Dog Tips

First time dog buyer's guide

Paws ‘N’ Pups has put together the most comprehensive guide available to help you understand responsible dog ownership. If you recently brought home a puppy, put down a deposit on a puppy, or are simply thinking about getting a puppy, then you must read through this guide to really understand what it means to own, care for, and commit to a dog. This guide is divided into three major parts. For your convenience, you may use the table of contents to help you navigate throughout any part of the guide, or save the link directly to that piece of information.

Thinking about a new dog? Not so fast…

Nothing is more adorable than a roly-poly little puppy. But getting a puppy is a big responsibility and not a decision that should be taken lightly. When you bring a puppy into your life, you are making a commitment of at least 10 years, up to 20 years. It will be your job to provide for your puppy’s needs – that includes feeding him a healthy diet, making sure he gets regular veterinary care, and training him to be an obedient adult dog. But owning a dog is not all work – it is a lot of fun as well!

To ensure that your transition into dog ownership is as smooth as possible, take the time to learn everything you can before you even start to shop around for puppies. In this article, you will find a wealth of information about all aspects of first-time dog ownership from choosing the right breed and finding a responsible breeder to preparing your household for your puppy’s arrival. You will also receive tips for socializing and training your puppy, plus plenty of information about choosing a healthy diet that will support your puppy’s long-term health and well-being.

So, if you are ready to take the next step and learn about what it means to be a dog owner, just keep reading! All the information you need to know is provided in the following pages.

Part One – What to Think About Ahead of Time

Skip to Part Two | Skip to Part Three | Table of Contents

Before you even start to shop around for puppies, there are some important things you need to do first. For one thing, you need to be absolutely sure that you can provide for a puppy’s needs. Puppies require a lot of time and attention, so be prepared for that. You also need to realize that owning a dog is expensive and it’s an expense you will have to think about for at least the next ten years.

So, before you start thinking about what kind of puppy to get and where to get him, educate yourself about the costs of dog ownership as well as the level of commitment involved. Once you’ve learned about those things, you can move forward to choose a dog breed and to decide whether you want to buy a puppy or adopt an adult dog from a shelter.


Overview of Initial Costs for Dog Ownership

Some dog breeds sell for as little as $250 while others can cost $2,000 or more.

When you think about the costs of dog ownership, you can probably identify some of the major ones – namely, the price of your puppy. But the cost of your new puppy is just one of many costs you will have to cover during the first year of dog ownership. Once you have gotten through the first year, your costs will normalize a little bit, but you’ll still have to think about monthly expenses. Below is a summary of most of the major costs you should expect to incur in the first year of dog ownership.

Expected costs in first year:

  • Purchase Price for Your Puppy – This is probably the largest expense you will have when you decide to become a dog owner. The cost for a puppy will vary greatly depending on the breed of dog, the quality of breeding, and where you get the puppy. Some dog breeds sell for as little as $250 while others can cost $2,000 or more. Some breeds are simply more desirable than others, which drives up the price, and puppies bred from champion show dogs will be more expensive than puppies that come from unplanned litters. The cost to purchase a puppy from a breeder is generally higher than adopting a dog from a shelter, so think about all of your options before you decide what to do.
  • Puppy Crate or Kennel – Before you bring your puppy home you’ll want to set up a special area of the house that he can call his own. You can block off this area using puppy playpens or baby gates – you can also use a small room like an extra bathroom in the beginning. In this area, you should plan to put your puppy’s crate or kennel. This crate should be just large enough for your puppy to stand up, sit down, turn around, and lie down in comfortably. You don’t want your puppy’s first crate to be too large because it could increase the likelihood of him having an accident. If you use the crate right, your puppy will come to think of it as his den and dogs have a natural aversion to soiling their den. This may also mean that you have to buy another crate later if your puppy outgrows the first one. The average cost for a small dog crate is under $50, though larger crates may cost more.
  • Bedding – To make your puppy’s crate more comfortable for him you can line it with towels or old blankets. You probably don’t want to invest in a high-quality dog bed until your puppy is housetrained because he may ruin it. Another option is to line your puppy’s crate with an old blanket and place a nicer dog bed somewhere else inside his enclosed area so he can take a nap in a comfy spot when he’s not confined to his crate.
  • Puppy playing with toys

  • Toys and Accessories – While your puppy’s crate is the most important thing you’ll need, you will also need to buy him a collar, a leash, a harness, and an assortment of different toys. Your puppy’s leash and collar should be appropriate for his size, so you may have to buy new ones as he grows. For toys, start with a variety of different types (make sure to include some chew toys) so you can see what your puppy likes. Then, simply replace any toys that your puppy destroys with similar options, so he always has something to chew on – besides your shoes!
  • Cleaning/Grooming Supplies – Another aspect of dog ownership that you need to consider is grooming your dog and cleaning up after him. While you are housetraining your puppy, you should be prepared to clean up a few accidents. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners, opting for all-natural and fragrance-free options instead. For grooming supplies, you’ll need an assortment of brushes and combs, some dog shampoo, dog ear cleaning solution, cotton swabs, and nail clippers. Again, when choosing grooming products for your puppy try to go with a natural option that isn’t loaded with chemicals and fragrances. You may also want to buy a dog toothbrush and toothpaste so you can start early with healthy dental hygiene habits for your puppy.
  • Veterinary Care – If you purchase a puppy from a breeder, he will probably already have a few shots under his belt before you bring him home. But puppies need a variety of different shots during their first year of life to establish immunity to common diseases – after that, you’ll only have to worry about booster shots once a year or every three years. In addition to vaccinations, you’ll want to have your puppy examined by a vet twice a year just to monitor his health. The average cost for a vet visit is under $50 and you may spend up to $100 on shots the first year.
  • Spay/Neuter Surgery – Another significant expense you need to think about before bringing home a new puppy is the cost of spay/neuter surgery. Having your puppy spayed or neutered can reduce the risk for behavioral problems (like urine marking) as well as certain diseases (like breast cancer and other cancers). If you take your puppy to a regular veterinary surgeon, the cost for spay surgery could be up to $500 and neuter surgery will be in the $100 range. You can save money by taking your puppy to a vet clinic instead.
  • Puppy Food and Treats – Though food and treats are more of a recurring monthly expense, you’ll still need to stock up before you bring your puppy home for the first time. While there are certainly inexpensive pet food brands out there, they are generally not the kind of product that will be good for your dog. You want to buy the highest quality product you can consistently afford, so be prepared to spend as much as $35 to $50 on a large bag of dog food. Puppies of different sizes and breeds will have different requirements for the amount of food they need, so keep that in mind as well.

Review each of the costs above very carefully to ensure that you can provide for your new puppy’s needs financially. If you don’t feel confident that you can cover each of these costs now, take some time to save up before you get a new puppy.

Understanding the Commitment Involved

In addition to thinking about the financial implications of becoming a dog owner, you also have to think about the level of commitment involved in this decision. When you make the choice to become a dog owner, you are choosing to become not only that dog’s best friend and companion but also his caregiver. Especially for new puppies, your dog will rely on you to fulfill his basic needs for food, shelter, exercise, and attention. You’ll also be responsible for socializing and training your puppy. Socializing a new puppy is relatively straightforward – it simply involves exposing him to as many new things as possible – but it does require a commitment of time and a certain degree of effort.

When you bring a puppy into your life, you are making a commitment of at least 10 years, up to 20 years.

There is no good way to estimate the time commitment involved in getting a new puppy. You should, however, be prepared to spend most of the first few days at home with your puppy until he gets used to his new surroundings. This could mean taking time off work, or you could plan to bring your puppy home on the weekend. During the first few weeks at home, you’ll have to supervise your puppy very carefully and work to set and enforce boundaries – these are the building blocks for housetraining and obedience training that will come later.

When you bring your new puppy home, you’ll want to spend as much time with him as you possibly can. It is very important that you work to build a strong bond with your puppy from the very beginning. Your puppy will be naturally inclined to love you, but you want him to trust you as well. And don’t forget that trust goes both ways! You’ll need to take care of your puppy and treat him with respect in order for him to trust you back. Having a strong bond of trust with your puppy will be very important when it comes time for obedience training. If you don’t have a strong bond with your puppy, he will be less inclined to listen to and respond to your commands during training.

Choosing the Right Dog Breed

There are hundreds of different dog breeds out there, so making a choice can be difficult. Paws ‘N’ Pups has breed guides for hundreds of dog breeds. Visit the guides section to learn more. When you are thinking about what breed you might like to get, there are some important factors to consider which include the following:

Adult Size

One of the most important factors you need to consider when choosing a dog breed is size. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes ranging from the tiny Chihuahua to the massive Great Dane. Think about your living situation and how much space you have for a dog – smaller dogs are ideal for apartment and condo life while larger dogs do best when they have a bigger home and plenty of outdoor space. You also have to think about your ability to control a larger dog. If you are a first-time dog owner, you probably don’t want to start with a 130-pound Mastiff!


In addition to thinking about your ideal dog’s size, think about what kind of temperament you are interested in. Each dog is unique in terms of personality, and you will have some degree of control over how your dog turns out, but different breeds have different temperaments. Think about whether you want a dog that is going to be friendly with everyone he meets or if you want a dog that has strong protective instincts and can be used as a guard dog or watchdog. Consider whether it is important to you that your dog gets along well with children and how he does around other dogs and household pets. Think about how much time you have to devote to your dog as well because some dogs need more attention than others.

Exercise Requirements

While temperament is a big factor in determining your dog’s behavior, exercise requirements are closely linked. For example, if a dog with high exercise requirements is forced to stay in the house all day, he won’t be able to work off his extra energy, and he will be more likely to develop behavioral problems out of boredom and frustration. If you only have thirty minutes to devote to exercising your dog each day, choose a breed with a lower energy level. Just remember that dogs with moderate to high energy levels need at least one daily walk – play sessions and free time in the yard won’t cut it. Read this article for five simple tips to keep your dog active.
Group of dogs looking up


Another important factor to think about is trainability. Some dog breeds are simply more intelligent than others and the smarter the dog, the more trainable he will be. Of course, some of the most intelligent dogs were bred to work – many of these dogs (like livestock guarding breeds) can be somewhat aloof at times and they may also have a bit of a stubborn streak. Take these qualities into account when choosing a dog breed. And remember that the strength of the bond you have with your dog will also impact how well he responds to commands.

Grooming Needs

In addition to training your dog, you’ll also have to take care of his coat. Some dogs have single coats while others have double coats. A double coat usually consists of a soft undercoat to keep the dog warm in cold weather with a harsh outercoat that repels water. The amount of time you’ll have to spend grooming your dog will be greatly influenced by the type of coat, as well as the length. Dogs with longer coats generally require more maintenance because their coats are more prone to tangles and mats. Even dogs with short coats, however, can shed profusely. So, do your research ahead of time to determine how much shedding you can look forward to with the dog breed of your choice.

Breed Lineage and History

Finally, you’ll want to take breeding history or lineage into account. Do you prefer a pure breed or are you okay with a mixed breed? It’s also important to consider that there are different levels of breeding for some dogs. For example, the Standard Poodle is a very popular breed for show but these dogs also make great family pets. So, if ftips you are considering a Poodle, you’ll have to decide if you want a show-quality dog or a pet-quality dog – there will be a significant difference in price. It is also important to realize that the quality of a dog’s breeding can have an impact on his health – some dog breeds are prone to hereditary health problems, so responsible breeding is vital.

If you are having trouble deciding what kind of dog to get, try taking an online questionnaire. Animal Planet offers a great breed selector questionnaire that will help you find a breed suitable to your preferences. Your answers to these questions will help you to narrow down your search for the ideal dog breed.

Buying a Puppy vs. Adopting an Adult Dog

Now that you’ve thought a little more about what kind of dog you want, you are ready to make the next big decision – do you want to buy a puppy from a breeder or adopt an adult dog from a shelter? Both options come with their pros and cons, so take your time thinking about the options:

Pros for Buying a Puppy

  • When you purchase a puppy from a breeder, you typically get to pick out the puppy yourself – you may get to interact with the puppy first as well.
  • Purchasing a puppy from a breeder means that you know exactly where the puppy came from and you are more likely to have information about his genetics.
  • Most responsible breeders offer a health guarantee with their puppies which protects you in case your puppy develops an inherited health problem.
  • The puppy phase is fun and exciting – there is nothing cuter than a puppy.
  • When you buy a puppy, you have some degree of control over the kind of dog he grows up to be – early training will yield a more obedient adult dog.

Cons for Buying a Puppy

  • Purchasing a puppy from a breeder is typically much more expensive than adopting a dog from a shelter or dog rescue.
  • As they grow and mature, puppies change a little bit in terms of personality and temperament – you do not always know how your puppy is going to turn out.
  • While the puppy phase can be fun, it also comes with challenges – it takes a lot of time and effort to socialize and train a new puppy.
  • Buying a puppy involves more upfront costs than adopting a dog – you’ll have to pay for vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery yourself, in most cases.

Pros for Adopting an Adult Dog

  • There are millions of homeless pets in shelters around the country, so choosing to adopt a dog could mean that you are literally saving a life. Many people also say that adopted dogs have a sense of understanding and they are grateful for being given a second chance.
  • Adopting a dog from a shelter is typically much less expensive than purchasing a puppy from a breeder – the average cost for dog adoptions is under $250.
  • Most dog shelters and rescues have their dogs examined by a vet and updated on vaccinations before adopting them out – many also require that their dogs be spayed and neutered, so you may not have to cover this cost yourself.
  • When you adopt an adult dog from a shelter, he will probably already be housebroken and may already have some obedience training under his belt as well. Adult dogs are also already set in terms of their personality, so you may be able to get a better idea if you and the dog get along.

Cons for Adopting an Adult Dog

  • If you have your heart set on a particular breed, you may not be able to find it at a local shelter – you can put your name on a list or look for a breed-specific shelter or rescue.
  • Many of the dogs that enter the shelter system have been abandoned or neglected – this means that they may have behavioral issues that might not manifest until they get home and recover from the stress of being in the shelter.
  • In many cases, dogs are abandoned at shelters with little information about their history. When you adopt a dog from a shelter, you may not know where it came from, how it was bred, or if there’s a risk for inherited health problems.
  • If you want to adopt a dog from a shelter, you’ll have to fill out an application, and there is no guarantee that it will be approved. Shelters take into account things like your living situation (do you own or rent?), other household pets, and your experience with dogs.

Here is an example of a few awesome rescue organizations who are doing their best every day to help dogs in shelters find their forever homes.

By now you should have a better understanding of the things you need to think about when deciding what kind of dog to get. In fact, you may have already made up your mind! In either case, you are now ready to move on to the next step – learning about where to find puppies, how to identify a responsible breeder, and how to prepare your home for your new pet.

Part Two – Finding and Bringing Home Your Dog

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Once you have decided what dog breed you want, you may feel like the hard work is over. In reality, however, you are just getting started. After you’ve decided what dog breed you are going to get, you have to think about where you are going to get it. Finding a puppy may seem as simple as walking into your local pet store, but that is generally not the best option. In this section, you’ll learn about the best places to look for a puppy, how to identify a responsible dog breeder, how to make a deal with a breeder, and how to prepare yourself and your home for a new puppy.


Where to Look for Puppies

If you do not have your heart set on a puppy – or if you don’t have a preference for breed – you should seriously think about adopting from a shelter.

Before getting into the details about the best places to find a puppy, you first need to know where NOT to look. When you’re ready to buy a puppy, your first thought may be to head to your local pet store. Unless the pet store gets its dogs from a local shelter or breeder, however, this is not an ideal choice. Many pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills and that is not something you want to support. There are thousands of puppy mills in the United States pumping out millions of puppies each year. You should always inquire about the history and original source of the puppies. If you are not provided with adequate information, chances are the puppies are not from a reputable source. Use your best judgement.

Tips for Identifying a Puppy Mill

A puppy mill is a commercial breeding facility where profits are more important than the health and wellbeing of the dogs used for breeding. Basically, dogs are forced to bear litter after litter until they are physically no longer capable of doing it any longer. These dogs are kept in squalid conditions – generally cramped, dirty cages – and they are often malnourished or riddled with disease. The dogs are not screened before breeding, so there is a high risk that the puppies that come out of a puppy mill will be carriers for inherited conditions and other health problems.

When you purchase a puppy mill puppy, you may be inclined to think that you are “rescuing” the puppy from a bad situation. While this may be a noble thought, it frequently backfires. By purchasing a puppy mill puppy, you open up a space for another puppy mill puppy to take its place – you are supporting the puppy mill. You are also putting yourself at risk because you don’t know anything about the puppy’s breeding. He could very well develop a serious health problem down the line that will necessitate a lot of expensive treatments. It is also not uncommon for puppy mill puppies to get so sick that they die – do you really want to set yourself up for heartbreak? The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) provides additional information about puppy mills and the harm they cause.

If pet stores are not the ideal place to look for a puppy, what is the right place? If you do not have your heart set on a puppy – or if you don’t have a preference for breed – you should seriously think about adopting from a shelter. Paws ‘N’ Pups has a comprehensive list of adoption shelters in every state and province in North America. Click here to find adoption shelters close to you. You can get in touch with shelters close to you and find out about what dogs they are currently homing. Adoption is typically much more cost-effective than buying a new puppy as well.

If you are absolutely sure that you want a puppy and you have a particular breed in mind, your best bet is to find a breeder that specializes in that breed. There are plenty of ways to find breeders – you can ask fellow dog owners, speak to your veterinarian, ask around at a local vet clinic, or do an online search. Paws ‘N’ Pups has many breeders listed in the breeders section, so you can start your search here.


