Owning a ... dog
Care and attention
Training your dog
It is important that your dog is trained from a young age so that you have the necessary control over him in later life. Most towns and villages have a local dog training club, which not only teaches obedience but also socialises the dog, which is very important in early life. For a list of dog training clubs in your area, contact your vet, check a local newspaper or visit your library. Basic commands, such as sit and lie down are easy to teach:
Hold a biscuit in your hand and let your dog sniff it and know where it is. When you have your dog's attention, move your hand, with the biscuit, towards the dogs head, then over it so that the dog has to look straight up in order to see it. Once your hand reaches a certain point above and behind the dog's head, he will have to sit down in order to see it. Give him the biscuit as a reward. By saying 'sit' as you are doing this, your dog will soon learn the command..
Once your dog is sitting down, have another biscuit in your hand. Let your dog see it, and move your hand, with the biscuit, from your dog's nose to the floor just in front of where he is sitting, all the time saying "down". To follow the biscuit, the dog will have to lie down. You may need to get someone to help you by pressing gently on the dog's back to stop him from standing up to get the biscuit, instead of lying down.
This is probably the easiest to do. Go out into the garden, again holding a biscuit, but don't let your dog see it yet. Let the dog wander away from you, then call his name and show him the biscuit. Keep encouraging him to come to you. When he does, make a big fuss of him and give him the biscuit.
Most dogs will need a good brush at some point in the year when they begin to moult. You will find that loose fur comes out in huge chunks just by pulling the loose ends. Using a flea comb is the best way to remove loose fur, although various brushes and grooming mits are available. Dogs such as poodles which have specific clips will need to visit a professional grooming parlour every so often.
Grooming your dog also gives you the oppurtunity to check his general health. You should check the eyes, ears, nose and pads. Grass seeds often find their way into dogs' ears and if they become lodged casue severe irritation. Always check the ears after walking through any long grass. Check the eyes are clear and bright and free from discharge. The dog's nose is a good indication of his health - it should be cool and moist. A hot, dry nose can indicate an illness. Check the pads to make sure there are no thorns or bits of gravel etc. stuck in them.
Dogs do not require regular baths and should not be washed frequently, since the shampoo washes away the natural oils in the dog's coat. Dogs only need washing if they are actually mucky e.g. after rolling in a rotten fish, and then do not require an all-over bath, just the dirty area needs cleaning. To bathe your dog, you will need some dog shampoo diluted in some warm water, a watering can of warm water (not too hot but not freezing cold) and an old towel. Wash the dirty area using the shampoo, being careful to avoid the eyes and ears. Rub the shampoo in thoroughly. Rinse off the shampoo using the warm water in the watering can, again being careful of the eyes and ears. Make sure all the shampoo has been rinsed away before drying the dog with the towel.
If your dog has been in the sea he will need a rinse to get rid of all the salt in his fur - if you don't, when the salt water drys out he will be left feeling very itchy. Just use some warm water in a watering can to rinse off the salty areas. The same treatment is need if he is muddy - don't let him inside until he is clean and dry, or he will shake off all the mud in the house...
Your dog requires daily exercise. He should have at least two walks a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Walks give your dog a change of scene, mental stimulation, a chance to socialise and play, and above all have a good run. It is especially important to give larger dogs and dogs which like to run, such as greyhounds and ridgebacks, plenty of exercise and outdoor activity. Your dog will undoubtedly go to the toilet on his walk as well. It is vital that you clean up after your dog, as it is extremely irresponsible to leave dog mess in a public area, or anywhere else for that matter. You must also make sure that your dog is wormed - see the At The Vet section. Whenever you take your dog out you should take a couple of plastic bags so that you are ready to clean up any mess. If you are squeamish, you can always use a Poop-A-Scoop.
As well as daily walks your dog will need stimulation in the home. Dogs will often want to play ball, or have a tug of war or just be chased. A bored dog is a destructive dog, so play is very important. You can also build agility courses for your dog the garden - just use a couple of upturned buckets with a broom to create a jump, a plank on bricks to walk along, even a hoola hoop to jump through if you have a particularly agile dog. Dogs are very intelligent, so will welcome any new challenges. Even after you have completed your training course, you should have a practice obedience session once in a while, too.