is a difference. Puppies need more fat and protein as they’re growing, just like a human child. Adults would quickly become obese on puppy chow, although a lot of breeders use puppy food to give their pregnant bitch some extra nutrients.
- dishes – you’ll need a water and food dish, and it’ll have to be something that is either super heavy and it won’t tip over or can be attached to something, like their crate.
- chewing toys – your puppy will be going through the teething phase just as babies do. Give them something tough and fun to play with, otherwise it’ll be your chairs they chew up!
- treats – now, these treats should be pea-sized, or easy to rip into small pieces. The best treats are moist and have a super fragrant smell to them. Puppies love these, and it’s easy to get their attention with them.
- collar/leash or collar/harness/leash – if you have a large puppy you might want to buy a harness and a leash. You’ll still need the collar for if he escapes somehow, so he’ll have a dog tag on him for identification. Harnesses help stop them from pulling as hard as they can, making training a lot easier. If you have a smaller puppy, a collar and leash should work just fine.
- dog tags – in case your puppy gets out of the yard or escapes through the front door because you forgot to close it, you should always have a tag on his collar somewhere. It should include his/her name, your address and your phone number. Another optional tag is what veterinarians give you after they get their rabies shots. It lets people know that they got their shots and aren’t carrying anything deadly.
- puppy shampoo – puppies can get into big messes, whether it’s in your garbage or garden. Make sure to buy a gentle shampoo so their skin doesn’t get irritated with the harsh chemicals.
- brushes (optional) – if you have a long-haired puppy, you’re going to need some grooming supplies to keep them happy. It’s unlikely a puppy’s fur will knot up and matt, but you’ll definitely need it when they’re adults. Matts can actually cause sores on the skin and restrict the dog’s movement. A lot of owners don’t understand this fact and their dog lives a terrible life.
- sour apple anti-chewing spray (optional) – buy this if you want your puppy to stop chewing on certain items. You just spray the item and they should leave it alone. Some puppies actually like the taste, so I’d just buy it just in case.
- nail clippers – be sure to store these someplace dry. If they begin to rust, make sure to get a new pair. You want to have nail clippers that are sharp and strong. Puppies can grow really sharp nails, so it’s important to have a pair of good clippers.
Adults (I’m going to assume that this dog has been house trained and knows basic commands)
- dog bed – make sure to get a bed that’s large enough to accommodate his body. Also, buy one that’s really plushy. Adult dogs will turn into senior dogs and will need that extra padding underneath.
- dog crate – if this dog has separation anxiety, you might need to buy a heavy-duty kennel for outside, otherwise he could chew his way out of the plastic one and wreck havoc in your house.
- food/water dishes – these can just be normal bowls. Adults don’t normally knock them over on purpose.
- food – make sure to buy the food they were eating before you acquired them, otherwise they could develop gut issues.
- collar/harness/leash – if your adult dog is larger (lab, golden retriever, husky, etc), you should use the harness. If you have a smaller dog, a collar and leash should be fine.
- dog tags – this should be on the dog at all times and should include his/her name and your number and address.
- shampoo – I personally have always used puppy shampoo on my dogs because the ingredients are slightly less harsh than the adult shampoos.
- grooming supplies – if your dog has a long coat that’s prone to knotting up, buying yourself a brush can be a life saver! Groom your own dog to save money!
- nail clippers – like the puppy, make sure to use heavy-duty clippers. Ones that are rusty and dull should be avoided.
- treats (optional) – you can buy treats or give your adult dog pieces of cooked chicken if you’d like.
- toys (optional) – some dogs like plastic water bottles, while others like tearing up newspaper. Just make sure they do it outside!
As you can tell, the puppy list is a lot longer and since they’re constantly growing, you’ll have to buy replacements to fit their needs. Puppies are definitely cute, but they can be a challenge and not many people are ready for them. This leads to owners keeping their dogs tied up outside all day, or inside the garage, where getting the proper amount of exercise or good potty habits is practically impossible.
So I want to switch my dog/puppy from one brand to another. Which brands are better?