How to Identify a Responsible Dog Breeder

Buying a puppy is a considerable investment, so it is not something you want to rush. Before you even think about buying a puppy from a breeder, you need to make sure that the breeder is someone you want to buy from.

Start by visiting each breeder’s website to see what kind of information you can dig up.

There are many people out there who breed their dogs just to make a few extra bucks selling the puppies – these are not the kind of breeders you want to buy from. You want to find a breeder who has a lot of experience breeding dogs and who has a great deal of knowledge about the specific breed you’re looking for. A responsible breeder will carefully choose his breeding stock (and will have them DNA tested for inherited health problems) to ensure the health of the puppies. Once you have your list of potential breeders, you’ll need to go through the list and vet each option to find the best choice. Below are some things you can do to vet potential breeders.

Tips for vetting breeders:

  1. Start by visiting each breeder’s website to see what kind of information you can dig up. Look for things like AKC registration, pictures of past litters, and testimonials from past buyers.
  2. Remove from your list any breeder that doesn’t seem to be affiliated with a breed club or whose website contains red flags.
  3. Contact each breeder by phone and ask the following questions:
  • How long have you been breeding dogs and why did you start?
  • What is your experience with the __________ breed?
  • How do you choose your breeding stock?
  • Is your breeding stock registered and/or do you have a breeding license?
  • What kind of guarantee do you offer with your puppies?
  • Can you provide references from past buyers?
  • What do you look for in a buyer?
  1. Listen carefully as each breeder answers these questions – you are looking for a breeder who obviously has plenty of experience and who is open about his breeding practices. Any breeder who refuses to answer questions has something to hide.
  2. Pay attention to whether the breeder asks you any questions about yourself – a responsible breeder will want to make sure that his puppies go to the best home possible.
  3. Remove any breeders from your list who won’t answer questions or who don’t seem to have much experience.
  4. After narrowing down your list, make an appointment to visit each of the remaining breeders’ facilities – you want to narrow down your list to no more than three
  5. Visit each breeder and ask for a tour of the facilities. Keep an eye out for red flags such as unkempt facilities, signs of diarrhea (an indication of illness), and improper treatment.
  6. Ask to see the breeding stock as well as the puppies – they should all be healthy with no signs of obvious illness. They should also be properly socialized and not terrified of humans.

Even after following all of these steps, there is no guarantee that the final breeder on your list will be a good option. It is important to keep your eyes open as you visit each breeder and be on the lookout for red flags. The Humane Society offers advice on picking a responsible breeder, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) also has tips on how to pick a responsible breeder. If you are confident that the breeder you’ve chosen is responsible and trustworthy, you can move on to the next step – making a deal with the breeder.


Making a Deal with a Dog Breeder

After you’ve narrowed down your options and have chosen a breeder, the next step is to pick out your puppy and make a deal with the breeder. In the same way that you vetted a number of different dog breeders before making your choice, you should interact with all of the puppies the breeder has available so you can pick the one that is right for you. Follow the steps listed below as a guideline.

How to choose a puppy from a litter:

  1. Stand back and observe how the puppies are interacting for a while before you try to interact with them – they should display healthy activity without impaired movement.
  2. Step forward and let the puppies approach you when they are ready – they might be a little wary but they should not be openly frightened, their curiosity will likely overrule their wariness.
  3. Let the puppies sniff you for a few minutes, then try interacting with them using a toy – you can also start to pet the puppies
  4. Pay attention to how each puppy responds to you and look for one that you feel a connection with – you should be able to get a good sense for each puppy’s temperament just by interacting with them.
  5. Try picking some of the puppies up to see how they respond to being handled – it is natural for the puppy to squirm a bit, but it shouldn’t respond negatively to your touch.
  6. Check the puppies over for obvious signs of disease – look for the following:
    Husky puppies in crate

  • Clear, bright eyes with no discharge
  • No discharge from the nose
  • Clean ears, no foul odor inside
  • Healthy breathing, no coughing or wheezing
  • A round belly but not overly distended
  • No signs of diarrhea around the rectum
  • Uniform coat, no patches of missing hair or discoloration
  1. Narrow down your options until you have chosen the puppy who best meets your preferences and with whom you feel a connection.

Once you have chosen the puppy you want, you’ll need to work out a deal with the breeder. Each breeder is different when it comes to reserving puppies, but you will probably need to make some kind of deposit. Never buy from a breeder who will allow you to take home a puppy that is less than eight weeks old or not fully weaned. While some puppies may be weaned earlier than 8 weeks, it is best to keep the puppies with their littermates until at least that age.

Talk to the breeder about the deal before you sign anything or hand over any money. If there is a contract involved, read it carefully so you know exactly what it is that you are signing. Most breeders provide some kind of health guarantee that states if the puppy develops an inherited health problem, you can return the puppy. By that time, of course, you will have become attached, but it is still a good guarantee to have. You should also be mindful of any requirements that might void the contract such as failure to vaccinate your puppy or not having the puppy spayed/neutered.


Preparing Yourself and Your Home for a Puppy

Once you’ve made a deal with the breeder of your choice, all that is left is to get your home ready for your new puppy! The first thing you should do is stock up on all of the supplies you will need, including at least a month’s worth of puppy food. It is a good idea to find out from the breeder what the puppy is currently being fed so that you can buy some of it. If you don’t like the food the breeder has chosen you can switch your puppy to a new food, but you’ll still need some of the old food so you can mix the two together and transition your puppy from one to the other. You’ll learn more about choosing a healthy puppy food in the next section.

You’ll need to put away or remove hazardous items, so your puppy can’t get into them – this is called “puppy-proofing.”

In addition to stocking up on supplies, you’ll also need to set up your puppy’s special area. Use a puppy playpen or baby gates to section off a portion of a room of your choice to make it into your puppy’s special place. Choose a room that isn’t completely isolated but also isn’t the center of attention – your puppy will need some quiet time to himself once in a while. Inside the penned off area, you should set up your puppy’s crate and bedding along with his food and water bowls. You’ll also want to keep some of his toys in this area so that he has something to occupy himself with when he is confined to this space. Remember to include a variety of different toys until you learn your puppy’s preferences.

After setting up your puppy’s area, you’ll want to go through the whole house to make sure that it is safe for your puppy. You’ll need to put away or remove hazardous items, so your puppy can’t get into them – this is called “puppy-proofing.” Read these tips for more advice and follow the entire list below. If you have puppy-proofing ideas that we have not included in this list, please comment below and we will add them to this list.

Ways to puppy-proof your home:

  • Put away all open food containers in a cupboard or pantry – any food left out on the counter needs to be in a container with a tight lid.
  • Make sure that your trashcan and recycling bin have tight-fitting lids or put them away in a cabinet or the pantry.
  • Store all of your cleaning products well out of your puppy’s reach – put them in a child-proof cabinet or store them on a higher shelf.
  • Go through the house and pick up all of the small items you find on the floor and on low pieces of furniture where your puppy can reach – they could be a choking hazard.
  • Wrap up electrical cords and blind cords, so your puppy doesn’t get caught up in them and accidentally strangle himself.
  • Cover open bodies of water such as the toilet and don’t keep water in the bathtub – if you have an outdoor pond or pool, make sure it is covered or fenced off, or do not let your puppy near these areas without full supervision.
  • Always store medications and toiletries in a medicine cabinet or closet.
  • Keep doors and windows securely closed when your puppy is out and about – and be careful about opening/closing doors.
  • If you have a cat, keep the litter box somewhere your puppy can’t reach – he may be tempted to eat the clumps.
  • Make sure your garage is organized with no chemicals or other harmful substances kept on the floor or low shelving.
  • Store your lawn and garden tools in a way that they can’t fall over and hurt your puppy.
  • Find out if any of the plants you have in your home or yard are poisonous to dogs and remove them or fence them off.
  • Check your backyard fence to make sure there aren’t any places your puppy can slip between slats or go under the fence.

At this point, you should have a pretty good understanding of what is required to become a dog owner. It is when you actually bring your puppy home, however, that the real work starts. You will be responsible for caring for your new dog for the duration of his life, however long that may be. In the next section, you’ll receive valuable information about the things you’ll have to do in order to keep your new dog happy and healthy.

Part Three – Caring for Your New Dog

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The moment you bring your new puppy home, he becomes your responsibility for the next ten to fifteen years. Becoming a dog owner is a beautiful thing, but you mustn’t forget that you are responsible for your dog’s wellbeing – you are his friend but also his caregiver.

You don’t have to check off everything on the list during the first few days, but you should make an effort to expose your puppy to something new every day.

Some of the things you will have to do as a dog owner include socializing your new puppy and housetraining him. You’ll also need to understand the basics of canine nutrition so you can pick out a high-quality puppy food. It will be your responsibility to make sure your puppy gets to the veterinarian when he needs to and you’ll have to take care of your puppy’s coat as well. Keep reading to learn more about caring for your new puppy.


The Importance of Socializing Your Puppy

Your puppy is very impressionable during the first three to six months of his life, so this is the time when you want to make sure that he has as many new experiences as possible. The experiences your puppy has now will help to shape him into a well-adjusted adult dog. If you fail to socialize your puppy properly, he may approach unfamiliar situations with fear as an adult. Once your dog develops a fear reaction, it can be difficult to turn it around. So, do yourself and your dog a favor by starting socialization as early as possible.

Socialization is very easy – all you have to do is make sure your puppy has as many new experiences as possible. You’ll want to introduce him to all kinds of people – male, female, tall, short, light-skinned, dark-skinned, etc. You also want to get him used to different noises, different locations, and also different dogs and other household pets. The goal is to help your puppy form a positive association with new things. That way, in the future, if your adult dog is put in an unfamiliar situation, he will respond positively instead of negatively. Below, we’ve put together an extensive list of experiences you will want to expose your new pup to, as quickly as possible.

Ways to socialize your puppy:

People and Objects
  • Men
  • Women
  • Children
  • Babies/toddlers
  • Tall people
  • Short people
  • Thin people
  • Muscular people
  • Men with beards
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats
  • People with glasses
  • Long hair
  • Short hair
  • Different disabilities
  • People dancing
  • Exercise
  • Brooms and mops
  • Flags
  • Flashlights
  • Strollers
Objects and Experiences
  • Balloons
  • Mirrors
  • Umbrellas
  • Plastic bags
  • Shopping carts
  • Bicycles
  • Cars
  • Buses
  • Trains
  • Planes
  • Motorcycles
  • Escalators
  • Elevators
  • Moving sidewalk
  • Hardwood floor
  • Tile floor
  • Gravel
  • Asphalt
  • Concrete
  • Bridges
Animals and Places
  • Other dogs
  • Squirrels
  • Cats
  • Birds
  • Horses
  • Sheep
  • Chickens
  • Cows
  • Rabbits
  • Grocery store
  • Dog park
  • Bus station
  • Playground
  • Shopping mall
  • Outdoor park
  • Sporting event
  • Coffee shop/cafe
  • School
  • Parking lot
  • Offices

Socialization is going to be an ongoing process for your new puppy. You don’t have to check off everything on the list during the first few days, but you should make an effort to expose your puppy to something new every day. Just remember that the goal is to get your puppy used to new things, but not at the expense of overwhelming or frightening him. Be sure to praise your puppy and reward him when he responds well to new things but give him a break if he starts to become frightened. Read this article to learn about a walk-through of socializing your dog with your cat.

Housetraining a New Puppy

If you use your puppy’s crate correctly he will come to think of it as his den, and he’ll like spending time there.

After socialization, the next big milestone you need to hit with your new puppy is housetraining. When your puppy is still very young, he will have a limited ability to hold his bladder and bowels, but it is never too early to start cultivating good habits for potty training your puppy. You should expect your new puppy to have a few accidents here and there, but you can still teach him that outdoors is where you want him to do his business. In order to teach your puppy this, of course, you have to give him the opportunity to do it. That means supervising your puppy very closely when you are at home to make sure that he doesn’t have an accident in the house.

Potty Training

Dog peeing in parkWhen your puppy is young, he can only hold his bladder and bowels for about one hour per month of age. So, a three-month-old puppy will only be able to hold it for about three hours. To prevent your puppy from having accidents in the house, then, you’ll need to take him outside at least once every three hours. It is better, however, to do it every hour or two while your puppy is awake, just to be safe. You’ll also want to take him out after he wakes from a nap and about thirty minutes after each meal. If you keep him in a crate overnight, let him outside as soon as you release him in the morning. The sooner you can begin potty training your puppy the less likely accidents are to occur in the house.

In addition to supervising your puppy when you are at home, you should also start teaching him where you want him to do his business. While some dog owners are fine with letting their puppy do his business anywhere he likes as long as it is outdoors, many dog owners prefer to teach their puppies to go in a specific area. If you teach your puppy to go in one corner of the yard only, that will make your job of cleanup much easier. It may also help your puppy to learn more quickly what you expect of him when you let him outside. If you always take him to that spot, he’ll eventually know what he is expected to do when he gets there. Click here for useful potty training tips.

Crate Training

While your puppy may not be able to spend more than a few hours in his crate at a time at first, you can start as early as you would like to set the stage for housetraining. The overview below outlines the proper steps you should follow.

Steps to follow for crate training:

  1. Choose a particular part of the yard where you want your puppy to do his business – you can fence it off or just keep it open.
  2. Each time you take your puppy outside, lead him directly to this spot.
  3. Give your puppy a verbal command like “Go Pee” and wait for him to do his business.
  4. If your puppy does his business, praise him excitedly and give him a treat – if he doesn’t have to go, take him back inside and try again in 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Watch your puppy carefully while he is awake, keeping him in the same room as you at all times.
  6. Take your puppy outside every hour or two and keep watch in between for signs that he has to go – he will sniff the ground, turn in circles, and squat.
  7. If your puppy starts to squat, clap your hands to distract him then quickly pick him up and take him to the appropriate area.
  8. When you cannot physically watch your puppy, put him in his crate – do not leave any food or water with him because it will increase the risk of an accident.
  9. Only keep your puppy in the crate for as long as he can hold his bladder and bowels – this may mean waking up once or twice during the night to let him out.
  10. Be consistent about taking your puppy to the same place, using the verbal command, and issuing praise and reward when your puppy does well.

Some dog owners don’t like the idea of confining their puppy to a crate because they think it is cruel. If you use your puppy’s crate for punishment (like time out), he will form a negative association with it, and he won’t like spending time there. However, if you use your puppy’s crate correctly he will come to think of it as his den, and he’ll like spending time there. The key is to get your puppy used to his crate early and to never use it as punishment. For additional reading on crate training, check out this guide from the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

The Basics of Canine Nutrition

The quality of your puppy’s diet will play an important role in his health and wellbeing. Think of it this way: your puppy’s body is like a machine that is composed of many parts and systems. The machine needs fuel in order to keep these parts working and, if it doesn’t get it, the parts will start to break down, and the whole machine will be affected. If you don’t feed your puppy a high-quality diet that meets his nutritional needs, his body will not function properly, and it could lead to the development of a whole host of medical problems. Don’t settle for a low-quality puppy food just because it is cheap. You may end up paying the price later when your puppy develops nutritional deficiencies and other problems.

If you don’t feed your puppy a high-quality diet that meets his nutritional needs, his body will not function properly.

Before you choose a high-quality food for your puppy, you first need to understand the basics of dog nutrition. The most important thing you need to know is that a dog’s body is adapted to digesting and deriving nutrition from animal products more than plant products. Dogs are not strict carnivores in the way that cats are, but they still need a diet that is rich in meat. Puppies especially need high levels of protein in their diet to fuel healthy growth and development, though fat is also crucial and carbohydrates play a role as well.

Protein and Amino Acids

Protein is made up of amino acids – you may know them as the building blocks of protein. There are 22 different amino acids, and your puppy’s body is capable of synthesizing (or producing) 12 of them. The remaining ten are called essential amino acids because they have to come from your puppy’s diet. These amino acids can be found in proteins (both animal and plant proteins), but animal proteins like meat, eggs, and fish are called complete proteins because they contain all 10 essential amino acids. You can see now why protein is so important for your puppy’s diet.

Guaranteed Analysis

Fat is also an important part of a puppy’s diet because it provides a highly-concentrated source of fuel (calories) – your puppy needs a lot of fuel while he is growing. Like protein, fat is best when it comes from animal sources. Salmon oil, chicken fat, and other such fats are all good options. You’ll want to look for a product that contains at least 22% crude protein and at least 8% crude fat for your puppy. This information can be found in the guaranteed analysis printed on the labels. You’ll also want to make sure that the crude fiber content isn’t higher than 5%. Dietary fiber helps to regulate your dog’s digestion but, because your dog’s body is designed to process animal products more efficiently than plant products, too much fiber can actually cause digestive problems.

Choosing the Right Dog Food

Dog eating kibble foodIt is important to feed your puppy a commercial dog food that is formulated specifically for puppies. These formulas tend to be higher in protein and fat than adult formulas, so you can rest assured that it will meet your puppy’s needs. Once your puppy matures, you should switch him to an adult food diet to make sure he gets the right nutrients in the appropriate amounts. Keep feeding your puppy his puppy food until he reaches about 80% of his maximum size, then transition him onto an adult diet. The amount of time it takes your puppy to reach 80% of his maximum size will vary depending on his breed. Small-breed puppies reach their max size in under 12 months while large and giant breeds may take as long as two years. Consult your vet about when is the right time to make the switch.

