Responsible pet care is being emphasized by the ASPCA and other national groups this month, with the emphasis on maintaining a meaningful relationship with your four-legged companion throughout the entire year.   The first step to being a responsible pet caregiver is being committed to care for both the physical and mental well-being throughout the entire life of the dog,  even if sometimes that is inconvenient., recognizing the fact that your dog’s welfare is totally dependent upon  YOU…not just on weekends, or when you have spare time.

 dog_and_man_hugging_270x224Dogs are dogs, and many actions that humans consider inappropriate are simply expressions of natural behavior.  Dogs dig; dogs bark; dogs chew…these are things that come natural to a dog, and even  though our domesticated dogs no longer hunt for their food, they are still predators by nature, and they need to be busy.   If a dog becomes destructive or aggressive, it is almost always the fault of the humans…too little interaction and too little training.  Teaching what is and what is not appropriate behavior is YOUR responsibility, and every member of the family needs to follow the same rules.  Consistency is the key to having a well behaved dog.

Spayed or neutered dogs not only live longer and healthier lives, but they also make better companions.   If you have an intact dog going into puberty, it is time to make an appointment with your vet.  Please don’t procrastinate!  Choose a veterinarian with whom you feel comfortable, and follow his/her recommendations for vaccinations, checkups, and other care.  Regular vet care is essential, not only  when they are sick;  regularly scheduled wellness exams can detect many illnesses or issues  before they become serious, costly or even life threatening.  Veterinary care is an important aspect of being responsible for your dog, and caregivers should factor in the care-costs BEFORE getting a dog.

Dogs need a proper diet to stay fit and healthy.  Dog food companies spend millions of dollars to convince you that their food is the best food for your dog.  Don’t fall for all the slick marketing hype;   do a little research, and you will soon discover that all foods are not equal.   Read the ingredients label, and if you want to find out how different foods rate, check the independent website, www.dogfoodadvisor.com.   You may be surprised to discover that expensive doesn’t necessarily mean best!   There are a few people- foods  like peanut butter, cooked eggs,  and raw baby carrots that are good for your dog, but other foods like chocolate, avocado, grapes or raisins, onions, caffeine, and alcohol can be extremely dangerous for dogs.

Dogs require a lot more exercise than many other pets, and should be walked DAILY, although breed, size and energy level will affect how long a dog needs to exercise.  (Turning her out into the back yard does NOT qualify as enough exercise!)  Taking a walk with your dog provides an outlet for your dog’s energy, and is also good for your well-being.   ( Always carry a pick-up bag with you  to pick up after your dog…no one wants to step in a “gift” your dog left behind.)

Dogs need basic training… basic obedience training that addresses issues such as nipping, jumping and chewing will help your dog thrive in a social environment.   There are training classes offered in every community to help you help the dog appropriately  interact with other dogs and other humans.

hugGetting professional training will help you understand your dog’s unique temperament and tendencies, and help you to have better control over his behavior.  A well-behaved dog will enjoy a better relationship with everyone he meets, and his good manners will reflect on your competence  as a responsible caregiver.

                .  Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals… for any that are hunted or lost or neglected or  deserted or frightened or hungry.We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity, and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals, and so to share the blessings of the merciful. ~ Albert Schweitzer

Larsen can be  contacted at Paw Prints, Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 or by e-mail at plarsen@rconnect.com

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