Life and daily care

Once it has become part of the family, the dog will require some care – sometimes daily, sometimes less often, depending on its breed, age and coat type. In addition, all dogs need to receive at least some education to ensure they are well balanced mentally and minimise impact on everyone they share the home with.

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The future owner should prepare a little “welcome home pack” containing everything the new puppy or dog needs, starting with a collar and leash and two bowls – one for food and one for water. Stainless steel or ceramic bowls are preferable because they are easy to clean and some dogs are allergic to plastic. Whatever the material, the bowls must always be clean. The dog should always have access to fresh drinking water.

The dog’s coat should be brushed several times a week, depending on the type of dog. This is much more than simply a matter of hygiene because it enables the owner to check for wounds and parasites, while also strengthening the bond of trust needed to ensure the hierarchy is maintained.

Feeding time is an essential part of the day. The dog should be given food appropriate to his size, age and lifestyle. Between 3 and 8 months the number of meals can be reduced from three to two a day, and by the time it reaches adulthood the dog should expect one or two meals per day. It is better to feed larger and older dogs twice a day, both to reduce any risk of bloat or gastric torsion and assist digestive transit. Competition between dogs should also be avoided at mealtimes and each dog should have its own feeding bowl.

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The dog is subordinate in the hierarchy, which means it must not growl when the owner touches its bowl. This is especially important if the family has children. From the outset, it is also important to interrupt the meal by lifting the bowl and making the puppy sit before putting it back down. The puppy has to learn that it cannot touch its food until the owner gives the command. This training requires a lot of time, given the ferocious appetite of dogs, but it is essential if the hierarchy is to be maintained and to enable the removal of a foreign object or poison from the dog’s mouth, if needed. In addition, no food should be given to the dog outside fixed meal times. This, of course, requires everyone’s participation.

A dog is a social animal, which means it needs the company of other animals and it needs to be able to explore. Whether the dog lives in a flat or a house, it will not be happy if it only gets five minutes to do its business during the TV adverts or is shut up in the garden the whole time. Dogs need at least an hour’s walk per day if they are to expend all their energy and not take it out on the furniture. This also enables them to get to know the other dogs in the neighbourhood and form a sort of substitute pack. A particularly athletic dog, such as a Husky, will obviously need even more daily exercise.

In most countries, dogs must be on a leash when out in public and kept within arm’s reach to ensure the handler has full control of it. If an unleashed dog is run over by a car the owner will be liable for any damage caused. The same is true if the dog bites another dog or a person. These risks can be avoided by teaching the dog to walk on a leash, heel without dawdling and socialising it from a very early age. Dogs should only be unleashed in designated areas or in the countryside.

Dogs should be taught to walk on a leash at the earliest opportunity. Even very small puppies tend to want to follow their master and every chance to get the dog to heel should be taken. The next step is to put the leash on. It will take a short while for the puppy to adapt. It will tend to lag behind at first but, gradually, it will start to walk in front, although it should never be allowed to pull on the leash. This is a disagreeable habit that can be dangerous in some circumstances. The simple way to stop this from happening is to turn round and pull the dog in the opposite direction. The puppy will be caught off balance and after tumbling a couple of times will no longer walk in front. Once the puppy has learned to walk on a leash, try walking without a leash.

The dog’s home is its territory, which it will guard by barking. This behaviour is more or less pronounced depending on the breed. Barking may also be an expression of boredom when the dog is left alone all day. This can be a real test for the neighbours. Good education is the key to good relations with the neighbours. Teaching a dog to bark and be silent on command is easy. Start by commanding the dog to bark, rewarding it when it does. When the dog stops barking tell it to stop in a firm voice.

If the dog is left in a garden a sturdy high fence that is also well anchored in the ground is essential to prevent it from escaping. If it does get out, the owner is responsible for any damage it might cause. With this in mind, good civil liability insurance is a must, regardless of the dog’s breed.

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Introducing a second animal into a home

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When a new dog comes to live in a place that another animal already calls home, the most important thing will be to ensure they can live together in peace.