When your puppy is still young, you’ll want to feed him three or more times per day. Your puppy needs a steady supply of energy to fuel his growth and development, so he needs to eat throughout the day. Small-breed puppies may require four meals a day, but most puppies do fine with three. Another option is to simply keep your puppy’s food bowl full throughout the day so he can eat when he wants to. This is a good option for puppies until they reach about six months of age or until they start to gain too much weight. For large-breed puppies it is a better idea to ration your puppy’s food because if a large-breed puppy grows too quickly, the growth might put excess strain on his bones and joints, increasing his risk for musculoskeletal problems as an adult. To make sure your puppy’s needs are met, consider a puppy food formulated for puppies of your dog’s size (small-breed, medium-breed, or large-breed). This detailed article from PetMD offers a lot of additional information about dog nutrition.

Cheap Dog Foods vs. Expensive Dog Foods – What are the Differences?

The first thing you need to know is that you should not shop by price.

Now that you know a little bit more about your puppy’s nutritional needs, you may be wondering how to choose a commercial puppy food that meets those needs. The first thing you need to know is that you should not shop by price. Though this is not always the case, most of the inexpensive pet food brands out there are also the lowest quality. Pet food manufacturers keep the cost of their products low (as well as their own costs) by using low-quality proteins and inexpensive fillers. These products may meet your puppy’s minimum nutritional requirements, but not in the healthiest way possible. These products may increase your puppy’s risk of digestive problems and food allergies. Many dogs are sensitive to grains like corn and wheat as well as other ingredients like dairy, eggs, soy, and more.

If you want to make sure that your puppy gets a high-quality diet, you’ll need to shop smart. Do a little research to find out what the top brands of puppy food are and then go to your local pet store to peruse your options. There are three things you should look at on a pet food label to determine the quality of the product. You’ve already learned about one of them – the guaranteed analysis. Check this part of the label to make sure that the product meets your puppy’s minimum requirements for protein and fat without going overboard on fiber. As a general rule, the higher the protein content the better. A little extra fat is okay as well, but keep in mind that fat is higher in calories than protein so too much fat could put large-breed puppies at risk for overgrowth.

The Association of American  Feed Control Officials – AAFCO

Another important part of a pet food label you should check is the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy. The Association of American  Feed Control Officials, simply known as AAFCO, is responsible for regulating and monitoring the production of pet foods – it is like the FDA for human foods. AAFCO has established minimum nutritional requirements for puppies and adult dogs. Before a pet food product can be sold, AAFCO tests the product to see if it matches their nutrient profiles. If the product meets these minimum nutritional requirements, the package will carry a statement like, “[Product Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO Dog Food nutrient profiles for growing puppies and gestating or lactating adult female dogs.” Keep in mind, however, that this statement only tells you that the formula meets your puppy’s minimum requirements – it doesn’t necessarily indicate a high-quality product. You will have to check the ingredients list to determine that.

Similar to human food packages, pet food products have an ingredients list that is written in descending order by volume. This simply means that the ingredients at the beginning of the list are used in higher quantities than those at the bottom of the list. So, you want to see high-quality, animal-based ingredients at the top of the list for a high-quality puppy food. Protein should always come first, so look for fresh meats or meat meals. You’ll also want to see some high-quality fats, ideally animal-based sources. Remember, you want to see ingredients that are easy to identify – anything that sounds like a chemical is probably not a good ingredient. Similarly, you want to see named sources for proteins and fats. For example, salmon oil is better than fish oil and chicken meal is better than poultry meal. Ingredients that come from unnamed sources may not be of high quality, though you have no way of knowing because it isn’t indicated in the name of the ingredient.

Ingredients to Avoid

Another thing to keep in mind about puppy foods is that products with shorter ingredient lists are usually better than those with long lists. If you compare the ingredients list for a product that lists only 12 ingredients to one that lists 30, you’ll find that most of the ingredients at the end of the list are supplements and chemicals. The problem with supplements in dog food is that your puppy’s ability to absorb synthetic supplements is much lower than his ability to absorb natural ones. So, fresh fruits and vegetables are a better source of essential vitamins and minerals than synthetic supplements. If a puppy food has lots of synthetic supplements, it probably means that the natural nutrient content of the ingredients was probably destroyed during processing. This is why raw foods and freeze-dried foods are so great – they aren’t cooked at high temperatures that can destroy nutrients.

In addition to keeping an eye out for synthetic supplements in your puppy’s food, there are also some other ingredients you want to avoid. It is best to avoid products that contain any corn, wheat, or soy ingredients. Not only are these common food allergens for dogs, but they offer very little nutritional value – they are usually used as fillers. Watch out for plant proteins as well – things like corn gluten meal and pea protein – because they can be used to increase the protein content of a product without adding more meat. Plant proteins are less biologically valuable for your puppy than animal proteins. And don’t buy any products that are made with artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Coloring agents are usually used to make a product look more appealing to consumers – they don’t provide any benefit. Flavoring agents are used to make a product more palatable to dogs – they also don’t offer any nutritional benefits.

Once you’ve chosen a puppy food for your puppy, you’ll want to transition him from the food the breeder gave him to the new product. Start by mixing 25% of the new food with 75% of his old food for two days. After two days, mix 50% of each for a day or two then move on to 75% of the new food and 25% of the old food. As long as your puppy doesn’t develop any digestive issues during this process, you should be able to switch him completely onto the new food within 5 to 7 days. If your puppy develops digestive problems, go back a step and stay there for a few days. If your puppy’s digestive issues persist, you may want to consult your veterinarian.

Veterinary Care for Your New Puppy

Vaccinations are very important to keep your new pup in good health.

By the time your new puppy is ready to come home from the breeder, he will probably already have some vaccinations under his belt. Once you get him home, however, you’ll still want to have him checked out by your own veterinarian within a few days. Your vet will be able to confirm that your puppy is in good health and he’ll also tell you what you need to know as far as your puppy’s vaccination schedule. He’ll need certain shots every three to four weeks until he has established immunity. After the first twelve months, then, he’ll only need a booster shot once a year or every three years, depending on the particular vaccine.

Vaccinations Required

The specific vaccines your puppy will need may vary a little bit depending on where you live. The shots you should expect your puppy to get, however, include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza, Bordetella, Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and canine influenza. Your puppy should have his first shot for most of these around six weeks of age, though others aren’t necessary until 9 or 12 weeks. Your puppy will only need one dose of the vaccine for rabies and Bordetella, but he’ll need two shots for Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and canine influenza. He’ll also need three doses of the vaccines for distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, and parainfluenza.

Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention

German Shepherd at the veterinarianIn addition to getting your puppy’s vaccinations taken care of, you’ll also want to talk to your vet about flea and tick prevention, as well as heartworm. Flea bites can irritate your dog’s skin, and some dogs actually have an allergic reaction to flea bites. Plus, fleas can be very difficult to eradicate once you have an infestation, so prevention is your best bet. Ticks carry a number of dangerous diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so you’ll want to protect your puppy from those. Starting at six months, your puppy should also start taking a heartworm preventive.

Protecting your puppy against fleas and ticks is very easy – you just need to purchase a topical flea and tick preventive. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations about which brand to choose – don’t be immediately tempted to purchase a low-cost product. There have been many problems in recent years related to inexpensive flea and tick products that have caused nasty side-effects – it is worth paying a few extra dollars for a high-quality product. You’ll want to make sure that any product you choose protects against eggs, larvae, and adult fleas and ticks. Most products need to be reapplied every 30 days.

Heartworm prevention is something many dog owners don’t think about, but failing to protect your puppy could be a fatal mistake. Mosquitoes transmit heartworms – this is the only way your puppy can get the disease. When a mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected animal, it takes some of the baby heartworms in as well. The larvae develop inside the mosquito over the course of the next 10 to 14 days. Then, when the mosquito bites your puppy, it transfers some of the larvae into your dog’s bloodstream where they travel to your puppy’s heart.

The larvae develop into adult heartworms over the next six months, and they can spread throughout the body to the other organs. At this point, your puppy may show symptoms including reduced exercise tolerance, persistent cough, loss of appetite, and unexplained weight loss. If the problem is treated, your puppy can develop even more serious symptoms including lung disease, organ damage, and even heart failure. Unfortunately, because it usually takes six months for symptoms to manifest, by the time you notice them it could be too late. This is why it is important to prevent heartworm in the first place. You can start puppies under seven months with a monthly heartworm preventive, though you’ll want to have him tested six months later just in case. If your puppy is over seven months, you’ll need to have him tested for heartworm before starting treatment and then tested against six months later.

Grooming Tips for Dogs

Never skip out on properly grooming your dog.

In addition to making sure that your puppy has a healthy diet and sees the vet on a regular basis, you’ll also need to care for his coat at home. Depending on the type of puppy you get, you may have to brush your puppy’s coat on a daily basis, or you may be able to get away with just some weekly maintenance. Longer coats tend to require more frequent grooming than short coats, though coats of any length can shed. Brushing or combing your puppy’s coat is the best way to keep shedding under control, and it will help to distribute the natural oils produced by your puppy’s skin that help to keep his coat soft.

Grooming Supplies

In terms of what kind of supplies you’ll need for grooming your puppy, you should invest in a quality brush, a wide-tooth comb, and a shedding rake. You’ll use the brush for daily brushing and, if your puppy has a long coat, you may need the comb to work through tangles and mats. If your puppy has a double coat, the shedding rake will help to remove shed hairs from the undercoat before they fall to the floor. There are many different kinds of grooming tools, so you may want to talk to a professional groomer about the best tools to use for your puppy’s coat. It also isn’t a bad idea to take your puppy to a professional groomer so you can watch him groom your puppy once – this is the best way to learn how to do it yourself.

Trimming and Bathing

Golden Retriever Puppy taking a bathIf your puppy has a long coat, you may also have to trim it occasionally. Again, having a professional groomer show you how is usually the best way to go. Your other option is to simply have your puppy professionally groomed very 4 to 8 weeks, depending on how fast his coat grows. You may still need to brush your puppy’s coat at home, and might also need to bathe him once in a while. When bathing your puppy, fill the bathtub with just a few inches of lukewarm water – you might also put a towel down or use a bath mat to keep your puppy from slipping. Wet down your puppy’s coat then apply a small amount of mild, dog-friendly shampoo and work it into a lather. After cleaning your puppy’s coat, rinse it well then use a towel to dry it.

Ear Care

As you are bathing your puppy, take care not to get his ears or his face wet. Puppies that have flop ears (ears that hang down on either side of the head) have a high risk for ear infections if their ears get wet. Erect ears (or prick ears) are open to the air, so moisture doesn’t get trapped and allow bacteria to grow. To keep your puppy’s ears clean, you’ll want to have some dog-friendly ear cleaning solution on hand. Squeeze a few drops into your puppy’s ear canal then massage the base of the ear with your fingers to spread the solution. Then, use a clean cotton pad or cotton ball to remove any discharge, ear wax, and extra solution. You should clean your puppy’s ears once a week or so.

Oral Hygiene

Not only do you need to keep your puppy’s ears clean, but you should also take care to keep his teeth clean. The thought of brushing your puppy’s teeth may sound silly, but dental hygiene is critical. By the time they are one year old, as many as 30% of puppies have some level of dental disease. For this reason, it is a good idea to start brushing your puppy’s teeth early – it will also be helpful for you to get him used to the treatment at a young age. You’ll need a dog toothbrush and some dog-friendly toothpaste. Start by getting your puppy used to having his mouth and teeth touched using your fingers a few times a day. Then, work up to touching your puppy’s teeth with the toothbrush, then add some toothpaste. When you start brushing, do a few teeth at a time and work up to brushing your puppy’s entire mouth after each meal. Don’t miss these important tips for maintaining good oral hygiene.

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

The final aspect of grooming you’ll need to worry about for your puppy is trimming his nails. If your puppy spends a lot of time outdoors, his nails may stay filed down on their own, but you’ll still want to check. Your puppy’s nails grow continuously, and if they are not trimmed, they could curl under and grow into your puppy’s paws, or they might get caught on something and be torn off. Trimming your puppy’s nails is very easy, though you may want to have a groomer or vet show you how to do it before you try it yourself. Keep in mind that your puppy’s nails each contain a quick – the vessel that supplies blood to the nail. If you cut the nail too short, you could sever the quick and that will lead to excessive bleeding. Just trim the sharp tip off your puppy’s nails once a week or so and keep some styptic powder on hand to stop the bleeding if you cut too far. Learn more about how to do this here.

What to Do with Your Dog When You’re Away

When you are not able to watch your puppy yourself, you’ll still want to know that he is being taken care of. If you work a full-time job, you may have to make arrangements for someone to let your puppy out during the day until he is old enough to hold his bladder for a full work day. A family member, friend, or neighbor are all good options for people who can help you out. If none of these options are available to you, however, you may need to hire a pet sitter. Pet sitters offer a variety of different services. In many cases, they will come to your home – you won’t have to take your puppy anywhere. You can hire the pet sitter to simply come and let your puppy out once or twice a day, or you can hire them to take your puppy for a walk. If you want to, you could also hire a pet sitter to spend the whole day with your puppy while you are away at work. There will be different costs associated with each of these different services. This is also something to keep in mind that relates to your budget.

In some cases, if you are going away for example, you may actually be able to take your dog with you. Click here to read about places where you can bring your dog for vacation, and click here to learn about companies that allow you to bring your dog to work with you!


By now you should have a thorough understanding of what it takes to become a responsible dog owner. Bringing home a new puppy isn’t all fun and games – you must take your responsibility seriously and always keep your puppy’s best interests in mind. Hopefully the information provided here will answer all of your questions and help you to become the best dog owner you can be. Feel free to share this article with your community or someone who may have told you they are interested in getting a dog. You will help them understand exactly what is required of them.

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Close up of dog eating kibble

As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to meet your dog’s basic needs. In addition to walking him and taking him to the veterinarian, you also need to provide him with healthy food. Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t understand even the basics of canine nutrition, so they end up shopping for dog food based on what’s cheap. This is a big mistake and it could end up costing your dog for the rest of his life.

Part One – The Basics

Skip to Part Two | Skip to Part Three | FAQ | Table of Contents

If you want to give your dog the best chance at a long and healthy life, it all starts with quality nutrition – and this is no different with humans. Paws ‘N’ Pups has put together this ultimate guide to help you learn more about why nutrition is so important for your dog and understand what your dog’s nutritional needs are. You’ll also learn about the different types of dog food available, how to read a dog food label, and how to pick a high-quality product for your pooch. In addition, you’ll also receive recommendations for the seven best dog food brands available today. So, keep reading and be sure to share this with other dog owners if you truly care about dogs!

Why is Nutrition So Important?

After a few days following an unhealthy diet, how did you feel?

Think back to a time when you were particularly indulgent regarding your diet. Perhaps you had a weekend vacation where you ate too many rich foods and sweets. Or, maybe there was a time when you were too busy to cook and ate a lot of fast food. After a few days following an unhealthy diet, how did you feel? Did you find it difficult to muster up the energy to get through your day? Did you have a hard time concentrating on things? The foods you eat and the beverages you drink have a direct impact on how you feel and, in the long-term, on your health and wellbeing. The same goes for your dog!

Dietary Requirements

If you want your dog to enjoy a long and healthy life, you need to provide his body with the nutrients required to remain strong. Your dog’s dietary requirements are very different from your own, however – a factor that many dog owners overlook. If you feed your dog nothing but cheap dog food and table scraps, you shouldn’t be surprised if he becomes overweight or if his health starts to deteriorate. The longer your dog remains on a low-quality diet, the more compromised his health will be. You might save money by purchasing cheap dog food now, but you could end up paying the price for expensive veterinary bills and treatments in the future. Not to mention, your dog may not be as active or as happy as he could be if his meals were adequately nutritious.

You probably think of your dog as more than just a pet – he is a member of the family! So, doesn’t he deserve the same respect that you give to your spouse and your children? You care about their wellbeing, so you do what it takes to make sure they stay healthy. Why aren’t you doing the same thing for your dog? Feeding your dog a healthy diet doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. There are plenty of quality dog food brands that are affordable and easy to find – you just have to know where to look and what to look for. Upcoming in this guide, you’ll receive a wealth of information about canine nutrition as well as tips to help you choose the best dog food for your dog.



Foods That Are Harmful to Dogs

Before we get into the details of what you should be feeding your dog, first we will take some time to go over some of the foods you should NOT be feeding your dog. Dogs love to eat, and they will scarf down anything that hits the floor. Unfortunately, there are many “people foods” out there that can be harmful or even toxic to your dog. Your dog doesn’t automatically know what’s not good for him, however, so it’s your job to protect him from these potentially harmful foods. Below is a list of foods that may be dangerous for your dog to consume.

Dangerous Foods for Dogs:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Avocado
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Chives
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Coconut
  • Coconut oil
  • Coffee
  • Cooked bones
  • Dairy products
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Persimmons
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Raw eggs
  • Raw fish
  • Raw meat
  • Salt
  • Salty foods
  • Sugary foods
  • Tea
  • Xylitol
  • Yeast dough

The ASPCA shares more details about some of these harmful foods here. The best way to prevent your dog from eating something that could be harmful is to keep all of your food properly stored in tight-lidded containers. Don’t leave anything out on the counter, even if you think there’s no way your dog could get to it. If your dog consumes something that could be harmful, you should call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435, or your regional animal services center, immediately. Have the food package on hand so you can tell the control center operator what your dog ate and how much. They will be able to tell you what steps to take next. Depending what and how much your dog ate, you may have to take him to the nearest emergency veterinarian. To be proactive, it is beneficial to research this information beforehand, when you first bring your dog home. This way, in the event of any emergency at all, food related or not, you know where you can take your pup for attention.


Understanding the Basics of Canine Nutrition

Dog food is dog food – isn’t it? What’s the difference?