If you’re tired of buying bag after bag of dog food and you want a different option that will keep your dog fuller for longer, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to go over some good dog food options. These ones are generally the most popular at pet stores. Remember, most of the time, the more expensive the brand is, the higher quality the ingredients are. The higher quality it is, the less you end up needing to feed your dog.
- Purina Pro-Plan – out of all of the cheap brands, this one is the best. Other cheap brands like science-diet and iams are complete crap and shouldn’t be fed to any animal. Some rescues and humane societies use science diet, not because it’s the best option, but because it’s cheap. Purina is also crap, but it’s slightly better.
- Wellness Core – this brand a little more expensive, but offers a whole lot of nutrition! Some products of theirs are grain-free and you should really opt for one of those.
- Natural Balance – about the same price as Wellness Core, this is one of the best foods on the market. It comes in many flavors and I believe it’s all grain-free.
- Blue Buffalo – this stuff is very expensive. It’s also unnecessary. Yes, it’s a good brand but there are other brands, like Natural Balance, that I find to be better. Blue Buffalo is only popular because they’re constantly airing commercials and people have convinced themselves that this brand is the best on the market. Like I said, it’s good, but not that good.
Now, as we all know, nutrients can go bad after a certain amount of time. In fact, the nutrients in wheat berries, once ground into flour, begin to deplete as soon as a few hours. So what about dog food? Well by the time you buy it from the store it’s usually quite old. A veterinarian friend of mine told me that bagged dog food can be as old as six months and can harbor deadly bacteria and bugs inside! Now, what I’ve been trying to tell people is that homemade dog food saves you money…a lot of money. Yes, it’s expensive to get started, but once you do start, you won’t ever go back. Your dogs won’t need to eat as much, and you can freeze the food into daily portions!
What I’m talking about is a raw food, or homemade, diet. A lot of people, and veterinarians included, tell you that raw food diets are dangerous for dogs, because the meat or eggs you put into the food could be contaminated with harmful bacteria, or a bone could puncture an organ or there could be an unbalance in the diet itself. Many others disagree and say that raw food and homemade diets are optimal for pet nutrition. These are interesting points that I’d like to go over.
- Contaminated meat.
- Yes, it is true that meat can be contaminated. There’s practically a meat recall every week and in fact there is one going on today from three Texas companies, including HEB! Why? Because the bigger the company, the harder it is to control what happens to the product before it goes out to the store. Not to mention the fact that slaughterhouses are disgusting and can harbor deadly bacteria. That’s why a lot of companies rinse their product with ammonia, to kill anything on it. Obviously, this is a terrible practice and I, for one, hate thinking about the fact that I was probably eating ammonia at some point in my life. So, yes, meat can be contaminated. However, not all meat is contaminated and I prefer to shop locally, anyways. My friend’s grandparents own a small farm with a few Angus cows and chickens. Once a year, they butcher and sell their product. A customer of theirs regularly buys 1/4 cow and takes home a few of their chickens as well as their organs. When I asked him what he was using them for, he said, “Dog food!”
- Benefits of feeding a raw food diet includes: shinier coats, healthier teeth, more energy, smaller stools and healthier skin. And sure, the shinier coat is probably because of the higher fat content found in meats rather than in dog kibble, but think about it. If pet food companies were to add more fat to their food, it’s no different than adding a supplement. Supplements, especially if low in quality, have little to no effect on health and is unnatural. I try to get as much nutrition as I can using food items, rather than supplements. Dogs are the same way. They get the most nutrition out of food. Not supplementation. There are packaged raw food diets out there but I personally don’t trust them. I mean, dry dog food is dangerous enough, so commercial raw dog food sounds downright scary.
- Bones puncturing an organ. So a major part of a raw food diet is something called RMBs. This stands for Raw Meaty Bones. These are uncooked bones from different animals and provide a fantastic amount of calcium and other nutrients for dogs, as well as a very cheap chew toy! The problem with these is that sometimes, the slivers of the bones can perforate a dog’s organs. Depending on how long it stays in, the dog can die. Now, this happens all the time with cooked bones so never feed your pet cooked bones. Raw bones are definitely controversial, but I agree with the concept as long as your dog is smart. Generally speaking, the only dogs I’ve heard of who get slivers of bone stuck in organs are the dogs that inhale their food and aren’t very smart about it. So, if your dog is the kind that inhales food, you may want to grind up the bones in a meat grinder, which I’ll talk about in a second.