It’s important to understand that the first animal needs to be treated like a master in its own home. It should maintain its relative dominance by getting most attention – it should be petted first and fed first, for example. The new arrival should not disrupt its habits; rather it should be integrated into the family as discreetly as possible. The situation needs to be monitored to ensure that scuffles do not break out. The best solution is to help the animals get used to each other and live together.

If the first animal is a dog, it will not take much time to come to an understanding. The two dogs will soon become playmates.

If it is a cat, there should not be too many problems if one of the two animals is very young (either they will become friends or they will agree to stay away from each other). If this is not the case, there could be some wrangles, so the best solution is to separate them. This is not something that has to be done very often, however, as they will most often just avoid each other.

Walks

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Regardless of its size, every dog needs to go for a walk at least twice a day.

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Regardless of its size, every dog needs to go for a walk at least twice a day. Small breeds can make do with three daily half-hour walks, while bigger dogs should be out around an hour at a time. The purpose of walks is to give the dog an opportunity to do its business and expend some energy, so the best place to go is somewhere away from traffic where it can be let off the leash. A long two-hour walk at the weekend in the park or the woods will enable the dog to break its daily rhythm, discover a new environment and meet new dogs.

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Insurance

Civil liability

A dog can escape or run away and cause damage without the owner being able to stop it. Unfortunately, the owner will be liable in these cases. Generally, third party insurance will cover these claims, but it does not cover any damage the dog causes to the owner’s property or family, so extra cover may need to be taken out. The same applies if the owner leaves the dog with anyone for an extended period of time. It is worthwhile contacting insurers to work out the right cover.

Specific liability

It is not possible to include any special coverage that may be desired as part of a civil liability contract so, again, it is worthwhile contacting insurers to study special clauses that cover dog owners and handlers.

The beneficiary is the owner or any other person who handles the dog without receiving payment.

The beneficiary is insured against the financial consequences of damage caused by the dog to third parties, be that bodily injury, physical material damage or less intangible inconveniences, such as noisy and persistent barking.

Ces dommages peuvent être corporels, matériels et immatériels, comme les aboiements intempestifs par exemple.

This type of insurance can be tailored to the purpose the dog is used for, such as guarding, hunting or other work. It is vital to notify the insurer immediately of any accident or incident, providing full details, including the following:

- Date and place
- Causes and circumstances
- Name and address of injured parties and any witnesses
- Estimate of the damage

Health care fees

Insurance covering major health care costs is available for dogs. There are various plans, from basic cover for accidents and surgery to complete cover which includes vaccinations, veterinary costs and hospitalisation.

It is a good idea to shop around for the best deal, as products can vary quite extensively depending on the insurer. Some things are not covered by any policies – congenital defects and diseases, poor treatment, injuries pursuant to organised dog fights, labour, neutering, plastic surgery, diseases for which there are vaccines, teeth scaling, microchipping, food, anti-parasiticides, earlier diseases or accidents, etc – while things like vaccines and certain kennel expenses are included in some policies.

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Dogs in the city

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Walking a dog in the city is a very different proposition to walking one in the countryside. Certain rules need to be observed to minimise inconveniences to other people – not least with respect to hygiene. Not everyone likes dogs, after all.

First and foremost, the dog needs to be appropriately vaccinated. The dog should also have regular veterinary health checks to ensure that it does not pose a disease risk to humans or other dogs, so as to minimise the risk of epidemics or epizootics.

Dogs should be kept on a leash at all times with a collar or a harness suited to the size and character of the dog (a non-pull head collar may be used with highly excitable dogs).

It’s obviously essential that dogs do not foul the pavement. Sometimes there are designated dog toilet areas in cities or special bins in which to dispose of dog waste and it is usually a legal requirement that owners clean up after their dogs. If dogs are fed on a complete dry food diet, their excrement will be fairly hard and small and as a result is a lot easier to clean up with a poop-scoop or a small plastic bag, which can be disposed of in the bin.

If you take your dog abroad with you, remember that the rules may be different there and therefore it is essential to check before you go.

Daily care

By checking the dog on a daily basis, the owner will be able to keep it clean and hygienic, while also hopefully identifying any early signs of disease.