While a bowl full of kibble might not look like the kind of food you serve your family, it contains the same basic nutrients. Knowing what these nutrients are and how much your dog needs of each one is the key to understanding canine nutrition. When it comes to your dog’s nutrition, there are seven primary elements to focus on: protein, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water. Your dog needs each of these nutrients in specific ratios to ensure complete and lasting health. Let’s review each of these nutrients in greater detail.

Important Nutrients

  • Protein – Protein is the most prevalent substance in your dog’s body besides water, and it forms the building blocks for tissues, muscles, cartilage, tendons, skin, hair, and nails. Protein is also essential for various bodily functions such as digestion and hormone production. There are two different categories or proteins – complete and incomplete. It all has to do with amino acids – the building blocks of protein. There are twenty-two different amino acids that your dog needs and his body is able to synthesize twelve of them. The remaining ten must come from your dog’s diet which is why they are called “essential” amino acids. Complete proteins are proteins that contain all ten essential amino acids and they come from animal products like poultry, meat, fish, and eggs. Plant proteins are incomplete proteins because they may contain a few essential amino acids, but not all ten.

  • Fat – Though you may think of fat as the enemy for your own diet, it is a crucial nutrient for your dog. Your dog needs plenty of fat to sustain healthy growth and to support his skin, coat, and kidney function. As is true for your own diet, there are fats that are both good and bad for dogs. Healthy fats are those that come from quality animal-based sources – things like salmon oil or chicken fat. Plant-based fats and oils are not necessarily dangerous for your dog, but they are less biologically valuable – that means that your dog’s body will have a harder time deriving nutrition from these sources.

  • Carbohydrate – The typical human diet is very carbohydrate-heavy because carbs contain the most easily digestible form of energy – glucose. A dog’s body is different than a human’s, however, in that it is designed to derive nutrition more efficiently from animal products. Even so, your dog can absorb some energy (in the form of glucose) from plant foods as long as they are easily digestible. Your dog doesn’t have specific requirements for how much carbohydrate he needs, though as little as 5% of the dog’s total diet is usually sufficient. We’ll go into greater detail later regarding what kind of carbohydrates are good for your dog and which ones aren’t.

  • Fiber – Dietary fiber goes hand-in-hand with carbohydrates because it comes from plant-based sources. Fiber is the part of the plant that cannot be digested – it helps to give stools their bulk so they can be passed through the digestive system and it absorbs water to keep the body hydrated. Too much fiber in your dog’s diet can have a detrimental effect, causing various digestive issues and interfering with the absorption of certain nutrients.

  • Vitamins – Like all living things, your dog needs an assortment of vitamins in his diet. Vitamins are organic substances that can be found naturally in plants and animals – they work together with enzymes in your dog’s body to support a variety of essential functions. Your dog needs a mix of fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins in his diet. Fat-soluble vitamins include Vitamins A, D, E, and K while water-soluble vitamins include Vitamins B and C.

  • Minerals – Minerals are inorganic substances that occur naturally in certain foods – they can also be found in your dog’s bones, teeth, blood, muscles, and nerves. As is true for vitamins, minerals work with enzymes in your dog’s body to support healthy function. Some of the minerals your dog needs include the following: calcium, chloride, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur, and zinc.

  • Water – You may not think of water as a nutrient, but it is, in fact, the most essential nutrient for all life. Your dog’s body is comprised of about two-thirds water, so water is very important! Water plays a role in all of your dog’s essential bodily functions including respiration, digestion, metabolism, and more. Water is what keeps every part of your dog’s body in proper balance. Make sure your dog has unlimited access to fresh water every day. Pay particular attention to ensure that he has fresh water to drink during hot weather and periods of exercise.

Now that you understand the seven nutrients every dog needs and what role they play in maintaining his health and wellness, you might be curious to know how these nutrients make their way into your dog’s food. Before we get into the details of what makes a good dog food good, let’s talk a bit about the specific amounts of each nutrient your dog needs and how those needs might change as he ages. PetMD has a lot of advice to share about dog nutrition as well.


How Do Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs Change with Age?

Difference between Obligate Carnivore and Scavenging Carnivore

You might think of your dog as a carnivore, but that isn’t strictly true. Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they have a biological necessity for meat – that’s what “obligate” means. The term obligate carnivore is sometimes used interchangeably with the word “true” carnivore. While dogs are more carnivorous than herbivorous, they do have a limited ability to digest and absorb nutrition from plant products – this makes them scavenging carnivores. Dogs need to have most of their nutrition come from animal-based foods, but they may eat other foods like fruits, grains, and vegetables in limited amounts. Just look to wild wolves as an example – when meat is scarce, they will eat other foods to survive. Learn more about the difference here.

Protein Requirement

Now that you know that your dog is a scavenging carnivore, you can see how both protein and carbohydrate play a role in his nutrition. Again, most of your dog’s diet needs to come from animal-based sources, but carbohydrates do play a role in ensuring nutritional balance. As you learned in the previous section, protein provides your dog with the building blocks for healthy muscle and tissue, so it is the most important nutrient for canine nutrition. If you want to get into the specifics, dogs require a minimum of 22% protein in a balanced diet for puppies and at least 18% protein in an adult diet. The word “minimum” is important to remember here – the more protein in your dog’s diet, the better.

Fat Requirement

The next critical nutrient is fat. It provides essential fatty acids which help your dog to absorb and utilize certain vitamins, and it also plays a role in supporting healthy bodily function. Another important fact about fats is that they are the most highly concentrated source of energy available to dogs. Protein and carbohydrate contain four calories (a unit of energy) per gram while fats contain nine calories per gram. Ideally, most of the fat in your dog’s diet should come from animal sources, and he needs a minimum of 8% fat as a puppy and 5% as an adult in a balanced diet. Again, less is more when it comes to this nutrient, but only to a certain point. Puppies and small-breed dogs have higher needs for fat than adult dogs and large breed because the fat provides extra calories to sustain their growth and metabolism. Too much fat, on the other hand, can lead to being overweight and obesity.

Other Nutrients

As carnivorous animals, dogs do not have any specific requirements for carbohydrate in their diet. Plant-based foods do provide your dog with carbohydrate energy as well as essential vitamins and minerals. But you must remember that your dog is biologically adapted to digesting animal products more than plant products, so his carbohydrate intake should be limited. Carbohydrates also provide your dog with dietary fiber to support his digestion, but too much fiber could actually cause digestive problems. As a general rule, you shouldn’t feed your dog any dog food product that contains more than 5% crude fiber, or you run the risk for digestive issues. And any carbohydrates in your dog’s diet need to come from highly digestible sources like cooked whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

Life Stage Formulas

If you take a stroll down the dog food aisle at your local pet store, you’ll find that some formulas are marketed for puppies and others for adult dogs – there may even be senior dog formulas. Dog food recipes that are targeted toward a specific age group are called life-stage formulas. Though dogs of all ages have the same basic nutritional requirements, the ratios may change a little bit with age. For example, puppies may need more joint and bone supporting nutrients and protein to support their rapid growth and development. Adult dogs need a balance of protein and fat to sustain lean muscle mass and energy without tipping the scales toward excess calorie consumption. Older dogs still require plenty of protein but may need lower levels of fat as their metabolisms slow down – they may also benefit from vitamins and minerals that promote healthy bones and joints, regular digestion, and eye health.


Part Two – How to Choose a Food and Understand Ingredient Labels

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What are the Different Types of Dog Food?

Complete and Complementary Foods

When it comes to commercial dog food, there are many different types. Most types of dog food, however, can be grouped into two categories: complete and complementary. Complete dog foods are those that are considered nutritionally complete, providing all of the nutrients dogs need in the required amounts. Complementary foods are those that are not considered nutritionally complete. They may be used as treats, meal toppers, or supplementary foods but should not be your dog’s staple diet. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the governing body that decides which dog foods are complete and complementary. They have created detailed nutrient profiles for dogs in various life stages, and every commercial dog food must be tested and approved prior to sale. Complete dog foods come in many different forms, but the most common types are reviewed below.

Most Common Types of Dog Food

  • Dry Food – This is the most common type of commercial dog food, and it is generally the kind preferred by dog owners. Dry food is made by compiling and mixing raw ingredients, then cooking them while forcing the blended mixture through a device known as an extruder, which cuts the mixture into small bite-sized pieces known as kibbles. The quality of dry dog food varies greatly according to the ingredients used and the manufacturing process. Dry foods have the advantage of being very shelf-stable and convenient to feed.

  • Wet Food – The second most common type of dog food, wet food usually comes in cans, trays, and pouches. Wet food is cooked at high temperatures, but it has higher moisture levels than dry food. It comes in many different forms including patés, gravy, chunks, shreds, and more. Again, quality varies widely according to the ingredients used and the manufacturing process.

  • Semi-Moist Food – This type of dog food used to be more common, but it has largely been replaced by dry food and wet food. There are still some semi-moist foods, however, though they are mainly used as treats, meal toppers, and supplements. Semi-moist dog food usually consists of soft pellets that have a chewy texture, and they tend to be packaged in sachets rather than cans.

  • Fresh/Raw Food – In recent years there has been a surge in the popularity of fresh and raw food diet for dogs. Many of these products are designed to mimic the natural diet of wild wolves through the inclusion of fresh meats as well as cartilage, muscle meat, organs, and raw bone. Many dog owners have also begun to make their own fresh or raw dog food at home. The benefit of this type of food is the quality of the ingredients and the exclusion of artificial ingredients like chemical preservatives. The difficulty is that they don’t last as long and need to be refrigerated. If raw foods are not handled carefully, they can easily spoil and cause your dog to become very ill.

  • Frozen Raw Food – Frozen raw food is similar to fresh raw food, but it comes in frozen patties or loafs. The benefit of this type of food is that you can store it longer in the freezer than in the refrigerator and you can thaw only as much as you need. Freezing the food negates the need for artificial preservatives as well.

  • Freeze-Dried/Dehydrated Food – Another popular alternative to fresh raw food is freeze-dried dog food. In most cases, this type of food is prepared fresh and then either freeze-dried or dehydrated to remove moisture. This preserves the natural nutrition content of the raw ingredients but renders the product shelf-stable for greater convenience. Freeze-dried foods can usually be fed as-is, but dehydrated foods may require reconstitution with water or broth.

While these are the main types of dog food you’ll find at your local pet store, there are other options that fall in between these main categories. Keep reading to learn more about how to read a dog food label to help you decide which type of dog food is the best option for your canine companion. Also, you may want to check out some tips from The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association.


How to Read a Dog Food Label

Now that you know a little more about the different types of dog food and you have a deeper understanding of your dog’s nutritional needs, you have a background of knowledge on which to base your understanding of dog food labels. As previously mentioned, The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is responsible for overseeing the manufacture and sale of pet foods. There are certain requirements which a pet food label must meet, though regulations are much laxer for pet foods than they are for people food. Knowing how to extract relevant information from a pet food label is the key to making a smart and healthy choice for your dog. If you just want to get a general idea for the quality of a product, there are three main things to look for when reading the label:

  • AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy
  • Guaranteed analysis
  • Ingredients list


As you already know, AAFCO has established specific nutrient profiles for pets in different life stages. Before a dog food product can be put on pet store shelves, it must pass testing by AAFCO to ensure that it meets the requirements of their nutrient profiles. If the product is nutritionally complete, the package will carry a statement along the lines of the following, “[Product Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages.” If you see this statement on a bag of dog food, you can rest easy knowing that it will provide for your dog’s nutritional needs. You need to keep in mind, however, that the presence of such a statement does not necessarily indicate that the product is of high quality.

Guaranteed Analysis

The next place to look on a dog food label is the guaranteed analysis. This is simply a breakdown by percentage of the food’s crude protein, fat, and fiber content as well as moisture content. You should take these percentages and compare them to what you’ve learned about your dog’s nutritional needs to ensure that the product will not just meet, but exceed his minimum requirements. Remember, puppies need a minimum crude protein content of 22%, and adult dogs need at least 18%. Puppies need at least 8% fat, adults need at least 5%, and there should be no more than 5% crude fiber.

Dry Matter Basis

You should be aware that you might need to make some adjustments to these values in order to make a direct comparison between two products – in particular between dry food and wet food. Dry dog food usually contains about 10% moisture while wet foods contain up to 82% moisture. The amount of moisture in the product affects the way the other nutrients are measured. To make a direct comparison, you have to convert the values you find in the guaranteed analysis to the same moisture content. This is referred to as converting the food to dry matter basis. Here is a formula to help you make these conversions: [ % Ingredient ÷ (100% – % Moisture) ] x 100 = Dry Matter Basis. Make sure when you input the percentage numbers, that you are using decimals correctly. For example, 10% should be 0.10, 100% should be 1, 5% should be 0.05, and so on. You can try out this dry matter basis calculator if you prefer.

Basically, you figure out how much dry matter there is and divide the percentage of each nutrient into that value to find the different dry matter contents. Once you have these values for both products, you can just make a direct comparison to see which one is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. You should also compare the fat contents, keeping in mind that puppies need extra fat to support their growth and small-breed dogs may need more fat to fuel their fast metabolisms. Again, however, remember that the values you see in the guaranteed analysis are not necessarily an indication of quality. A value of 35% protein is great, but if it comes primarily from plant-based sources, it might not be as good for your dog as a formula with less protein but all from meat-based sources.

Ingredient List

The best way to judge the quality of a dog food product after checking the AAFCO statement and the guaranteed analysis is to review the ingredients list. The list of ingredients is arranged in descending order by volume – this means that the foods at the top of the list are used in the highest volume. Typically, you’ll see various meats and meat meals in the first few slots, followed by carbohydrates and fats. After these main ingredients, you start getting into supplementary ingredients like sources of dietary fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, oils, supplements, and additives. You want to read the entire list, if you can, so you can get a complete feel for the product. Don’t just look at the first five ingredients – you might miss something that appears lower on the list that could harm your dog.


How to Identify a Low-Quality Dog Food Brand

There are some ingredients that you never want to see in your dog’s food. Read the label!

Having a basic understanding of how to read a dog food label will help you to make the distinction between a low-quality and a high-quality brand of dog food. Before getting into the details about what you want to see in a quality product, we will take some time to talk about what you DON’T want to see in your pet’s food. In a way, it is easier to narrow down your options by eliminating as many choices as you can upfront based on their nutrient content and ingredients. Having a mental list of red flags to look for will really help you to narrow down your search quickly. Here are some of the red flags you should be looking for when shopping for dog food:

Red Flags

  • A high-quality source of animal protein is not the first ingredient on the list.
  • Corn, wheat, or soy ingredients are listed within the first five ingredients.
  • The ingredients list includes several plant proteins (like pea protein or potato protein).
  • The product seems to be a store brand or a bargain brand.
  • Sources of meat or fat are not explicitly named (“chicken meal” is better than “poultry meal”).
  • There are too many plant-based fats and oils, not enough animal-based fats.
  • The carbohydrates used are not highly digestible for dogs (this includes processed grains).
  • There are a number of ingredients with names that sound like chemicals and are hard to identify (excluding vitamin and mineral supplements).
  • The product contains artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
  • The ingredients list includes one or more by-products or by-product meals.
  • There are too many synthetic supplements, or the supplements are not a digestible form.
  • The ingredients list is very long and not packed with high-quality ingredients.
  • The package doesn’t state that the product is made in the United States.

One thing you need to remember about low-quality dog foods is that the manufacturer is probably doing everything he can to keep his own costs down. That means using more plant-based ingredients, especially grains like wheat and corn. But pet food manufacturers can be tricky sometimes, especially when it comes to the practice of ingredient splitting. As you already learned, ingredients lists for pet food are arranged in descending order by volume. Sometimes, to make a low-quality ingredient appear lower in the list (therefore giving the higher quality ingredients the top slots), manufacturers will “split” certain ingredients into separate ingredients.

Splitting Ingredients

For example, instead of simply listing corn as an ingredient, the manufacturer might break it down into separate ingredients like whole grain corn, corn flour, and corn gluten meal. By breaking the ingredients up, the volumes are reduced enough that higher quality ingredients can rise to the top of the list. Using this example, the first five ingredients on the list might read, “chicken meal, whole grain corn, corn flour, corn gluten meal, chicken fat”. If you didn’t split the corn ingredients, however, it might read, “corn, chicken meal, chicken fat” and so on. Do you see how it works now? Be on the lookout for evidence of ingredient splitting while evaluating pet food products.


Tips for Choosing a High-Quality Dog Food

Ingredient Sources

Now that you know what NOT to look for in a high-quality dog food, you will be able to better understand what goes into a good pet food product. First of all, you need to make sure that the product has been AAFCO tested and approved, then check the guaranteed analysis to see how much protein, fat, and fiber is in the product. As long as all of those things check out, you can then move on to the ingredients list. Though you should definitely read the entire list, you can get a pretty good feel for the quality of a dog food product by evaluating the first ten ingredients (sometimes even the top five). These are the ingredients used in the highest volume, so they will have the greatest effect on your dog.

Difference between Meat and Meat Meal

When perusing the top ten ingredients on the list, you want to see a high-quality of animal-based protein as the first ingredient. Protein is the most important nutrient for your dog so that only makes sense. High-quality sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and seafood, and it might be fresh meat or meat meal. The word “meal” here sometimes worries dog owners because they aren’t sure what it means. A meat meal is simply fresh meat that has been cooked to remove moisture, and that means that it is actually a more highly concentrated source of protein than fresh meat, since fresh meats contain up to 80% moisture by volume. When fresh meats are cooked, then, they lose a lot of that volume, and it might turn out then that other ingredients take a higher slot on the list (if the list was ordered by the volume of ingredients after cooking).