- Unbalanced diet. I believe in variety. I believe that the wolf isn’t constantly eating deer. He’s eating caribou, moose, elk, coyotes, birds, and rabbits. All of these animals provides a variety to the wolf, which is the best form of nutrition. If we were forced to eat a few things, but the same thing, every day, wouldn’t it get kind of boring? In fact, wouldn’t we develop certain allergies, like we are now with grains? A lot of this has to do with genetics, but either way, feeding a commercial dog food is boring. Now, balanced raw food diets are a lot of fun to create, and no dog can resist them! A balanced diet is, as the co-author of the award-winning book “Real Food For Healthy Dogs & Cats” comments, “75 percent meat/organs/bone and 25 percent vegetables/fruits.” I believe that anyone considering to dive into raw food diets should buy this book, as their recipes are rotational, making sure that your dog or cat are getting variety every week, rather than eating the same thing everyday, which is just as they’d be doing in the wild. Remember, table scraps thrown together is not a balanced diet. There will be health problems later down the road if you don’t take the health of your dog seriously.
So, there you have it. If I was living on my own and had a dog instead of an ugly squirrel, I’d be feeding them a raw food diet. Yes, like I said, it takes money to start up. For example, if your dog doesn’t have many teeth or has trouble eating bones, you’ll want to consider buying a meat grinder. The best one I’ve heard that works is the Weston #12 meat grinder. It’s very expensive, at just over $400, but it’s incredibly silent and fast, however the other that works just fine is the Tasin TS-108, at just over $100. Either one is fine, but don’t expect to be able to hear anything else while the Tasin is working!
Okay, I chose a dog food. How much exercise should my dog be getting?
This depends. For small dogs, it isn’t much. For our Chihuahua, we take her out about once a week for about a 10 minute walk down to the park and back. Why? Because she gets her exercise when we throw balls around the house. She’s absolutely spent after about 15 or 20 minutes of play time. We also can’t really take her out on walks that often because her knees pop in and out of their joints and she can’t walk that far, or run that fast. She is very small though, so that’s why we can get away with it. She isn’t obese or anything. She’s actually right under the 5 lb. mark, which is good weight for her, because of her legs. Now, small dogs that have a weight problem should be given at least a 30 minute walk every day. You should also consult with your veterinarian to determine whether or not your dog’s diet needs to be changed or just lowered.
Large dogs, regardless of their breed, require at least 30 minutes of fast-paced walking or running every day. Dogs that grow bored easily or are displaying unwanted behaviors (like chewing up carpet or even becoming aggressive towards other people) should be outside on walks twice a day, at least an hour each. I was once pet-sitting a dog named Texas while his owners were away. He required at least an hour’s walk every day, so, wanting to impress the owners and lose some weight in the process, for the following two weeks, I walked him up my hills twice a day and each walk lasted about an hour. He was a very energetic dog to begin with, so walks were necessary to keep him under control and friendly. I also got paid double what I was expecting, so that was awesome!
The harder you work your dog, the harder it is for them to remember that they’re “supposed” to bark at the other dogs that pass by, or the people riding bicycles. Breeds like “bullies” are dogs that should definitely not be kept by everyone because of their care. Police actually use them because of their stamina and because they have so much energy. A pent up bullie is bound to reproduce bad behaviors, which is why they’re one of the dogs who should receive a walk/run twice a day.
All in all, 30 minutes a day is a good marker. For small, healthy dogs, it can be lowered to practically 1-3 times/week. For larger, more energetic dogs, 1-2 hours/day is the best bet. I’ve found that just adding more exercise into your dogs schedule will usually stop any bad behaviors they were exhibiting.
How do I train my dog?