Paws

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In summer, the footpads should be checked for lesions caused by thorny or sharp objects such as brambles or shards of glass. It is also important to check for any grass seeds that might have become lodged between the toes. Grass seeds are shaped like microscopic harpoons and can puncture tissue, producing wounds and migrating into soft tissue. In winter, dogs that walk on grit-treated snow and ice risk developing cracked pads, so the paws should be rinsed with lukewarm water upon return.

Nails

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Dogs have two types of nail – dewclaws and toenails – both of which grow constantly. Toenails should wear down naturally, but if they do grow too long (i.e. they start to clack when the dog walks), they need to be clipped. This should be done without cutting the quick – the vascularised part – at their base, which forms a pink triangle in clear nails. If the nails are dark, the quick can be identified by the marks it leaves under the nail.

If you accidentally clip the quick and the dog’s nail bleeds, apply hydrogen peroxide, a styptic pencil or even a small dab of superglue, and a bandage for an hour.

Dewclaws, which are often covered with hair, should be clipped in the same way. Ingrown dewclaws can be painful and cause lesions.

Nose

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The nose should be wet and cool at all times.

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The nose should be wet and cool at all times, although it can become dry when the dog is sleeping. The important thing is that it becomes moist again when the dog wakes.

To a large degree, this wetness is the result of tears secreted by the eyes, which flow towards the cheeks through a dedicated duct. A chronically dry nose together with the reddening of hairs at the corner of the eye may be a sign that the duct is blocked. This will require veterinary treatment.

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Noses do not require any special care, although veterinary help should be sought in the event of scaling, cracking or major discharge, as this is a sign of disease.

Oral cavity

The lips should be clean and relatively watertight. They may hang more in some breeds than others. Cracking, redness (especially in German Shepherds, which have fragile skin) or foul smells may be a sign of a skin infection.

The teeth should be white with minimal tartar. Dogs are rarely happy to allow people to manipulate their mouth, so it is a good strategy to get a puppy used to this from an early age.

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The gums should be pink. Redness around the teeth is a sign of inflammation and disease, which can cause a loss of appetite if it is painful or the dog is unable to grasp or chew its food. In this case, the dog’s teeth will have to be cleaned. This can be done in various ways, the most effective of which is brushing them several times a week with a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs. Palatable tablets which release active ingredients when the dog bites into them are also available and could be considered if the dog will not allow its teeth to be brushed. Chewing bars and objects made of cartilage that slow down the formation of plaque and tartar by acting mechanically on the teeth when the dog chews are another alternative. Ideally, the dog should be given two or three of these chewing bars a week to help prevent plaque and tartar build-up. Some bars of this type also contain active ingredients that prevent tartar build-up. Kibbles with beneficial dental properties are also available, which have a light abrasive action and contain nutrients that prevent plaque and bacteria from using calcium in the saliva to produce tartar.

There may, however, come a time when the dog will need to visit a veterinary surgeon for removal of plaque and tartar.

Eyes

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The eyes should be bright and moist, with pale pink mucosae. There should be no coloured discharge from the inside corner of the eyes.

Dirt or mud around the eyes can be removed gently with cotton wool and clean, lukewarm water.

Ears

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Dogs carry their ears in one of two ways, either drop or prick. Drop ears should be examined more often because the ear canal is less well ventilated.

Ears may be cleaned under the advice of a veterinary surgeon with a specially formulated solution. Place the tip into the ear canal (its L-shape precludes the risk of perforating the eardrum) and gently squeeze in 1-2 drops. Withdraw the tip and massage the base of the ear very gently for thirty seconds, preventing the dog from shaking its head, before wiping the ear flap with cotton wool.

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Longhaired dogs often have hair in their ears, which can prevent earwax from draining properly, so these hairs can be gently trimmed.

Ears are also the place most likely to attract grass seeds. These can be removed from the ear canal with tweezers but as this is often painful for the dog, it is advisable to visit the vet who can use special forceps to extract the grass seed.

