The family pet

WHAT home is complete without the family pet? A pet is a responsibility that someone in the family must shoulder, or it will be uncared for and unhappy. If you decide to have a pet, see from the start that it is healthy and sturdy. Most breeders refuse to accept responsibility for a pup after it has left their premises, so do examine its eyes, coat, skin and nose to ascertain its condition. If in doubt, buy the dog only after a vet has pronounced it completely fit. Ask the breeder what the puppy has been having to cat, and keep it on that diet for at least a week.

Think twice about buying a puppy from a pet shop, unless it has a vet’s certificate of fitness, for you cannot get your money back after you have left the premises.

Never buy a puppy solely to please the whim of a child. If Mother has no time for it, then it will not be happy. Remember that all will be strange to the puppy for a week or so, so don’t frolic around with it too much.

A puppy should not be left alone all day – and it is not wise to keep one in a flat. Puppies can be most destructive when left alone, and they cannot be blamed for howling from sheer loneliness. They need regular exercise, grooming and feeding, and unless these can be done it is unwise to keep a puppy.

It is cruel not to train a puppy to behave itself – an untrained dog never knows if it is doing right or wrong. The secret of training is to reward and make a fuss of the pet when it does right. When it comes to your call, give it a tit-bit, and it will learn to associate that trick widi something good.

Begin training early – at eight weeks if possible. Start the puppy on the lead at first. A small dog may learn better on a harness, but a collar is best for the average dog. To train him to heel, have him walk at your side and then, with a sharp jerk on the lead, say ‘Heel’ and bring yourself a little in front of him. He will soon obey without a lead. But when he is at heel, don’t expect him to stay there for an hour.

Don’t let a dog come begging at the table when meals are served, and don’t allow visitors to fuss or feed him. The amount of food a dog requires depends on the amount of exercise he gets. During hot weather dogs require less than on cool days.

Meat is the basis of any dog’s diet all the year round, and at least half of each meal should be meat – the other half consisting of vegetables, gravy and meal. Avoid sloppy food and give fresh drinking water twice daily.

Until he is six months old a puppy should have four equal meals each day, and at one year a dog should be getting one large meal and one snack meal.

Never fuss an animal should it have a fit; that only makes it worse. Put him in a dark cupboard and leave him alone – he will soon be all right. Quietness, darkness and rest are needed.

As a general rule, fits in puppies are not serious unless linked with distemper. Fits in older dogs are usually serious and advice should be sought at once. In fact, any animal that is off-colour should be taken immediately to the local animal clinic or vet for treatment.