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1. Selecting Your Dog

Consider the following to choose a dog suited to your lifestyle, environment and family:

Lifestyle - Do you enjoy outdoor activities? An active, energetic dog would be a good choice for you. If, however, you are the stay-at-home type, then you are looking for a small dog to provide you with companionship.

Dog Size - Remember the Fox Terrier-size dog is better for an apartment than a Great Dane, and while the average city lot provides sufficient room for a small Spaniel to exercise, it is not large enough for a very active Boxer or hunting dog.

Your Budget - Adding a dog to your family may cost more than you think and larger dogs are more costly. There are other considerations such as veterinary care and the cost of boarding your dog should you go on vacation.

Family - Small children and very young puppies do not mix well. The toddler sees the puppy as an extra cuddly toy to be pushed and poked, and a puppy might nip in defense. In the end the child may grow up afraid of dogs or the puppy may mature into a nervous, irritable dog. An older pup, about 9-12 months of age, is much more suitable for a home with young children. Better still, wait until your child is old enough to properly handle a dog. Never leave an infant or young child alone with a dog.

2. A Dog's Requirements

Besides shelter, food, fresh water, and medical care, your dog's basic necessities include grooming, companionship, and plenty of exercise -- at least 2 walks a day.

3. Housing

Dogs will be most happy living and sleeping inside your home with your family. They should have a set place to call their own. If you prefer an outdoor kennel, it should be weather and draft-proof, situated in a dry and sunny spot, be raised off the ground, contain plenty of clean, dry bedding, and have walls and floors insulated against heat and cold. Dogs are social animals and desire contact with others -- be they people or other dogs. If you have an outdoor dog be sure to bring your dog into your house daily for social interaction with his "pack" (you and your family) and include him in as many other social activities as possible or he will soon lose the ability to exhibit controlled, social behaviour around people.

The BC SPCA strongly opposes the indiscriminate chaining or tethering of dogs without due regard to the animal's physical and psychological well-being. If a dog must be tethered because the animal is aggressive it should only be tethered temporarily while positive training methods are used so that the dog becomes socialized. The dog must have free access to fresh food, water and a warm and dry shelter. In addition, the dog should be exercised for at least two hours in every twenty-four.

4. Feeding Your Puppy

As the new guardian of a puppy, you should make sure the pup is completely weaned before you take him home. Start by feeding the same solid food the puppy is used to. If you wish to change dog food brands, do it later when the puppy is settled and change the food gradually as to not upset their stomach.

If you have puppies at home, start to wean them at five weeks of age by placing a shallow pan containing half condensed milk, half warm water into the puppies' box. See that the mother is kept from the pups for most of each day so they will be sure to try the milk in the pan. Feed five times a day and start adding rice pablum after four or five days. In a week you can soak commercial puppy food into the mixture until it is soft and decrease the amount of milk and frequency of feeding to three times daily.

Older puppies and adult dogs don't require milk: Completely weaned puppies should be fed a high quality puppy food - usually a dry food supplement with some canned food. Feed small portions three times daily, the last meal early in the evening to reduce "accidents" in the house at night. Leave the food down for 15 minutes then remove the uneaten portion. Do not give snacks even if the pup doesn't eat at meal time. At six months of age feed twice daily and at nine months once daily, usually in the evening with possibly a light snack in the morning. Table foods should never be more than 15% of the dog's total diet.

5. Feeding Your Adult Dog

Feed your full grown dog once daily, preferably in the evening. Larger or very active dogs may need a snack in the morning, but avoid overfeeding. Many North American dogs have something in common - Obesity! Obesity greatly increases the risk of: heart disease, arthritis, back problems, and cancer. As your dog ages and becomes less active switch to a low calorie dog food.

6. Water

All animals require a constant supply of fresh water. Water should be changed often, at least at all feeding times. For outdoor dogs water dishes should be fixed so they don't spill if knocked over. In cold weather be sure the water is ice free.

7. Training

All dogs need at least some basic training for the safety of the dog and other people. A well trained dog will be a pleasure to be around. Basic training should begin at six to eight weeks of age. It is best to refer to a dog training book or enroll in "Puppy Kindergarten" classes.

Be patient and consistent in the training of your puppy. There are many schools of thought for how to train dogs, however, striking an animal is never an acceptable method of training. Voice intonation, tugs with the leash and a can with small rocks that makes a loud noise when shaken are key instruments to training.

Begin with house training, leash walking, sit, stay and come. Training your dog to a flat collar and leash is of utmost importance. If your dog is having difficulty learning we recommend using a Halti, gentle leader or harness. Not only is it the law in most areas that a dog be leash controlled, but it could prevent your dog from being hit by a car, poisoned, injured in a dog fight, stolen, impounded or lost. Remember too, that picking up after your dog is part of being a responsible dog guardian.

8. Identification

Provide your dog with a tag inscribed with your phone number and when your pet reaches six months of age, he should be tattooed or micro-chipped. A tattoos and microchips provide permanent identification and cannot fall off or be misplaced but must be updated if you move. The tattoo can be applied while the animal is under anaesthetic for the spay/neuter operation. Ask your local SPCA shelter or veterinarian for details.

9. Medical Care

Have your puppy or dog vaccinated regularly. Thousands of dogs die each year from one disease alone - parvo virus. Prevention is the only way to fight this fatal disease.

Start your pup's vaccinations at six to eight weeks of age. For adequate immunity, boosters must be given at twelve and sixteen weeks. Thereafter, a booster once a year is necessary.

Due to the increased incidence of rabies, all dogs should be vaccinated for this as well.

10. Stop Unwanted Pets

Dogs should be spayed/neutered around six months of age. Not only will this procedure ensure that your pet remains more healthy and less likely to wander, it will also prevent the birth of unwanted pets.

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