Dog Care: The Basics

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As dog owners and people who care deeply for animals and wildlife, we wanted our Dog Encyclopedia to be a website that could empower pet owners to create the most positive, loving environment for their dogs. Dog Encyclopedia realizes that owning a dog is like adding a new member to your family.

As a dog owner, you want to know you are meeting your dog's basic needs to ensure health and happiness. Like humans, dogs need food, water and shelter to survive. Also like humans, dogs need physical care and nurturing in order to thrive. Here’s how to help keep your dog healthy, happy and safe while meeting the basic needs of all dogs.

You and Your Veterinarian
Choose a veterinarian that you like and trust with your dog. Check with friends first if you are a new pet owner. If you go to an office that has several veterinarians, then try to make an appointment with the same doctor each visit so he becomes familiar with your dog. Make sure you come to the visits prepared and don't be reluctant to ask for information about your dog and potential problems you should look out for.

Proper Nutrition
A healthy, balanced diet is fundamental for your dog's health. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what and how often to feed your pet. Then, choose a quality diet that your pet enjoys. Spending lots of money on a holistic, top-of-the-line diet is useless if your dog won’t eat it.  If you choose to provide a homemade diet, discuss the ingredients with your veterinarian first to be sure they are right for your dog. Then, make small batches until you are sure your dog actually likes it. Once you have found an appetizing diet, watch how your dog responds over the first several weeks. A drop in energy level or a dull hair coat may warrant a diet change. If you do change your pet’s food, always do so gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset or food aversion. Consult your veterinarian for nutritional advice, especially if you notice any changes in your dogs’s health. Always be sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh, clean water.

Home & Bedding
Dogs are pack animals – they are not content when excluded from the family unit. Though some circumstances may require dogs to live outside, most dogs will thrive in a primarily indoor environment. A fenced yard with a doghouse is a bonus, especially for large and active dogs; however, dogs should never be left outside alone or for extended periods of time. If your dog spends time outdoors, provide access to a doggie door or a temperature-controlled doghouse. Never leave your dog unattended outside without shelter, especially during very hot or cold weather, as this can result in severe health consequences. Dogs need and crave companionship and should spend most of their time inside with their family. Your dog should have an area of the house dedicated as his own space, such as a kennel, crate or bed. This teaches your dog to have respect for his own space and, in turn, yours. Set down ground rules, enforce off-limit areas of the house, and welcome your dog into permissible areas.

Physical Maintenance
Keep your dog healthy with regular exercise and preventive veterinary care. Establish an exercise routine, even if it is just a stroll around the block each morning. Most dog owners find that playing with their canine companion, along with walking him twice a day, provides sufficient exercise. If you have questions about the level of exercise appropriate for your dog, consult your veterinarian. Depending on your dog’s breed, more exercise may be necessary, but don’t overdo it. Visit your veterinarian at least once or twice a year for a wellness check-up. Potential problems are often identified before your dog actually shows signs of illness. Every dog needs basic grooming, such as bathing and nail trimming. Some dogs even need regular haircuts. Find a reputable groomer, or learn to groom your dog at home. Then, establish a grooming regimen and stick with it.

Nurturing Your Dog
Dogs thrive on structure and discipline, and training is paramount to your dog’s quality of life. Positive training will allow you to control your companion's behavior safely and humanely, and the experience offers a terrific opportunity to enhance the bond you share with your dog. Choose a training program and follow through. You may prefer to join a training class with a professional instructor. Alternatively, you may wish to learn about dog training on your own. Either way, establish yourself as the boss, reinforce good behavior, and humanely correct misbehavior. Be consistent and you will see positive results. Maintaining the human-canine bond is vital. Set aside time for you and your dog. Petting your dog, playing with toys, talking to him, or taking him for rides in the car are some ways to strengthen and preserve this bond. Following the guidelines for your dog’s basic needs sets the foundation for a long, happy life with your dog. Dog ownership should not be a chore, but an experience that enriches your life and that of your dog. If you can keep that tail wagging, you will be happier, too.

Spaying and Neutering your Dog
If you do not plan on breeding your dog, consider the option of spaying or neutering. Dogs who have this routine surgery tend to live longer, be healthier, and have fewer behavior problems (e.g., biting, running away). By spaying or neutering your dog, you are also doing your part to reduce the problem of pet overpopulation.  For more information on spaying/neutering, check with your veterinarian. He can also tell you the best age for these procedures to be done for your breed.

Dog Collar & Leash
Outfit your dog with a collar and ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there's a chance your companion may become lost—an ID tag greatly increases the chance that your pet will be returned home safely. Follow this simple rule—off property, on leash. Even a dog with a valid license, rabies tag, and ID tag should not be allowed to roam outside of your home or fenced yard. It is best for you, your community, and your dog to keep your pet under control at all times.



You can help provide a better life for dogs in need. Find out how to support canine rights and welfare. The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but our stray and feral animal overpopulation problem, in many areas of this country rivals that of some of the poorest countries of the world. 

Dog Breeds:

Dog Encyclopedia has added beautiful dog photographs on each of our Dog Breed pages to enhance your experience. Each section in Dog Encyclopedia helps to educate pet owners, enabling both the dog, and the owner to have a safe, high quality experience