Positive reinforcement. You reward him for his good behaviors and ignore the bad ones. For example, if a dog was used to sleeping with you at night and you wanted to make sure he slept in his kennel at night, you’d start off by giving him treats for every time he laid down in his kennel. This shows he’s comfortable being in there. Then, you start kenneling him at night. He will bark and howl and paw at the cage in the beginning, but will then calm down and that’s when you want to swoop in and give him a treat. You do this exercise multiple times and he will soon understand that he won’t be rewarded if he barks and makes noise.
This can apply to every situation. However, if you feel like the training you’re doing has got you nowhere, it may be time to hire a professional. Petco and Petsmart both have dog trainers at their locations, and they are generally very good at what they do. I’ve only heard complaints from customers who owned aggressive dogs, as dogs that are aggressive aren’t allowed to participate in training sessions.
Is it safe to let my dog run around at a dog park?
For the most part, it is very safe! In fact, it’s beneficial! A lot of dogs who don’t play well with others are usually that way because they aren’t used to being around dogs. If you surround your puppy or dog with other similarly-sized canines, they will soon learn to behave around each other! Obviously, aggressive dogs should never be allowed here, as there are small breeds of dogs but there are many dogs I’ve babysat where I could see a difference within a matter of weeks from going to the dog park once every day. They played nicer with the dogs and, when I’d walk them, they didn’t bark or pull when they saw other dogs pass on by! They just did a quick sniff to say hello and moved on! That’s what a well-rounded and well-trained dog looks like.
I think my dog or puppy has fleas. How do I get rid of them without paying a lot for harsh chemicals?
- Apple cider vinegar. Farmers have been giving their animals apple cider vinegar for generations because of its amazing health benefits and because fleas and other bugs don’t like the smell. If you’ve got a flea problem, put a few drops of the ACV in their water. A tip is to use the cap. Pour into the cap until only the very bottom holds liquid, and then pour the small amount into their water. They should drink it. If not, you may have put too much in. Simply dump the water out, and refill it, this time putting even less in. At this point, they may still not drink any, but give it time. If they’re thirsty, they’ll drink! Once they get used to the taste, you can up the dosage to about 1/2 to 1 tsp. for every cup of water. You should notice shinier-looking fur and less itching.
- Bathe the dog once a week (depending the severity of the situation) with normal, warm water. No soap or shampoo needed! All you’re doing is drowning the fleas. It’s easy with my dog because she’s so small, so I just submerge her in the bathtub, but for larger dogs, I’d combine a bath and shower and comb through their fur. If you do this right, you should see tiny, black, bug-like creatures in the water. If not, keep scrubbing and combing.
- Use the pesticide-grade diatomaceous earth (NOT pool grade!). You can sprinkle this directly on your dog’s skin as it won’t harm them. Also make sure to sprinkle it near their bed or anything other place they enjoy being. After a few days, vacuum up the mess and bathe your dog. You can also use baking powder, but I wouldn’t put it on their skin. You can just sprinkle this around the dog’s bed.
- CLEANLINESS IS KEY. Vacuum your carpets or hardwoods every day. Clean any sheets or blankets in your house at least once a week. Use a 1:1 cleaning vinegar to water mixture to clean your house. Vinegar is strong-smelling and will repel many insects. You can also spray this on carpets and let it air dry.
As long as you maintain these habits for at least a month, you should see no more fleas. However, depending on the severity of the flea situation, you may need to bomb your house. These steps should take care of any minor problem, though.
And there you have it. An almost-complete guide on taking care of dogs. I don’t show or breed dogs, so that information will have to be found elsewhere. Just as a reminder, I am not a veterinarian of any kind, but I have talked to many and a lot of the information found on this post is from a few of them. So don’t try to sue me or anything like that because I’ve already warned you on here that many people will have different opinions than me, and if something doesn’t work for you, you should probably just consult your vet instead of my blog.
If you have any other questions, you can go ahead and post a comment! I’d love to hear feedback, and what your opinions are. Without further ado, here are some pictures of my stupidly-ridiculous dog. She’s really more like a squirrel. We called her Weasel, or Weaz for short. Her real name is Rose!