Without doubt, most dog owners keep their dog as a pet, and as such he becomes a member of the family, living in the home, being cosseted and loved.
However, some dog owners who keep the dog as a working dog will house him outside, rather than in the home. These people might be shepherds, or those who keep a dog as a guard dog for commercial premises for instance, so we will briefly cover requirements for a dog living in the open.
A Big Enough Kennel
The dog must have a kennel that is big enough for him to stand and stretch in, and is protected from the elements as far as possible: the entrance should be away from the prevailing wind. Automatic heating and cooling should be provided to keep the temperature below 26ºC and above 10ºC. The dog must have an enclosure large enough for him to walk and run in. He should not be tethered or chained, as this can lead to injury and stress. He must always have fresh water and a balanced diet, and should not be left alone for long periods as this can also cause stress. Keeping a dog outdoors is certainly not ideal, and is not recommended.
Of course, the vast majority of people keep their pet indoors. Some people use a crate, and it is certainly possible to train a puppy to adopt a crate as his home, but again is not something we would recommend.
His Own Bed
If not using a crate, your dog is going to need his own bed, and it must be big enough to accommodate him: obviously, the larger the dog, the larger the bed required. You can give your dog an ordinary blanket to lie on, or you can buy specialist materials which simulate sheepskin, are washable, and allergen-free, and to some extent are chew resistant.
Food and water bowls should be non-slip. Fresh water should be supplied daily, and may need refreshing in the case of a large dog which drinks a lot. Puppies need feeding three times a day, but a fully grown dog of six months or more should be fed twice. Feeding times should be regular: your dog will very quickly learn to tell the time! Sometimes it may happen that the evening meal is delayed if, for example, you have been visiting friends and get home late: in these cases the first thing that you do when arriving home is to feed the dog.
Foods are available in various grades, but frankly the cheap foods available are not a good idea, and may very well not contain all the nutrients your dog needs. We recommend only ever feeding the best grades of food. Certainly they cost more, but if you love your dog you will want to give him only the best.
Table scraps are most certainly not a good idea, as they can be high in calories. Most definitely do not feed titbits while you are having your meal: your dog will pester you for life and you will come to regret it.
Your dog will need regular exercise; how much will depend on the breed and size of the dog. For an average size dog – a spaniel say – reckon on two walks of at least a mile each every day. Most dogs won’t mind if you want to do five miles. However, some, such as the greyhound, are basically couch potatoes: they will run around a field like the wind for half an hour and then sit on the sofa for the rest of the day.
Other dogs, especially the small terriers, will be happy if you walk ten miles in the woods on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, while they cover 30 miles or more dashing back and forth in the undergrowth.
Grooming is essential. How often you groom will depend on the type and length of your dog’s coat. Long-haired dogs like the Afghan Hound need grooming every day in order to keep their coat in first class condition and free of tangles. Somewhat confusingly, dogs with very short hair, such as some Jack Russell terriers, moult on a continuing basis and drop hairs all around the house unless you groom them very often also. In addition, they have a very big moult in the spring and again at the beginning of fall.
Other dogs may only need grooming once a week or ten days. The type of comb or brush that you use will again depend on the type of coat. Your pet store or vet will be able to advise you.
While grooming your dog, it is a good time to check over him for general health – any eye conditions or mucky ears, for instance – and also the length of his claws. Provided he is getting sufficient exercise, his claws should keep fairly well worn down. However, some dogs have dew claws on the inside of the front legs two or three inches above the paw and these will need regular trimming, in the same way that you trim your nails. Failing this, they can grow in a circle and puncture the leg, or can catch in undergrowth and get ripped out which is very painful for your pet.
It goes without saying that your young dog will need training in order to bring him up as a stable, confident, friendly member of the family who behaves himself and abides by the “house rules” – whatever yours may be. Training is a whole subject on its own, and there is too much to cover here. However, training should begin with a young puppy at around two months old. There is a plethora of videos and books that you can buy, some of which give contradictory information, being the personal opinion and experience of the author. It is certainly a good idea to invest in a book or two: find one that resonates with you, and then stick with that method. If you change methods you will only succeed in confusing your dog.
Keeping a dog as a pet requires a certain amount of input from you, in the same way that you attend to the needs of any other family members. However, looked after properly you will have a faithful and devoted friend for very many years who will give you untold pleasure and joy.