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This month we are focusing on some very basic care of your new best friend. These basics include food, nutrition, feeding schedules, veterinary care, and grooming.

FOOD: There are still many misconceptions about food and feeding. For example, many people still believe that free feeding (having food always available) is a requirement. It is usually better to feed twice a day, about twelve hours apart. However, there are always individual situations to consider. If you have a very young puppy, you will want to feed the puppy 3 times a day for up to about 4 to 6 months, after that you can change the feeding schedule to twice a day.

Another misconception is that all dogs should be on puppy foods until they are at least a year old. For certain large and fast growing breeds, switching over to adult food sooner (around 6 months) is a better idea. Too much fast growth can stress and strain joints, contributing to possible orthopedic problems. Switching over from one food to another slowly over a week or so is also important. You should just begin to add more of the adult food (or and different brand) and give less of the puppy food until you are feeding only the correct amount of the newly introduced food to your puppy. You are basically phasing out the old food.

Also, many people overfeed their dogs. The “rib check” is a quick and easy way to gage weight. You should not be able to see the dog’s ribs when the dog is in his normal stance. You should be able to easily feel a dogs ribs through a thin layer of fat by slightly pressing on the rib area when your dog is standing.

Finally, there is the belief that all dog foods are the same, so you might as well feed the cheapest formula available. LOOK CLOSELY AT THE INGREDIENTS LABELS. Look for high quality dog foods. The first ingredient should be MEAT (not meat meal). Carbohydrates should come from vegetables and fruits. There should be very little grain or no grain at all in the food and ABSOLUTELY NO BI-PRODUCTS. By-products are dangerous for your dog. No one can really tell you what “by-products” are. “By-products” are used as a filler. It has no nutritional value. It is whatever is left over after the rendering process. The leftover “scrap” can contain anything including what comes up off the floor of the rendering plant. Many dogs have lost their lives or been sickened from “by-product” and some leading dog food companies have had many recalls because of what has been found in processed dog food. Your dog food should be made in the U.S. or Canada.

Yes, higher quality foods are a bit more expensive but you will be feeding your dog less food with higher nutritional value and there will be less POOP to pick up because there are less fillers added to the food, (Grain is a filler. Dogs do not need grain and it can cause allergies). Always consult your veterinarian for any specific nutritional problems or questions. Your dog may have a condition where you may need to have him on a special diet for the condition or you may have to make your own unprocessed dog food. Keep in mind that your veterinarian may be knowledgeable but is probably not a canine nutritional specialist. You may want to consider finding a good canine nutritional specialist you can consult if your dog has digestive problems.

VETERINARY CARE: We know that the dogs coming into our classes have already seen a vet because we have checked shot records at the first class. However, some people might be using a shot clinic rather than a full-service vet. In particular, it is important to have heartworm tests and medication, and an annual physical exam. Being aware of slight physical or behavioral changes is also important, (dogs who limp, seem slightly depresses, etc.) We always recommend being safe and checking with the vet with any health care concerns. You also want to have your dog on a good flea and tick repellent.

PICK UP YOUR DOG’S POOP!!! It is absolutely imperative that you pick up after your dogs in public areas. Carry poop bags with you anytime you are with your dog any place other than your own yard. Dog poop is a BIO-HAZARD. Disease can be spread from one dog to another from dog poop. What is the first thing your dog does when he sees a pile of poop on the ground – That’s Right, he sniffs it. Did you know that Parvo virus can live for 3 days in the environment and it is an air born disease? If your dog is unprotected and sniff’s a sick dog’s poop you may end up with a very expensive vet bill or at worst, a dead family pet. It is really not that bad to pick up dog poop with a bag. Put your hand in the bag and use it as a glove. Pick up the poop and slip the upper part of the bag over the poop, then tie it up. Toss it in the next trash can you see.

Dogs can be very expensive. Personally, I recommend you get health insurance on your dog. You can get policies that pay on even the yearly check-ups. Please love your dog enough to keep him healthy.