Genital organs and anus

Regular inspection of the genital organs in males and females will help ensure they are kept clean. A veterinary surgeon should be consulted in the event of any discharge. The anus should be clean and there should be no traces of diarrhoea.

Coat care

Coat

If the dog likes swimming, its coat should be rinsed afterwards. Particles from river and seawater remaining on the coat may cause irritation, and careful rinsing will get rid of them. If the dog gets tar on its coat, oil-based cleaning products should not be used as they are highly toxic. Apply vegetable oil to affected areas, wait a few minutes for it to dissolve the tar, then bathe the dog.

When winter sets in, a coat will protect the dog from the cold, but most dogs are perfectly adapted to cope with the drop in temperature – with the obvious exception of hairless dogs. If they get into the habit of wearing a coat when they go out, there may come a time when they don’t want to leave home without one.

Moulting

It is in the nature of hair to grow and die. Dogs that live outdoors moult twice a year – in spring and autumn – triggered by light changes. Dogs that live indoors are less exposed to light changes and so tend to moult all year round, although moulting does generally increase in spring and autumn. Regular brushing and bathing helps remove dead hairs. The appropriate frequency and equipment depends on the type of coat.

Close-cropped hair

While close-cropped hair does not require regular grooming, it does need to be brushed once or twice a week. Dead skin and hair is loosened by brushing against the hair with a rubber brush. The debris can then be removed by using a bristle brush in the direction of the hair over the whole body. Finish by adding sheen to the coat with a damp chamois.

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Finish brushing by adding sheen to the coat with a damp chamois.

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Short, coarse hair

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These dogs should be brushed every other day due to the density of the coat, which comprises both an undercoat and a topcoat. Use a slicker brush, working against the hair to loosen as much dead hair and skin as possible and strip the undercoat. A bristle brush can then be used in the direction of the hair to remove this debris.

A wide-tooth comb can be used on the tail and paws. The coat of coarse-haired dogs needs to be stripped four to five times a year with a stripping knife. Dead hairs are trapped between knife and thumb. This is not at all painful if done properly, working in the direction of the hair.

Long hair

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Although beautiful, longhaired coats require daily brushing. This can take up to an hour a day in Afghan Hounds, for example. Use a slicker brush, working in the direction of the hair, to loosen knots and mats. Because the hair is so long, this may pull the skin, so care should be taken.

Using a bristle brush on dogs with silky coats, like Yorkshire Terriers and Afghan Hounds, will add sheen to the coat.

A wire brush can be used to remove impurities from the coat of dogs with an abundant undercoat, like Rough Collies.

A wide-tooth comb can be used to untangle hair behind the hocks. The hair can be trimmed to equal length with scissors, which can also be used to remove hairs that are most likely to form knots or attract foreign bodies (hocks, chest, between the toes and pads).

All grooming tools should be cleaned and stored in a dry location after every use. Keep wire brushes from rusting by wiping them well and rubbing them with a rag soaked in vegetable oil.

Bathing

The frequency of baths depends on the hair texture. Close-cropped hair should only be washed if dirty, short hair twice a year on average and long hair approximately every one to three months.

Small dogs can be bathed in a bowl or a baby bath, while big dogs can be washed in the bath or outdoors, weather permitting. A rubber mat will protect the dog from slipping, which could result in injury or a permanent aversion to being bathed. Lukewarm water should be used, together with a special dog shampoo. Human hair care products – even those specially formulated for infants – are too acidic and irritate the skin. Rinse thoroughly at the end of the bath.

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Bathing the dog

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Start by brushing the coat thoroughly to get rid of any knots and mats before bathing the dog. Then wet the coat all over and apply the shampoo, working it into a lather, while taking care that it does not get in the dog’s eyes or ears. Allow it to act for a few minutes, then rinse with copious water. It’s a good idea to rinse the head last, as the dog is likely to want to shake its head dry. Wipe it down vigorously and leave it in a warm room. In summer, an alternative is putting it in the garden or taking it for a walk, as long as it does not like rolling around in the muck. A hairdryer can be used if the dog is happy with that, but care should be taken not to burn the dog and the hair should be brushed at the same time.

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