Animal and Plant Protein Sources

In the same way that you want to see a crude protein content above the bare minimum, it also doesn’t hurt to see several sources of protein at the beginning of the ingredients list. What you should look out for, however, is plant proteins. Things like pea protein and potato protein come from plants, as you can tell by the name, which means that they are less biologically valuable for your dog – he won’t derive the same quality of nutrition from those ingredients as he would from an animal protein source. Low-quality pet food manufacturers sometimes use plant proteins to increase the protein content of their product without actually adding more meat – fresh meat is much more expensive than plant proteins.

Carbohydrate Sources

After making sure that the product lists an animal source of protein for the first ingredient (or maybe the first couple), carbohydrates are probably going to come next. Remember, you want a maximum crude fiber content of 5%, and any carbohydrates should come from highly digestible sources. Some of the best carbohydrates for dogs include whole grains (like oatmeal or brown rice), starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes or potato), or beans and legumes. You should be aware that beans and legumes contain plant proteins as well, so double-check to make sure that there is plenty of animal protein on the list, just to be sure. If your dog is sensitive to grains, you may want to choose a grain-free option which will most likely be made with starchy vegetables, beans, or legumes.

Fat Sources

The next nutrient to look for on the ingredients list is fat. As was mentioned before, you might think of fat as unhealthy, but it actually provides your dog with a concentrated source of energy. Just like protein, you want to see animal-based sources of fat instead of plant-based sources to ensure maximum nutrient absorption. For example, salmon oil is preferable to canola oil. You also want to make sure that the ingredients come from named sources – chicken fat, not poultry fat. Many dog food recipes only include one primary source of fat, but some contain several. What really matters is the quality of the fat. You might also check to see if the ingredients listed provide a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Read the Whole Ingredient List

For many dog food recipes, protein, carbohydrate, and fat will make up most, if not all, of the top ten ingredients. You should still take a quick look at the rest of the list, however, to make sure there aren’t any surprises. You’ve already learned about the red flags to look for, but there are certain beneficial ingredients you should keep an eye out for as well. Vitamin and mineral supplements are used in most commercial pet foods to help ensure nutritional balance. You should know, however, that synthetic supplements offer more limited bioavailability for dogs than natural sources for the same nutrients. For example, your dog’s body would better absorb vitamins from fresh fruit than from synthetic supplements. It is always good, however, to see chelated minerals on an ingredients list. These are minerals which have been bound to amino acids to increase absorption. It’s also good to see probiotics on the list, usually in the form of dried fermentation products.


What are the Best Dog Food Brands?

All of this information might feel overwhelming, but with the help of this guide, you will be able to get through the variety of choices with ease.

If you head to your local pet store and wander down the dog food aisle, you will come to find that there are dozens of different brands to choose from – and that’s just at one store. If you do an online search for dog food, you’ll find hundreds of results. All of this information might feel overwhelming. But you should know by now that not all dog foods are created equal – some brands simply aren’t worth feeding your dog because they are made from low-quality ingredients that are likely to do more harm than good. Which the knowledge you’ve been gaining from this guide, you will be able to work your way through the variety of choices with ease.

Now that you understand your dog’s nutritional needs and know how to read a pet food label, you are properly equipped to make a smart choice when it comes to your dog’s diet. If you still need some help deciding where to start your search for a quality dog food, however, here is an overview of the top seven dog food brands on the market today.

Blue Buffalo

One of the most recognizable brand names in the pet food industry, Blue Buffalo is known for producing high-quality, natural pet foods for dogs and cats. This brand started simply with just a recipe or two, but it has grown to encompass four individual product lines, plus a line of veterinary diets. Blue Buffalo uses only natural ingredients like high-quality protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats to ensure nutritional quality and balance in every recipe. Their recipes are also formulated with LifeSource Bits – a proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help maximize your dog’s total-body health and wellness. In terms of their products, Blue Buffalo offers four main product lines. The Life Protection Formula features all-natural recipes for dogs in different life stages and breed sizes. The Freedom line features grain-free recipes and the Basics line features limited ingredient diets. The Wilderness line is meat-rich and loaded with quality proteins.


This company follows the tagline, “Pet food made by pet people” which speaks to their passion and love for pets. The Canidae company is based in California, and they make it their goal to create the highest-quality, most nutritious products for pets. This company has been producing dog food since 1996, and they have won a variety of awards over the years. Not only are they family-owned, but they support other family-owned businesses and source their ingredients from local suppliers. Regarding their products, Canidae offers several different product lines. The Grain-Free PURE line features grain-free formulas made with meat-rich proteins. There is a Limited Ingredient Diet line which features simple recipes for dogs with sensitive stomachs, including several small-breed specific recipes. There is also the Under the Sun line of products which features grain-free recipes at an affordable price point. The Life Stages line includes recipes for dogs in different life stages and of various breed sizes.

Nature’s Variety

The name Nature’s Variety really suits this brand because they offer a wide variety of different products, all made with natural ingredients. Nature’s Variety is based out of St. Louis, Missouri, and they own their own manufacturing facilities. This brand is passionate about providing pets with the nutrition they need to live long, healthy lives – they are also dedicated to helping pet owners make the smartest choices for their pets. Nature’s Variety has two different brands – the Prairie brand of affordable natural dog foods and the Instinct brand of premium natural recipes. Nature’s Variety Instinct dog foods come in many shapes and forms including traditional dry food, wet food, freeze-dried food, and raw frozen food. Nature’s Variety also offers Instinct Raw Boost which consists of grain-free kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites. There is also a line of high-protein formulas and a line of limited ingredient diets.


The Oriijen brand is based in Canada, but their products are sold throughout the United States. This brand offers an assortment of dry dog food, freeze-dried dog food, and freeze-dried treats – they don’t currently offer any wet food products. Orijen is known for producing “biologically appropriate” diets for dogs and cats – formulas designed to nourish their bodies in accordance with their evolutionary adaptation to a diet that is rich in meat and protein. All of Orijen’s recipes feature premium proteins like free-run poultry, wild-caught fish, nest-laid eggs, and ranch-raised meats. For dry dog food, Orijen offers the eight recipes for puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs – there is even a healthy weight formula. There are three freeze-dried dog food recipes to choose from, each of which offers the nutrition and flavor of raw food with the convenience of dry food.

Taste of the Wild

This brand understands that dogs are descended from wild wolves and that their bodies are still adapted to that kind of wild diet. All of Taste of the Wild’s products are grain-free and made with premium-quality ingredients in meat-rich, nutritionally balanced recipes. This brand is dedicated to ensuring nutritional integrity for all of their ingredients and they use healthy supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics to ensure nutritional balance and easy digestibility. Taste of the Wild dog foods come in both dry food and wet food form, using premium-quality meats like roasted bison, roasted venison, and smoked salmon. They offer an assortment of adult dog foods as well as a few options for puppy food. All Taste of the Wild products are guaranteed to not just meet but exceed your dog’s nutritional requirements.


The Wellness brand of dog food is owned by WellPet, the same company that produces Holistic Select and Eagle Pack pet foods. Wellness follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition, using only the freshest natural ingredients in formulas designed to nourish your dog’s whole body from the inside out. This brand offers their customers the “Wellness Difference” which promises wholesome, natural ingredients with a boost of super nutrients and probiotics. They don’t use any artificial additives and their recipes are full of natural flavor. When it comes to their products, Wellness offers several different product lines. The Complete Health line of products features life stages and breed-size recipes formulated with healthy, natural ingredients. Products belonging to the CORE line are naturally grain-free, and the Simple line features limited ingredient diets. Wellness also offers a line of baked dog foods and plenty of different options for treats and meal toppers.

The Honest Kitchen

The Honest Kitchen is a California-based dog-food company that produces and manufactures all of their own products. This brand is unique because they offer minimally processed foods for dogs and cats. Their products are dehydrated, not cooked at high temperatures, so more of the natural nutrient content of the raw ingredients is preserved. In fact, many of The Honest Kitchen’s recipes contain fewer than a dozen main ingredients. In addition to providing high-quality dog foods, The Honest Kitchen also offers their customers the “Honest Difference” which promises 100% human-grade ingredients, whole foods, and a variety of health benefits. If you are looking for a high-quality diet for your dog, but you don’t want to give him ordinary kibble, consider The Honest Kitchen.



Part Three – Tips and Advice

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Feeding Tips for Puppies and Adult Dogs

One thing many dog owners do not realize is that small-breed dogs actually need more calories than large-breed dogs, but there is an important distinction to make here. Large dogs may need a higher number of total calories, but small dogs need more calories per pound of bodyweight. Take for example a 110-pound Mastiff and an 11-pound Boston Terrier. Dogs need an average of 30 calories per pound of bodyweight, so the Mastiff might need more than 3,000 calories per day while the Boston Terrier only needs about 330. If you do the math, you’ll find that the Mastiff needs just 27 calories per pound of bodyweight while the Boston Terrier needs closer to 30 – or more. Small-breed dogs need up to 40 calories per pound of bodyweight on average while large-breed dogs may only need 20. It depends on their size, age, breed, and activity level.

If you notice that your dog is starting to gain an unhealthy amount of weight, you might need to cut back on his food.

So how do you know how much to feed your dog? First of all, you should consider feeding your dog a recipe formulated for dogs of his size – that means a small-breed formula for small dogs and a large-breed formula for large dogs. Then, simply follow the feeding recommendations on the pet food label according to your dog’s age and weight. Keep in mind that your dog’s calorie needs may vary so you should keep track of your dog’s weight and body condition for a few weeks while following those recommendations. If you notice that your dog is starting to gain an unhealthy amount of weight, you might need to cut back on his food a little bit. On the other hand, if he loses weight or starts to become lethargic, he may need a little bit more to eat.

Age and Weight

Not only do you need to think about how much you are feeding your dog, but you should also think about how many meals to give him and when. Puppies need to eat more frequently than adult dogs in order to sustain their growth. Many dog owners choose to feed their puppies freely – keeping a bowl of food available at all times. This ensures that your puppy gets the food he needs, but if he starts to grow too quickly, you might need to switch to rationing his meals. This applies in particular for large-breed puppies. You might be able to go back to free-feeding your dog when he reaches his adult size as long as he is able to regulate himself. If he starts to overeat again, however, you might need to switch back.

Make a Feeding Schedule

Dogs thrive on routine, so you should try to establish and stick to a daily schedule for your dog’s meals. If you have a small-breed dog, you should probably give him three meals a day to sustain his metabolism and energy levels throughout the day. For larger dogs, however, two meals are usually sufficient. You can adjust your dog’s meal schedule to fit with your own schedule, but most dog owners prefer to give their dogs a morning and an evening meal. You may also find it helpful to schedule your dog’s dinner at the same time as your own. This can help to cut down on begging behavior at the table if your dog is busy eating his own meal. It will also help you to remember to feed your dog, though most dogs never let their owners forget a meal!

Switching to Adult Food

In addition to knowing how much and when to feed your puppy, you also need to know when it is time to make the switch to an adult dog food. Puppy foods are formulated with higher levels of protein and fat than adult foods because puppies need extra protein and energy to grow. You want to make sure, however, that your puppy doesn’t grow too fast – this is where small-breed and large-breed puppy foods come into play. Small-breed puppy foods are actually higher in calories and fat than large-breed puppy foods because it is dangerous for large-breed puppies to grow too quickly. Large-breed puppies have a longer way to go toward their adult size, and if they grow too quickly, there may be an additional strain on their bones and joints that will predispose them toward musculoskeletal issues as an adult.

So how do you know when to switch your puppy to an adult dog food? The right time to make the switch will be different for each dog. What it comes down to, however, is your dog’s expected adult size. You should be tracking your puppy’s growth to make sure that he is growing at a healthy but not excessive rate – you should also have an estimate of where you expect your puppy’s growth to top out. This will be based on his breed and the adult size of his parents. As you track your puppy’s growth, calculate the point at which he will reach 80% of his expected adult size – that is when you should make the switch to an adult food. And remember, if you are feeding your puppy a small-breed puppy food, feed him a small-breed adult food as well.


Tips for Helping a Dog Lose Weight

Is My Dog Obese?

When you see a dog with a round belly, your first thought might be that he looks cute. What you may not realize, however, is that obesity is extremely dangerous for dogs. Think about it this way – you probably eat somewhere around 2,000 calories per day, but your dog might only need a fraction of that, depending on his size. When you eat a snack for an extra fifty calories, it might not make much difference for you, but an additional fifty calories could be very significant for your dog. A gain of even a few pounds can be considerable, and once your dog gains the weight, it can be tough for him to put it off. Extra weight means that it’ll be harder for him to exercise and, let’s be honest, dogs love their food – he won’t like going on a diet.

Obesity in Dogs

If you think that your dog needs to lose a few pounds, it would be a good idea to check with your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to help you determine whether his weight gain is due to overfeeding or if it might be due to some kind of health problem. If it’s a health issue, your dog might need a special diet or medication to resolve the issue. If it’s simply a matter of overfeeding, that’s relatively easy to correct, but you will have to be consistent about not giving your dog too many treats and about making sure that he gets enough exercise every day. It’s a fine line to walk because you don’t want to give your dog too little food either. Otherwise, that could lead to unhealthy weight loss.

Weight Loss for Dogs

To help your dog lose weight, you need to start by determining his ideal weight. Talking to your vet and researching the average weight for dogs of your dog’s breed are good places to start. Once you know your dog’s ideal weight, you can calculate his daily calorie needs. There are calculators online that you can plug in your dog’s age, weight, and activity level to determine his calorie needs. Many calculators include an option for weight loss, so find one that does to determine your dog’s ideal daily calorie range. Then, all you have to do is find a healthy weight formula dog food and use it to meet your dog’s daily calories needs by referring to the feeding instructions on the package.

Healthy Weight Dog Formulas

If you are trying to help your dog lose weight, you need to be careful about the type of dog food you choose. Don’t just go to the pet store and pick out any healthy weight formula – you still need to read the label to determine whether it is a high-quality product for your dog. Many low-quality healthy weight formulas are overloaded with fiber and too low in protein. The best way to support your dog’s healthy weight loss is to find a recipe that contains plenty of protein to maintain your dog’s lean muscle mass with limited fat content to control calories. Your dog still needs plenty of protein and healthy nutrients in his diet, no matter whether he is growing, maintaining, or losing weight.


How to Transition Your Dog onto a New Food

How to Change Foods

Dogs are notorious for having sensitive stomachs, and there is nothing worse than a sick dog. If you are considering switching your dog to a different dog food, do yourself and your dog a favor by making the transition slowly instead of all at once. Your dog’s digestive system is delicate, and a sudden change in diet could throw things out of whack. Not only will that make your dog miserable, but you’ll find yourself cleaning up everything from vomit to diarrhea. It simply isn’t worth it to skip the important step of transitioning your dog onto the new dry dog food. Before making any changes, you should consult your vet for their advice.

Switching Dry Food Recipes

Generally, if you do it right, transitioning your dog from one recipe to another should only take 5 to 7 days. Some dogs are a little more sensitive than others, however, so pay attention to how your dog is progressing and make adjustments to the timetable if needed. You’ll want to start by mixing about 25% of your dog’s new food in with his old food. Maintain that ratio for two days while keeping an eye on your dog’s reaction. If you don’t notice any digestive problems or other adverse reactions, mix 50% of each recipe for another day or two. If your dog is still adjusting well, move on to 75% of the new food and 25% of the old food for days 5 and 6, then make the 100% switch on day 7. If at any point in the process your dog develops digestive problems, go back to the previous level for a few days until symptoms disappear. If symptoms continue, consult your vet.

Dry Food to Wet Food

Switching your dog from one dry food recipe to another is one thing, but making the switch from dry food to wet food can sometimes be tricky. Dry dog food has the added benefit of helping to scrape your dog’s teeth clean of plaque and tartar, but some dogs need more moisture in their diet or a softer food. In many cases, dogs make the switch from dry to wet food very easily, but you still need to take time with the transition, because wet food may be too rich for your dog’s stomach to adjust to quickly. This transition process may take longer than the switch from one dry food recipe to another.

Start by mixing a little of the wet food in with your dog’s dry food for a week until he adjusts. Then, gradually increase the amount of wet food every few days until you’ve made the switch. Keep in mind that wet food is more calorie-dense than dry food, so your dog might not need as much of it to meet his daily calorie needs. To determine how much wet food to feed your dog, follow the feeding recommendations on the can according to your dog’s age and weight. Keep an eye on his weight and activity level over the next few weeks to see if any adjustments are needed. You might need to scale back if your dog gains too much weight. On the other hand, if he loses weight or energy, you might need to feed him a little more. Just remember that a little wet food goes a long way.


Advice About Using Dog Treats

Should I Use Treats?

Another aspect of your dog’s diet that needs to be controlled is his consumption of treats. Treats are an important tool for training and for those times when you want to give your dog a bit of indulgence. But many dog owners make the mistake of over-using treats, much to their dog’s detriment. It is important to realize that dogs have a much lower need for daily calories than humans and even a small excess of calories can lead to unhealthy weight gain fairly quickly. Once your dog gains the weight, it may be difficult for him to lose it, so it is best to avoid this problem in the first place by being proactive.

Treats During Training

The time when you are likely to use dog treats most heavily is during training. When you are training a new puppy, you’ll probably be putting him through multiple daily training sessions – that’s a lot of treats! This is why it’s crucial that you choose your training treats wisely. Training treats should be nothing more than a very small bite for your dog – just a few calories. And you should only use the treats for as long as your dog needs to get the hang of a new training sequence. Once he understands the command and starts to respond consistently, you should scale back the treats but keep up with the praise to keep your dog motivated to perform.

