It is most important to choose a dog — regardless of whether it is a pedigree or mongrel — whose size and temperament suits the family. By general consent the middle-sized dogs such as the Border Collie, the Labrador and Golden Retrievers, number among the quietest and most agreeable of companions. They are known for their tolerance of children but need plenty of exercise.
ACQUIRING A PUPPY
Puppies are ready to be taken into a new home at about the age of eight weeks. At this age in particular they need a great deal of human companionship and should not be left alone except for short periods. The transition to a new home is often best made by puppies who come into a household where there is already an adult dog. In fact it is often kinder to keep two dogs rather than one, since they are company for each other.
Like babies, puppies need frequent small meals. At eight weeks they should be fed four times a day at four-hourly intervals. Two of the meals should contain puppy meal and wholemeal bread, or baby cereal with a little milk. The others should be of minced or scraped meat. An occasional hunk of meat, or a safe bone that will not splinter or fragment, is good for the puppy’s teeth, gums and jaws, and will happily engross it for hours.
Adult dogs, by the time they are nine months old, should have one main meat meal a day fed to them in the evening, with a bowl of milk and cereal each morning. It is normal for dogs to swallow their food very quickly, stopping only to tear it into manageable chunks. Large marrow bones are good for adult dogs and puppies, and particularly so for those fed on soft tinned food instead of fresh food.
Clean drinking water must be accessible to dogs and puppies all day whether they are indoors or outside.
In the house a dog needs a comfortable, warm, dry bed. Large-sized manufactured beds are expensive, but if the bed is too small, the dog will not use it. If the expense is too great, then a large box or an otherwise unused chair will suffice.
Dogs which are expected to sleep outside the house need a substantially built kennel, with deep bedding for severe weather. Even dogs which sleep indoors benefit from having a kennel they can retreat into at times during the day.
As soon as the puppy is introduced into the family house-training can begin. Success depends on anticipating the puppy’s needs. Take it outside to urinate and defecate each morning and evening, and every time it finishes a meal or wakes from sleep. Stay with it until it has finished, then congratulate it.
While young the puppy must be handled quietly and discouraged from jumping up at visitors and barking.
From the age of six months, puppies can be taught to sit, lie down, walk to heel and to come when called, but further training is not usually appropriate for pet dogs.
The amount of grooming required varies according to the coat. Long-haired dogs, such as the Yorkshire Terrier, should be groomed daily, those with medium-length, short or wiry coats need much less attention. Baths should be given when necessary but it is important to dry the dog immediately afterwards with a towel or hair dryer.
Some dogs do not always wear down their claws naturally and any new growth needs to be trimmed off periodically with animal nail clippers, taking great care not to cut into the nerve and blood supply at the base of the nail.
COLLARS AND LICENCES (check laws in your country)
Owners have a legal obligation when dogs are six months old to obtain a licence which must be renewed annually together with a collar which states the owner’s name. The collar must be worn whenever the dog is in a public place — e.g., a street — and local Councils are empowered to designate certain roads where dogs are not allowed off a leash.
All dogs need walking every day although the distance will vary considerably, depending on the dog’s size, age, breed and health. A big, energetic dog such as an Irish Setter, can walk 16 km (10 miles) a day throughout the year.
As well as its daily walks, a dog needs to spend part of every day in the garden. A walled garden is ideal but at least part of any garden must be made dog-proof with good fencing, gates and secure catches.
Puppies should receive their first inoculations against infectious diseases at the age of nine to twelve weeks. Avoid walking the puppy in public until the first course of injections is complete. The veterinary surgeon will advise how frequently boosters are needed — often annually.
Of the various kinds of parasite that may infest a dog fleas and worms are the most common. Flea powders and sprays are available for use on the dog’s fur but also clean the bedding thoroughly, since that is where the fleas breed.
Puppies should be given a routine worming for roundworms at three to six, weeks with their first injections. If these worms are suspected again or if segments of tapeworm are found seek veterinary advice.
It is advisable to have a pet bitch spayed to prevent it coming into season twice a year, for three weeks at a time, and producing litters of 1-12 pups. However, some vets advise waiting until after the first season.
Pet dogs can be neutered by castration.