Avoid Overusing Treats

Another trick you can try to avoid overusing treats during training is to schedule your training sessions to coincide with meal times. If you train your puppy at lunch time, you can use pieces of kibble as his food rewards – that way you aren’t feeding him any excess calories, but he still gets the food reward he wants. And don’t forget to be lavish with praise. Your dog wants to please you and praising him excitedly when he responds correctly tells him that he is doing just that. The more you praise your dog for doing well, the more eager he will be to repeat the behavior in the future. That’s the true key to positive reinforcement training for puppies.


What Should I Know About Veterinary Diets?

Are Veterinary Diets Healthy?

If your dog develops a health problem, you’ll probably take him to the vet for a checkup. In addition to providing whatever medical treatment your dog needs, your vet might also suggest that you switch him over to a veterinary diet formulated to support dogs with that particular problem. Pet food brands like Hill’s Science Diet and Purina offer prescription diets for dogs, and it is very common for veterinarians to sell them in their offices. What many dog owners do not realize, however, is that most of these products are very low in quality and they may not even address your dog’s dietary concerns. Veterinarian doctor Jodie Gruenstern shares her thoughts on prescription diets and why she no longer uses them in her practice.

Read the Label

Before you feed your dog a prescription diet, make sure you read the label and go through the process you’ve already learned to determine whether it is a good product or not. You may be surprised to find that many veterinary diets are loaded up with low-quality fillers like corn, wheat, and soy – they may not even contain any actual meat. Plant proteins are very common in prescription diets, and these recipes are often loaded up with fiber – more fiber than your dog really needs. Don’t fall for marketing schemes or assume that just because these products are expensive, that they are good for your dog.

High Quality Veterinary Diets

Though many prescription diets are not ideal for your dog, there are some high-quality dog food brands out there which also offer veterinary diets. For example, Blue Buffalo has a line of natural veterinary diets which can be used to support the health of dogs with a wide variety of medical problems or specific dietary needs. You’ll still need a prescription for these products but, if you’re going to feed your dog prescription dog food, it’s better to go with a quality brand. In the long run, feeding your dog a high-quality dog food is probably better for his health than any prescription diet.


Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Food and Nutrition

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By now you should have a much more thorough understanding of dog food, but you may still have some questions. Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions about dog food as well as their answers.

Q: Which type of protein is best for my dog?

A: In general, animal-based proteins are better for dogs than plant-based proteins. This is true for a number of reasons. For one thing, your dog’s body is biologically adapted to deriving nutrition more efficiently from animal products than plant products. Also, meat and other animal proteins are complete proteins which means that they contain all ten essential amino acids that your dog needs. When it comes to specific proteins like chicken or turkey, however, there is no right or wrong. Some dogs develop allergies to common meats like chicken and beef, but not all dogs do. In general, lean proteins like game meat are better for some dogs, but it’s mostly about what your dog likes and what he can tolerate the best.


Q: Is it possible to feed my dog too much protein?

A: When you are shopping for dog food, you want to find a recipe that goes above and beyond your dog’s minimum needs for protein. But is there such a thing as too much protein in your dog’s diet? If your dog eats more protein than his body can use, some of the excess will be excreted in his urine, and the remainder will be burned for fuel (calories) or stored as fat. Extra protein is not usually a problem for a dog unless he suffers from kidney problems.


Q: What’s the difference between meat and meat meal?

A: When you see an ingredient like “chicken” on a dog food label, you can assume that it means fresh muscle meat. Fresh meats like chicken can contain as much as 80% water by volume, so, when the final product is cooked, a lot of that moisture cooks out – this could mean that the final volume of protein that chicken has to offer ends up being a lot lower. Meat meals, on the other hand, are simply meats with the water and fat removed. The dried meat is generally ground into a powder and used as a concentrated source of protein in dog foods.


Q: How do I know how much to feed my dog?

A: There is no simple answer to this question because each dog’s individual needs for energy and nutrients might be a little bit different. Your best bet is to choose a formula that is designed for your dog’s size, a small-breed or large-breed formula, as well as his life stage, puppy, adult, or senior. Then, follow the feeding recommendations on the package as a starting point. In most cases, these recommendations are based on age and weight, so you’ll need to know these things about your dog. Follow the recommendations closely for a few weeks without giving your dog too many extras like treats and table scraps. Watch his weight and body condition, then decide if you need to make changes. If your dog loses weight or has a reduction in energy, you might have to feed him a bit more. If he gains too much weight, however, you might need to cut back.


Q: Is it okay to mix dry food and wet food?

A: There are pros and cons for both wet food and dry food. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what you want to feed your dog and up to him to decide whether to accept it. Dry food is usually the easiest and most convenient option, though wet food is sometimes more appealing to dogs. If you want to give your dog the benefits of both, you could feed him a staple diet of dry food and supplement it with a small amount of wet food mixed in. That way your dog will get the benefits of wet food without compromising the benefits he gets from his dry food.


Q: Can I give my dog table scraps from time to time?

A: Some people foods are safe for dogs, but many that aren’t. If you’re going to give your dog table scraps, make sure it isn’t any food from the harmful foods list provided above and make sure that it is low in sugar, fat, and salt. It is much better just to feed your dog treats that are made from high-quality, dog-safe ingredients.


Q: What is the proper way to store my dog’s food?

A: As a general rule, you should never buy more dog food than your dog can finish in about four to six weeks. Over time, the nutrients in your dog’s food start to break down, so it won’t be as high-quality a diet for him if you let that happen. When it comes to storing dog food, it is best to keep it in the original bag and place the whole thing inside an airtight container. Opened cans of food should be covered with a lid and kept in the refrigerator for no more than 2 to 3 days. You’ll need to consult the package for other kinds of pet food such as freeze-dried, raw, or frozen food.


Q: How is puppy food different from adult dog food?

A: Puppies and adult dogs have the same basic needs for nutrients, though the ratios are different. Puppies have a higher need for protein and fat than adult dogs, and they need certain vitamins and minerals in different amounts. To make sure that your puppy gets the nutrients and energy he needs to grow and develop properly, you should feed him a size-specific puppy food. Switch to a size-specific adult dog food when he reaches about 80% of his expected adult size.


Q: How do I know my dog is getting enough to eat?

A: It is always a good idea to monitor your dog’s weight between vet visits because you may not notice immediate changes in his energy levels or eating habits. If your dog starts inexplicably losing weight, it could be an indication of health problem that you should get checked out. One way to monitor your dog’s diet and to know if you’re feeding him enough is to check his body condition score – this is simply a visual scale used to evaluate a dog’s body weight and composition. A dog with a healthy body condition score will have a noticeable waist and abdominal tuck. There should be a thin layer of fat over the ribs, but not so thick that you can’t feel them. If your dog’s ribs are visibly protruding and he has little visible muscle mass, he has an unhealthily low body condition score. On the opposite end, if he has large fat deposits with no waist or abdominal tuck, he has a high body condition score, and that too is unhealthy.


Q: What is the difference between a dog food allergy and a food intolerance?

A: A food allergy is an immune system response to food that the body mistakenly identifies as a harmful substance. A food intolerance triggers a gastrointestinal response to a particular ingredient – symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, or digestive upset. A food intolerance, on the other hand, is more likely to cause skin problems or recurrent ear infection – things you might not immediately associate with a food allergy.



Q: What is a limited ingredient diet?

A: Also known as a LID, a limited ingredient diet is a type of dog food that is made with a smaller number of ingredients to help reduce the risk of triggering food allergies and sensitivities in dogs. Many LIDs are made with novel sources of protein and carbohydrate – ingredients that your dog hasn’t had before – because new foods have the lowest risk of triggering a reaction. If you suspect that your dog has a food allergy, you might switch him over to a LID for a few months until his body recovers from the allergy. At that point, you can introduce potential allergens one at a time until you find the one responsible, or you can keep feeding him the LID.


Q: Should I consider making my own dog food?

A: You certainly have the option of making your own homemade dog food, but it may be more complicated that you imagine. Your dog needs a precise blend of nutrients in his diet to maintain his health, and it might be tricky to achieve that balance with homemade dog food. If you do choose to make your own dog food, be sure to use a recipe that is approved by a vet or an animal nutritionist to ensure that it is properly balanced. It is usually easier, and probably safer, to just go with a reputable commercial dog food.


Q: Which type of dog food is the best?

A: There is no right or wrong answer to this question – it really just depends on your dog’s preferences as well as his individual needs. Most dog owners prefer dry dog food, though some dogs do better on wet food diets due to the increased moisture content and the flavor or palatability. If you are judging by quality, consider that all dog food manufacturers are different and you can’t always assume that the dog food that has the prettiest pictures or the biggest type is the best option. You need to take what you’ve learned here and apply it to search for and find the best dog food for your dog.


Q: What are the benefits of raw dog food?

A: The main benefit of raw dog food is that the ingredients are still in their natural form – they haven’t been exposed to high temperatures or damaging manufacturing processes which might destroy some of the nutrients. The problem with raw foods is that there’s a high risk of spreading food-borne illness or bacteria and that it doesn’t stay fresh as long as dry food. You can purchase freeze-dried raw food to enjoy the benefits of raw food with the convenience of dry food, or you can try frozen food and just thaw as much as your dog will eat in a day or two.


Q: If my dog needs to lose weight, can I just feed him less?

A: Theoretically, the answer to this questions is “Yes” but you need to be careful. Cutting your dog’s food intake too much could compromise his nutrition, and that’s not something you want to do. If your dog only needs to lose a pound or two, it might be better just to give him more exercise and cut back on treats. If your dog needs to lose a significant amount of weight, however, you might think about switching to a healthy weight formula in addition to increasing his daily exercise and limiting treats. Talk to your veterinarian before making any such changes to your dog’s diet or exercise habits.


Q: How can I tell if my dog is overweight?

A: Dogs of a certain breed don’t all weigh the same – there is a weight range that, to some extent, is impacted by breeding. If your dog is overweight, however, you will be able to tell. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs through his skin or if you see that he no longer has a discernible waist, he may be overweight. You might also notice pads of fat over the hips and at the base of the tail, and he might waddle when he walks. Overweight dogs may also have trouble moving or exercising, and they might be short of breath. Some dogs also become bad-tempered when they gain too much weight.


Q: What should I do if my dog develops digestive problems when I switch foods?

A: You should always take the time to transition your dog onto a new dog food, even if the same company makes it. Start by mixing a small portion of the new food into your dog’s regular food and slowly increase the proportion of new to old food over the course of a week. If your dog develops digestive problems, go back to the previous step and stay there for another day or two until your dog’s symptoms clear up. At that point, you can try again to move forward. Scroll above for a more detailed explanation and instructions on how to switch your dog’s food.


Q: What should I look for when shopping for dog treats?

A: It is just as important to buy your dog high-quality dog treats as it is to feed him high-quality dog food. The same rules and regulations apply to dog treats as to dog foods, so the process of comparing products is similar as well. You want to find dog treats that are made with meat as the first ingredient. In fact, you can find meat-only treats – this is a great option for dogs. There is no real reason to buy treats that contain fiber unless you are using them to supplement your dog’s fiber intake. Otherwise, he’ll be perfectly happy with a meat-based treat.


Q: Is it okay to make my own dog treats?

A: Yes, you can definitely make your own dog treats at home. It is generally safer to make your own dog treats than to make your own dog food because your dog will still have his nutritional needs met by a properly formulated dog food product. If you do choose to make your own dog treats, first make sure that all of the ingredients are safe for your dog.

Hopefully, by now, you have a thorough understanding of why quality nutrition is so important for your dog and how to choose a good dog food. If you want your puppy to enjoy a long and healthy life, it all starts with a healthy diet! Do not underestimate the importance of a high-quality dog food and make a commitment to yourself and your dog to buy the highest quality dog food you can consistently afford. Your dog will thank you for it! If you are looking for more reading material, considering visiting the American Veterinary Medical Association and browsing their resources.

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Dog Reading Books

Whether you own an excitable puppy, a disobedient dog, or an old dog who needs to learn some new tricks, you may be wondering how to train your dog? If you want to train your dog but aren’t sure where to begin, this post features some relevant information to get you off to a successful start. Properly training your dog is always the way to go – that means dedication, positive reinforcement, and lots of patience! Learning how to train your puppy correctly is crucial. Read on for helpful training tips.

The Benefits and Importance of Dog Training

Dog training is beneficial for many reasons, but it’s especially important for socialization, obedience, safety, and forming a meaningful bond with your canine companion.

Socialization means exposing your dog early and often to a variety of people, places, animals, sights, and sounds. Helping your dog experience a variety of positive interactions builds confidence, lessening the chances of social anxiety or aggression in adulthood. Socialization is one of the most important factors of your dog’s development.

It’s important not to force your dog into interactions that make him uncomfortable, as this can actually have a negative impact. Instead, begin learning your dog’s boundaries. Allow him to observe different types of animals, people of different age groups, and several different settings. Ultimately, this will lead to a comfortable and confident dog who can properly handle any and all social interactions.

When your dog is properly socialized, you can rest easy knowing that your dog will interact appropriately with children, older adults, other pets, and more. You don’t have to worry about unfamiliar situations causing your dog to feel uncomfortable and respond with excessive aggression or timidity. Learn more about socializing your dog and see an extensive list of ways to socialize your puppy in our ultimate guide for first time dog owners.

Of course, training is also essential to teach your dog obedience. Your dog needs to know that you are in charge and that you maintain the control in your relationship. Many dog breeds have a tendency to try to assert dominance, and proper training can teach your pet that this is not acceptable.

Training can help curb inappropriate behaviors ranging from chewing furniture, jumping on people, leash pulling, aggression, excessive barking, and more. Naturally, this will make life with your dog a happier, less stressful experience for both of you.

Helping your dog learn proper behavior is also key to the safety of your dog and others around him. For example, you can teach your dog not to run into the road or chase after cars and passing animals. You can train him not to be aggressive with others and to obey your cues in social interactions and daily life.

This will prevent your dog from engaging in behaviors that may be dangerous or harmful to himself or others. Training can also benefit your dog’s mental health, which will lead to better overall happiness, health, and safety.

Lastly, properly training your dog can help foster a strong bond between you and your pet. When you train your dog with positive reinforcement and gentle guidance, a trusting relationship is formed. Training demonstrates that you care about your dog and want him to be happy and safe. You will be repaid with his undying loyalty and obedience as a result of good training. If you can train your dog without using force or intimidation, you’ll have a well-behaved dog and a lifelong bond.

Types of Dog Training

If you want to train your dog but don’t have experience, it’s best to attend a class or hire a professional. Watching YouTube videos or reading a few articles may not be enough to train your dog effectively on your own. Training a dog is a lot harder than it might seem if you’ve never done it before. It’s easy to become frustrated because the process can become tedious sometimes. Some dogs are more intelligent than others, so while some dogs will pick up on your commands very quickly, other dogs will require more repetition.

That being said, there are several different types of training available, such as general behavioral training, basic obedience, and specialty training with professional trainers.

General behavioral training is ideal for puppies and young dogs who have no training experience. These classes are sometimes labeled as “puppy kindergarten” and focus on socialization and helping dogs build confidence in unfamiliar situations.

Behavioral training may also address common behavioral issues such as housebreaking, chewing, and inappropriate barking, and your dog may learn some very basic commands.

Potty training is pretty self explanatory. Your puppy needs to be potty trained immediately once you bring it home, so it does not go to the washroom in your house! Expect your puppy to have some accidents in the house during the initial week or two, but this behavior will cease quickly as you work on potty training.

Obedience training is slightly more advanced and teaches key commands like sit, stay, and lie down. Younger dogs can usually succeed with obedience training as well, and classes typically begin by addressing and resolving any behavioral issues.

There are usually multiple levels of obedience courses. Your dog can learn to walk on a leash, come when called, manage distractions, and build a variety of skills.

If you want your dog to compete in dog sports, you may be interested in the more advanced agility training. Before attempting this type of course, your dog should have mastered basic obedience and commands. These courses generally teach skills needed for obstacle courses, jumping, or racing and involve more challenging drills.

Similarly, you can enroll your dog in vocational training to learn how to perform jobs such as hunting, search and rescue, herding, or guiding and assisting people with disabilities. Like agility training courses, these courses shouldn’t be attempted until your dog has a basic foundation of proper behavior and obedience.

You can also enroll your dog in private training with a dog trainer. These lessons are best for dogs who don’t work well in group settings, or if you’d like to build a personalized plan for your dog’s individual behavior and training needs, and have all of the trainer’s attention solely on your pup.

Additionally, if your dog has developed any issues, such as very excessive barking, overly aggressive behavior, or depression, it’s best to see a professional rather than attending a more general class.

Typically, a private trainer will come to your home or meet you at a partner facility. They will work with you to understand your dog’s personal needs and set goals. You can also work toward specialty training or certification if interested, and a professional can help you understand what is required of you and your dog.

Private classes are more expensive than group classes, but they can be extremely effective and beneficial, especially for dogs with very specific needs.

You can choose whatever type of training is best for your dog, but young, inexperienced dogs should start with general behavioral training and obedience training through group classes or in private sessions with a professional. If you are a new dog owner, group classes may be beneficial for you as well, because you will be able to connect with other dog owners.

Obedience Training: What to Expect

First, you should start training early for best results. Puppies can start training as early as 7-8 weeks, and they learn best up to 12 weeks of age. It’s never too late to start training your dog, but training is much easier before an older dog has learned bad habits.

All dogs are trainable, but some dog breeds are more receptive to training than others. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to read up on how your pet’s breed responds to training, so that you know what to expect. Before signing up, you should also make sure all check-ups and vaccinations are up-to-date for your dog.

You can sign your dog up for classes through the American Kennel Club, the Animal Humane Society, pet supply stores, or through programs offered locally. Your best bet is to start with an online search and carefully read ratings and reviews.

You can also ask for recommendations from your breeder, veterinarian, dog groomer, or other dog owners. Look for a place with valid credentials, a proven track record, and friendly staff. Consider sitting in on a class or two to make sure the program seems like a good fit for your dog.

If you observe a class, look for signs that the instructor genuinely likes dogs and people, appears to understand that different dogs have different personalities and needs, and gives clear advice. See if the dogs and dog owners seem to be happy and enjoying the class. If you get a chance, try talking to some of the owners about their experience with the trainer and course.

Once you’re enrolled in obedience classes, you can expect your dog to learn skills such as coming when called, sitting, staying, lying down, not pulling on the leash during walks, and not barking or chewing excessively. The class will also provide your pet with opportunities to socialize with other humans and dogs.

You’ll learn how to use positive reinforcement, encouragement, and treats to train your dog, rather than using harsh or intimidating techniques that often cause dogs to respond with even more stubbornness and misbehavior. This will help you build a positive, strong relationship with your dog that will result in better overall behavior.

Most obedience classes are held weekly for 7-10 weeks, and many locations offer several levels of obedience courses. The cost of these programs varies. A group class may cost $50-$125, while private sessions are closer to $30-$100 per hour. Classes can be more expensive for older dogs, and private trainers may charge more for a dog with serious behavior problems.

For best results, you should practice the skills learned in class while at home. Use short, upbeat training sessions, and utilize the positive reinforcement techniques taught in obedience class. Experts recommend that you take your dog to obedience school every 2-3 years to continue enforcing correct behavior.

Dog Trainers in Pop Culture

You may be familiar with the following dog trainers, who have their own TV shows, websites, and published books.

Cesar Millan has hosted the shows Dog Whisperer and Cesar 911, and currently stars in Cesar Millan’s Dog World. In 1990, when Millan first immigrated to the United States from Mexico, he was homeless and made ends meet by grooming dogs.

Quickly, he earned a reputation for his ability to calm even the most disobedient dogs. After working a variety of jobs, Millan made enough money to start a freelance dog rehabilitation service, eventually opening his Dog Psychology Center.

On his latest show, Millan and his son Andre travel throughout the United States, helping dog owners deal with severe behavioral issues, assisting organizations devoted to helping dogs, and highlighting canine heroes.

Victoria Stilwell is an English dog trainer who previously appeared as a judge on Greatest American Dog. She now hosts It’s Me or the Dog, a dog training show on Animal Planet.  Stilwell’s passion and expertise lie in positive reinforcement dog training.

In the 1990’s, Stilwell started a dog walking business and realized that many of her clients needed professional dog training assistance. She began learning about dog training from some of England’s most respected experts. After moving to the United States, Stilwell founded several successful dog training companies with her husband.

Her TV show, It’s Me or the Dog, features Stilwell helping families learn to manage their misbehaving dogs. She observes the family, provides her professional opinion on their dog’s behavioral issues, and then works with the family to resolve the problem.

Brandon McMillan is an animal behaviorist and animal trainer who hosts the Emmy-award winning show Lucky Dog. Although McMillan trains many celebrity pets, his true passion is rescuing the most difficult dogs from his local animal shelter.

On Lucky Dog, McMillan rescues dogs and brings them to Lucky Dog Ranch, his training facility, where he teaches appropriate behavior before finding a loving family to adopt each dog. McMillan uses a three-step training strategy he calls “Control, Train, Treat.” He focuses on the seven most common commands and can turn a dog’s behavior around in as little as seven days.

Dog training isn’t always easy, but any dog can be trained with patience, positive reinforcement, and consistency. Whether you sign your dog up for group obedience classes or one-on-one lessons with a professional, learning to properly train your dog will result in increased comfort, confidence, safety, and happiness for you and your pet.

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A dog factory? Does that really exist? How could that be possible?

A dog factory is also known as a puppy mill or a puppy farm. As the names suggest, the focus is on producing as many dogs as possible.

What exactly is a dog factory?

A dog factory or a puppy mill is a dog breeder who has one main objective: selling dogs for profit.

  • They do not care about the health or well-being of the dogs or the breed in general
  • They are trying to get their parent dogs to reproduce puppies as quickly as possible
  • The conditions in which they are breeding the dogs are usually very poor
  • The socialization period required when a dog is a puppy is usually neglected and sometimes completely skipped

As you can see, they take short-cuts that can be detrimental to the dog and it’s health in the long run. Since they are trying to reproduce dogs as quickly as possible and sell them for a profit, they really do not care about what happens to the dogs in the long-run.

How do you make sure you don’t buy your puppy from a dog factory or puppy mill?

Here are some things to watch out for:

  1. They have numerous dog breeds for sale as they are only breeding for profit and are not interested in the well-being of any of the breeds
  2. They will not let you see the parents of the puppy
  3. They may want to meet up in a public place instead of allowing you to visit their kennel and seeing where as well as the conditions in which the parents and puppies live
  4. No paperwork is available or provided
  5. No vaccinations have been completed

Be aware and educated about responsible breeding practices. Here are some tips on how to identify a responsible dog breeder.

Share this to help raise healthier dogs.

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Cutting your dog’s nails can be a real battle. Many dogs are resistant and get uncomfortable as soon as they see the clippers. Some whimper and whine during the entire manicure process. But as a good dog owner, you know that it’s important to cut your pup’s nails. So what can you do?

We’ve broken down the nail cutting process into four easy steps. Following our guideline, not only will the nails get done, they will get done right!

  1. Have the Right Tools
    Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Don’t bring the wrong clippers for your dog’s nails! Now, we’re not trying to scare you. If done correctly, clipping your dog’s nails shouldn’t be much of a battle. And making sure there is no fight, starts with bringing the right tools.

    First and foremost, you should buy quality clippers. Don’t use scissors, a knife, or even human nail clippers. Nail clippers that are designed for dogs are made to safely cut through thick nails. They also have handles that are structured for a proper grip. The AKC recommends a few options for dog owners who aren’t sure where to begin.

    In addition to good clippers, you will also need something called styptic powder. This essential product is a loose powder that is specifically designed to stop excessive bleeding. Cutting a dog’s nail too close can cause bleeding, but dabbing the end of the nail with styptic powder will stop the bleeding in its tracks and prevent infection. This means less blood loss for your dog – and less mess for you.

    It’s never a bad idea to bring a second pair of hands. Some dogs are very squirmy when getting their nails cut, and having another person there who can gently hold the dog steady can be very helpful. Ask a friend or family member to help you cut your dog’s nails.

    Last but not least, treats! Keeping the nail cutting experience positive and gentle is essential. For dogs that are food motivated (and that’s many of them) there is no better way to encourage positivity than through food. Try using pieces of kibble if you are concerned about calorie intake.

  2. Make it a Positive Experience
    The key to a successful nail cutting session is keeping the experience positive. Encouraging good feelings often starts before even a single nail gets cut.

    It’s not uncommon for a dog to be sensitive to people touching their paws. It’s best to start slow, by simply touching and petting your dog’s paws. When your dog allows you to pet and touch their nail area, give them a treat. And don’t forget to give tons of praise. Show your dog that good things happen if they allow their nails to experience contact.

    When your dog feels comfortable having their paws pet, it’s time to bring in the nail clippers – but not to trim nails yet – start by simply introducing your dog to the clippers. Let them sniff them, and give them treats when they get close to the clippers. Touch the clippers to your dog’s paws, and give treats when they remain calm. You want your dog to understand that nail clippers equal a positive experience.

    During the actual nail cutting process, continue providing plenty of praise and treats. Often treats can be a great distraction if your dog feels anxious getting their nails cut. Feeding your dog slowly with your hand will keep your dog interested in the food as well as distracted.

    And remember: never scold. Above all, you want to keep the nail cutting process gentle and positive. Staying patient will encourage your dog to warm up to the experience.

  3. Know How Far to Go

    Before you cut any nail at all, it’s important to know how far to cut. Every dog’s nail has what is known as a “quick” inside of it. The quick is a blood supply that extends from the foot into the nail. If your dog’s nails are trimmed regularly, the quick won’t extend very far into the nail. Love That Pet has a great diagram of what a quick will look like in a dog’s nails.

    When trimming your dog’s nails, you don’t want to cut the quick. Though the overall damage is very minor and does not require a vet visit, the quick will bleed quite a bit. It can also cause stress and minor pain in your dog if their quick is cut. So how can you know how far to cut?

    If your dog has clear nails, you will be able to see a faint pinkness inside of the nail. That is the quick! You can cut the nail close to the end of that pink area. How about if your dog’s nails are black? The best method is to cut small pieces of the nail off at a time. When you’ve gotten close to the quick, you will see a small black dot in the middle of the tip of the nail. Keep checking the end of the nail for this black dot. Once you see it, you can stop cutting.

    Your dog may also exhibit signs of stress. Fidgeting, whimpering, and even nipping can occur if your dog is uncomfortable with the nail cutting process. Hold the nails gently, without pulling on them to reduce your dog’s discomfort. It’s also important to never cut a nail that has grown fully into your dog’s foot pad. If the nail is lodged in the foot, you need to seek veterinary attention.

    Sometimes dogs will whimper or wriggle simply because the experience is new. Stay patient, persistent, and positive. If you are being gentle, have not cut the quick, and your dog has no other injuries, they shouldn’t be feeling any pain. Continue clipping the nails normally.

  4. Know When to Call It Quits

    Often, the dog decides when it’s time to stop for the day. If your dog is wriggling or whimpering excessively, to the point where you cannot keep them calm or still, it’s okay to stop cutting nails for the day.

    When you first start to cut your dog’s nails, set a goal of cutting only the dewclaws first. Since the dewclaws grow on the side of the paw and never touch the ground, they have no chance of being filed down naturally by walking. Cut these first so they won’t pose a danger to your dog.

    Next, focus on the front paws. Often the nails on the front paws are longer than the ones on the back. This is because many dogs jump up on their hind legs, causing a natural filing down of the back nails. Aim for cutting the nails on at least one paw a day. It’s okay to go slowly. But on the other hand, if your dog is calm, it’s okay to get all four paws done in one sitting.

    Do as much as you can but don’t force your dog to the point of excessive stress! Above all, it’s important to keep the experience positive. Nail cutting becomes a part of a dog’s life no matter what. If it can be stress-free, it should be!

Have you successfully been able to cut your dog’s nails? Maybe you use a different method than the one described above? Let us know!

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Cats vs. Dogs. It’s an age old rivalry. And yet, sometimes we find ourselves in situations where these two “natural enemies” have to get along. But do they have to hate each other? Can’t the two species live in harmony?

The short answer is, yes. It’s possible. Maybe you’ve been thinking about adding a dog to your cat-friendly household. Or maybe you’re thinking your current dog could use a feline friend. Whatever the circumstance, introducing a dog to a cat isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve broken the introduction process into 4 simple steps. Follow these guidelines, and these two enemies will surely become fast friends!

  1. Keep Them Separate for the First Week

    You might be tempted to let your dog and cat hit the ground running and get used to each other quickly, but this can really backfire. The best way to get a cat used to a new dog or vice versa is to keep them in separate areas of the house for about a week. Separation is key to setting both of them on the right track to friendship.

    Both cats and dogs are very smell driven. Without ever seeing each other, cats and dogs can begin to get used to eachother’s presence simply through smell. There are many successful ways to keep your animals separate. Some pet owners choose to keep their cat in a closed off “sanctuary room” that houses their food, water, litter box, and bedding. Other pet owners put up a sturdy baby gate on the staircase, and keep one pet upstairs and one pet downstairs. No matter what you choose to do, be sure the areas are securely closed off. Also make sure each pet has appropriate access to food, water, bathroom breaks, and still gets plenty of love and affection!

    To encourage your pets to familiarize themselves with each other, you can try a process called “scent swapping.” An easy way to do this is to pet one animal for a while, then without washing your hands, go pet the other. The smell will travel with you, and your pets will be able to familiarize themselves with each other from a distance. Another way to scent swap is by frequently switching bedding between the cat and the dog – without washing it! Sleeping and relaxing on something that smells like the other animal will encourage a relaxing first meeting in the future.

    The Animal Humane Society also suggests feeding the animals on opposite sides of the same door after the first few days. Through the bottom of the door, the animals will be able to smell each other and recognize each other’s presence. Feeding them while the other animal is safely nearby encourages a positive association.

    It’s a good idea to use this separation time to teach or reinforce with your dog some basic commands. When your dog and cat finally meet for the first time, it’s helpful to know that your dog will respond when told to “sit” or “leave it.” This can be beneficial to the safety of both your cat and your dog.

  2. The First Meeting

    If your cat is the new comer to the house, give them a chance to familiarize themselves with the layout of the home. Cats can be very territorial, so let your new feline get to know their new territory! Do this without the dog in the house. Take the dog outside for a couple hours and give the cat free reign of the home. Repeat this process a couple times. If your dog is the new comer, put your cat in a “sanctuary room” for a couple of hours while the dog gets to know the home.

    Once both animals are familiar with the home and are familiar with each other’s scent, it’s time for the big first meeting! Always keep your dog on leash and let your cat come and go as they please. Never keep either of the pets in your arms. This could result in injury! For this first meeting, it can be helpful to have at least two people facilitating the introduction: one person to handle the dog, and one person to observe the cat.

    For this first meeting, treats, toys, and other positive distractions are your best weapon. Give your dog simple commands and reward with treats and praise. If and when your dog is calm and ignores the cat, reward with more treats and plenty of praise. This may take some patience as some dogs tend to be very excited around cats!

    Allow your cat to do as they please. They may hide or they may hiss and spit. Use distractions such as toys to discourage aggressive behavior. Encourage your cat to come out of hiding using treats and affection. But don’t force anything! If the cat wants to leave the room, let them. You don’t want to encourage a potentially aggressive situation.

  3. Repetition and Positive Reinforcement

    It may take many first meetings before your cat and dog get used to each other, but be patient! Positive reinforcement is your friend here. Use lots of treats, toys, and praise. Keep the separation zones set up for each animal so they can be confined to their safe space when you are out of the house. This provides peace of mind for you, your dog, and your cat. Keep these zones ready to go until you are 100% certain they get along well.

    Continue to keep your dog on the leash during these meetings. Look for signs that your dog is calm and reward them for this behavior. If fear and aggression continue to be present, it could be beneficial to restart the introduction process by continuing to keep them separated. During the separation phase, wait until both animals are calm and ignore each other’s presence. Then restart the introductions.

    Sometimes animal aggression can be hard to spot, so keep your eyes peeled. Obvious signs from your dog include growling, baring teeth, lunging, or snapping. Often these actions seem to come out of nowhere, but not if you’re vigilant. If your dog is hyper-focused on the cat and not listening to your commands or calls, this is a sign they may be about to make a bad decision. Move your dog away from the cat before that bad decision gets made!

    Cat aggression is fairly obvious as well. Hissing, spitting, arching of the back, and hair standing on end are all signs the cat is behaving aggressively. And if aggressive behavior does occur, do not reach in with your hands to separate them! You could injure yourself by doing so. Use the dog leash to your advantage and separate them that way. Or use toys and treats to distract the cat.

    Your cat may display other signs of unhappiness as well. If they stop eating, stop drinking water, stop using the litter box, or stop seeking human contact, this is a signal your cat is unhappy. If this behavior does not improve early on, consider seeking the help of a professional animal behaviorist.

    Every dog and every cat is different, so this can take a long time. Patience is key! Remember not to speed this process up. Attempting to force the animals to like each other faster can actually create more problems.

  4. Giving Them Freedom

    Finally! It seems like your dog is ignoring the cat and the cat is able to move throughout the house stress-free. Now is the time to let the leash go.

    But not entirely! Because safety is always top priority, leave your dog’s leash on but don’t hold it. Let it drag behind your dog as they greet the cat on their own terms. If the interaction is calm from both the cat and the dog, wonderful! Keep the leash on your dog for a few more days while you are home. This way, if any aggressive behavior does occur, you can easily grab the leash and remove the dog from the situation.

    This new freedom for both the cat and the dog is when you need to be the most vigilant. The Animal Humane Society recommends keeping the “cat sanctuary” set up at all times if tensions do arise. It’s also important to continue to separate the animals when no one is home. If tension is still present, it may be necessary to repeat the “meet and greet” process while rewarding both animals with treats and praise.

    After a few days of calm behavior, you can remove the leash and allow the two animals free reign of the home. Before you know it, your dog and cat will be the best of friends!

Do you have a cat and dog friendship success story? Let us know!

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No matter how much training you intend to devote to your new puppy, one thing is for sure: you have to potty train them! Accidents in the house are bound to happen, but with the right skills – and a lot of patience – you may be able to avoid experiencing a lot of messes. Here are five expert tips on housetraining your puppy that will help you to be done with bathroom accidents – for good!

  1. Keep a Schedule

    Keeping a potty schedule for a puppy is definitely one of the most crucial aspects of training your new bundle of joy. Your new dog is learning every day what their new life with you is like. Keeping a consistent schedule means your dog will learn what you want from them – and they will learn it fast!

    But how do you know what the schedule should be? The Humane Society of the United States says there is a general rule of thumb for creating a bathroom schedule for puppies. Most puppies can “hold it” for one hour for every month of their age. For example, a brand new puppy will be no more than 8 weeks old, or about 2 months old. This puppy will be able to hold their bladder for approximately two hours before an accident occurs. Once your puppy reaches 3 months of age, they should be able to hold it for 3 hours, and so on until they are adults. Create a bathroom schedule for your dog that works within their capabilities. As your dog gets older, these breaks can be less frequent. You may need to hire a dog walker to provide consistent bathroom breaks if you are not home.

    It’s also important to get your puppy on a consistent feeding schedule. The American Humane Association states that if a dog is eating all day, whenever they want to, this will inevitably mean they will be pooping all day. And pooping all day means more accidents that you have to clean up. Create a schedule and stick to it. Make sure you take your puppy outside for a bathroom break after every meal.

    If you are worried that your dog is either eating too much or too little, consult with your veterinarian. They will be able to recommend the appropriate amount of food for every meal. Expect to feed your puppy Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Adult dogs typically only need to eat Breakfast and Dinner. Your veterinarian will be able to provide a healthy recommendation.

  2. Clean Up Messes Thoroughly

    Dogs are extremely smell motivated. According to the American Humane Association, a dog is much more likely to return to the location of a previous accident if it still smells like urine or feces. Because of this, it’s extremely important to clean up the mess quickly and thoroughly!

    To prevent accidents, supervise your puppy as carefully as possible. If you catch your puppy in the middle of creating a mess in the house, interrupt them! But do so without any aggression or creating fear. The Humane Society of the United States suggests making a startling noise or using a corrective word such as “outside!” This will serve to stop your puppy mid-mess. Immediately bring your puppy outside to finish. Then, praise your puppy for going to the bathroom outdoors.

    If you don’t catch your puppy in the act, do not punish them! The mess has already been made and your dog will not understand why you are angry. It is best to clean up the mess as quickly as possible. Your veterinarian or local pet supply shop will be able to suggest cleaning products that are puppy-safe and will completely eliminate odors and stains.

  3. But Leave Messes Outside!

    So how about those messes outside? If your puppy is using the bathroom in public areas such as dog parks or sidewalks, you should absolutely clean up any solid waste. But if your furry friend is pooping in your private back yard? The American Humane Society actually suggests leaving it right where it is!

    This might seem a little gross, but it can be extremely helpful during the housetraining process. As we mentioned earlier, dogs are smell focused and will return to a bathroom spot over and over again if it smells like urine and feces. Why not use this to your advantage?

    In addition to leaving messes where they are, you can even move an accident to the preferred bathroom corner in your yard. The smell of this recent poop will encourage your puppy to return to that spot the next time they have to go to the bathroom. But don’t worry – you don’t need to have a whole pile of dog poop in your yard while potty training! Once your puppy makes a new mess, simply clean up the previous one. This way your yard doesn’t become an eyesore or a danger-zone for bare feet. And once your dog is fully housetrained, you no longer need to leave anything behind.

  4. Consider Using a Crate

    While every well-intentioned dog owner would like to be there for their puppy 24/7, sometimes this simply isn’t the reality. And when no one is available to supervise their fur-baby, it may be time to consider using a crate.

    For some dog owners, the idea of keeping a dog in a crate seems cruel. But in fact, most dogs come to love their crate. Dogs are den animals, and will naturally gravitate towards small spaces that feel safe – even if they don’t have a crate. Crate training also has additional benefits like getting your dog warmed up to jumping in the car with you to visit a friend or the vet.

    So how can a crate help with housetraining? Well, it may surprise you to learn that dogs are actually very clean animals. Unless they are absolutely desperate, they will not go to the bathroom in their crate area. A safe-feeling and comfortable crate becomes their living space, and just like humans, dogs don’t want messes like that in their living space.

    Keeping your puppy in the crate for extended periods will train them to hold it longer, but don’t push this too far. Your puppy will likely scratch or whine to let you know they are ready to come out of the crate and use the bathroom, so let them out. If you wait too long with the intention of teaching them to hold it in, you will likely have an accident on your hands.

    As your puppy matures, the crate can be an excellent place for your fully grown dog to rest while you are away from the house. Your dog will feel safe while you are gone, and you will have peace of mind knowing that an accident will not occur while you are away.

  5. Plenty of Positive Reinforcement!

    Training a puppy is tough, no matter what skill you are attempting to teach them and potty training is no different. Positive reinforcement might seem like an especially silly thing to do after your dog uses the bathroom, but do it anyway. Let your dog know that you are happy to see them doing the right thing. Reinforcing this message will go a long way during the training process.

    It is also important to stay away from negative reinforcement while potty training. If you continuously punish your dog for performing normal bodily functions, you could end up with a very confused and upset dog. Staying calm, firm, and patient can be difficult sometimes, but keep it up! When done calmly, housebreaking your puppy should only take a few weeks.

  6. How did you housetrain your puppy? Did it go smoothly? Or was it a challenge? Share your stories with us!

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At face value, the dog park seems like a dream come true. Your dog can run around off-leash, socialize with other dogs, and you hardly have to lift a finger! Amazing, right? Well, not entirely. The dog park can get a little crazy sometimes. With so many excited dogs in one area, accidents are bound to happen. It’s important that dog owners learn proper dog park safety before taking their dog there. Think of it like preparing for the playground with a child. Here are five tips and tricks to arm yourself with before taking the leap and heading to the park with your pup.

      Visit the Vet

      Elementary schools require children to be fully vaccinated to keep all children safe and healthy. The same rule applies to dogs at the dog park! It’s important to keep your dog in top health before playing with a group of dogs.

      The number one thing you can do for your dog’s health is to stay up to date on vaccinations. During your yearly visit to the vet, your veterinarian will update all the necessary shots to maintain your dog’s health. Staying up to date means your pet will not be vulnerable to diseases that could be contracted at the park. This is particularly the case for young puppies, states the Animal Humane Society. Young puppies will not have all of their vaccinations before a certain age and therefore are more susceptible to disease. Until all vaccinations are administered, the dog park is not recommended.

      It’s also important to never take a sick dog to the park – you don’t want to spread illnesses to other dogs! One common and highly infectious virus found in dogs is papillomavirus. Papillomas appear as a wart, most commonly on a dog’s lips and gums. They are usually relatively small and have a rough appearance – almost like the head of cauliflower. These warts are highly contagious to other dogs. Any pup with papilloma virus should stay be kept away from other dogs. It usually takes between one to five months for papilloma to clear. However Papillomas are not contagious to humans or animals that aren’t dogs, so you and your pup can continue life as usual.
      If you suspect your dog may have papilloma, take them to the vet to run a test. The vet will be able to confirm the presence of papilloma and recommend treatment. And until your dog is in the clear, the dog park will have to wait!

      Know Your Dog

      Just like you wouldn’t take a shy friend to a rowdy party, you shouldn’t take your shy or anxious dog to the park. The dog park can be a crazy place. There may be a lot of high energy dogs present, which can be overwhelming for some pups. That’s okay though – there are ways you can build your dog’s confidence.

      One important skill to practice with your dog is coming to you when called. The Animal Humane Society recommends practicing this as often as possible, with positive reinforcement each time your dog does as they are told. When a dog consistently comes when called you have the power to avoid all sorts of potential conflicts at the dog park. It will also make your dog feel safe knowing you are there to set the ground rules.

      If you’re not confident that your dog will feel comfortable around unfamiliar dogs, consider starting with play dates before going to the park. Talk to friends and neighbors and see if they are willing to schedule one with you. You can also enroll your dog in a training class before venturing to the park. This will not only expose your dog to many new friends but will also build a solid relationship between you and your dog. With a good background in basic commands and training skills, you and your dog will already have an edge on safety – and fun – at the park.

      Stay Vigilant

      The dog park is not the appropriate place to set your dog free and completely check out. Socializing with other dog owners is great, but always keep one eye on your dog. It’s important to stay aware of your dog’s body language, as this awareness can prevent accidents.

      This vigilance should begin the moment you enter the park. Often, the gate you enter the park through will become crowded with dogs as you arrive. Other dogs are excited to meet your pet, which is great! But this could quickly become overwhelming. Once you feel that it is safe to do so, let your dog off of its leash. This will allow your dog to communicate with the other dogs without your intervention. It also gives them a chance to run away from the overcrowding if it’s too overwhelming.

      Once inside the dog park, remember the training you and your dog have worked on! To demonstrate to your dog that you are there to keep them safe always remain calm and assertive. Watch how your dog is interacting with the other dogs – and trust your gut. If their behavior looks off, it’s okay to pull your dog away from a situation and give them a chance to calm down. And don’t feel bad about leaving the park earlier than you intended to. It’s always better to leave early than to stay too long and become part of an accident.

      Another reason to stay vigilant is so you can clean up after your dog. Dog parks do not have a cleaning service, so it is your responsibility to clean up after your dog. As a courtesy to other dogs and dog owners, it’s best if you clean it up as quickly as possible. Always bring bags with you in case the dog park does not provide them.

      Don’t Rely on Other Dog Owners

      While you and your dog may have a fantastic training relationship, this may not be true for all dog owners. Some dog owners may be dealing with a brand new dog or a dog who has behavioral issues. On the other hand, some owners may not have an understanding of dog behavior or simply do not care to learn. It’s best to remove your dog from any situation that may seem threatening. Don’t worry about offending another dog owner. Better safe than sorry!

      In a letter to a frustrated fan, Cesar Millan stresses the importance of maintaining a strong and disciplined presence for your dog – even when another owner is not. Continue to intervene in ways that you know are correct based on training you and your dog have gone through together. And who knows – other dog owners may follow your lead!

      Prepare for the Worst

      It’s possible that a fight will break out while you are at the dog park which involves your dog. Don’t panic! The best thing you can do is stay vigilant, calm, and be prepared for this situation to occur.

      Both the Higgins Animal Clinic and the Animal Behavior Associates recommend that dog owners never physically intervene in a dog fight! This means do not reach in and grab your dog by the collar, scruff of the neck, or any other body part in an attempt to break up the fight. This could cause injury to both yourself and the dogs involved. It’s also important not to yell. Though it can be tough to restrain yourself, yelling and shouting can often aggravate the situation.

      A good technique for breaking up a fight is to use a spray bottle full of water. A quick squirt of water on a dog’s head or face (but not in the eyes!) will distract the dog long enough to separate them from the fight. Another good technique is to use a citronella spray or a can of compressed air. The citronella spray will emit an intense smell that is distracting to dogs. The can of compressed air, when sprayed, emits a loud hissing sound that distracts dogs long enough to break up a fight. Consider bringing any of these with you when you go to the dog park.

      It’s also worth bringing a pet first aid kit. Water, bandage wrap, and hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds are simple and effective items to keep with you at all times. For anything serious, always have the number or your local veterinarian or emergency vet saved in your cell phone.

Bonus Tip: HAVE FUN! Don’t forget to smile, play, and have a great time! Remember that the dog park is like a playground. Accidents will happen, but probably not that often. Be fully prepared, and enjoy this special play time with your dog.

Do you go to the dog park with your dog? Thinking of trying it out soon? Share your stories with us!

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Congratulations! You’ve decided to add a dog to your family. You’ve done your research, purchased all the necessities ahead of time, and are ready for this new challenge. Or are you?

Having a dog in your house – no matter how young or how old – poses plenty of new challenges. And your home itself can present dangers for your new dog. Here are five ways you can dog-proof your home and prepare yourself for the new arrival.

  1. Perform the “All-Fours Inspection”
    From a human’s two-legged, upright view of the world, things can look pretty different than what they look like to a dog. The best way to know what might be appealing – or dangerous! – to your dog is to look at your home from a dog’s perspective. That’s right! It may seem a little silly, but walking around on all-fours throughout your entire home will let you know what changes need to be made.

    Notice what kinds of things are left on the floor at dog-eye level. Does it look like something a dog might want to chew on? Find a way to either cover it or store it at human-level. Look out for plastics that a dog could choke on, medications and chemicals that a dog could accidentally eat, and personal items that are expensive or irreplaceable if chewed on or broken.

    Keep an eye out for anything that could pose a danger to your dog, particularly electrical cords. If possible, keep electrical cords unplugged, so the danger of electrocution is minimized. If an appliance must remain plugged in, cover the wires so a dog cannot chew them or become tangled in them.

    Also take notice of all doors and cabinets. If a dog is curious, they can very easily nose their way through a door to an area they shouldn’t be exploring. The American Humane Association recommends investing in childproof latches on all cabinets. They also recommend blocking up any holes such as floor vents that a curious dog may stick their nose into. This can easily be resolved with a secure grate covering the vent.

  2. Cleaning is Your Friend
    Once you’ve done the all-fours inspection, it’s time to start cleaning – and keep it clean! Adding a dog into the mix is a whole lifestyle change, and a new owner should be prepared to maintain a dog-safe home.

    Start by taking all loose items that are on the floor and low to the ground and moving them to secured cabinets and high shelves. Anything you don’t want broken or chewed on should be put away or placed high above a dog’s reach. This includes toys, shoes, clothing, artwork, and anything else a dog may think is an appealing chew toy.

    One of the most tempting items a dog can get themselves into is food. Always clean up any dirty dishes immediately. Never leave food out where a dog can reach it, even if it’s in a wrapper. The wrapper could be a choking hazard to the dog, even if the food itself is safe to eat. It’s also important to remember that the garbage can smell like a feast to your dog. This Old House recommends taking food waste out of the home as quickly as possible. Covering your trash with a layer of baking soda can also diminish the smell, thus diminishing the temptation. And don’t forget to put a secure lid on the trash can!

    It’s also important to get in the habit of closing doors. The bathroom door should be kept closed at all times so your new dog cannot get into any bath products that could be toxic. Keep cabinet doors in both the kitchen and the bathroom latched – especially cabinets that contain medicine or cleaning supplies that could potentially cause harm. The American Humane Association cautions that no bath, kitchen or medicinal products should even be left out where a dog can reach them.

  3. Should You Re-upholster?
    There are no two-ways about it. No matter what preparations you make, dogs will be dogs – and when they are being dogs, they are being messy. To maintain a clean home – and your own sanity – it might be worth considering getting new fabric for your furniture.

    Because of the messes dogs make, one of the biggest considerations for new upholstery is ease of clean up. Designer Annie Selke told This Old House that using indoor/outdoor fabric on indoor furniture can be a big help with this. Fabrics designed for the outdoors repel moisture and dirt, making cleanup very easy. Many of these fabrics are also stain resistant, leaving no trace of the mess your dog just made. And as more and more homeowners seek both form and function in the furniture, many of the outdoor fabrics have a high-end look that is appealing inside the home as well as out.

    Sometimes cleaning is hard to keep up with, so camouflaging the mess may be more your style. Consider investing in leather furniture with a distressed look. Not only is leather easy to clean, but any scratches from dog nails or teeth will only enhance the distressed finish. Or perhaps excessive fur is more your concern. Some dogs shed so much there is simply no way to keep it all vacuumed up. Fabric with an appealing pattern can do wonders hiding all the fur your dog leaves behind.

  4. Don’t Forget the Garage
    Maybe you aren’t in the garage much, but your dog may find all the things stored in there a little too interesting. Remember to check this area of the house for safety, just like you would any other area of the house.

    First, check that all chemicals and tools are safe and securely out of reach. The American Humane Association reminds us to clean all anti-freeze off of the garage floor, in addition to storing bottles in a safe place. Anti-freeze is very toxic, and one curious lick of the floor could prove deadly. It’s also important to store sharp tools away from where a dog might try to play with them.

    Cesar Millan also tells dog owners to move any rat poisons or other toxins that are meant to kill vermin. These poisons are often flavored and made to entice animals into eating them. Even if your dog never goes into the garage, always keep the garage doors shut so a neighbor’s dog can’t wander in and eat the rat poison.

  5. Consider Yard Safety Too
    It’s tempting to think the outdoors are a safe and natural place for a dog to roam free, but this isn’t always the case. Do an outdoor check to ensure your yard is dog-friendly and safe.

    A common but silent threat could very well be the plants growing in your garden or yard. Not all plants are safe for dogs to eat, and any dog owner who has watched a dog eat grass knows that plants can be hard to resist for a dog. Check out the ASPCA’s list of both toxic and non-toxic plants. It’s important to check all indoor plants as well and be sure they are safe for your dog and other pets to be around.

    The RSPCA of New South Wales recommends setting up both a fence and a shelter for your dog in the yard. Even the most well-behaved dog can get themselves into trouble from time to time, exploring a little too far beyond their home. A sturdy fence prevents your dog from getting lost before the problem can occur. It’s also a good idea to have a shelter for your dog. If your pup gets caught in the rain, snow, or even severe heat, it’s helpful for them to have a place they can go to be safe from the elements.

  6. What have you done to dog-proof your home? Do you have any horror stories from a time when you didn’t do any dog-proofing? Share them with us!

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Every dog owner knows that chocolate should never be fed to dogs. Chocolate – and any caffeinated food or beverage for that matter – contains methylxanthines, which are stimulants that trigger the nervous system. The ASPCA warns that this stimulant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, excessive urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death.

A good rule to follow is “the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is.” Dark chocolates have more cacao, and therefore more methylxanthines. But is chocolate the only dangerous food for dogs?

Unfortunately, the short answer is “no.” There are several “people foods” that should always be kept away from dogs to avoid serious illness – and in some cases, death. We’ve made a list of 6 food items that all dog owners should be wary of.

  1. Raw Meat
    Dogs are carnivores, so feeding a dog meat is usually perfectly valid. But while a dog’s ancestors the wolves may eat their meat raw, it is never a good idea to feed your dog uncooked meat or eggs. Just like humans, the Salmonella and E. coli that can sometimes be found in uncooked or undercooked meats can be harmful to dogs. The ASPCA cautions that raw eggs can cause a biotin deficiency in dogs. This is due to an enzyme found in eggs called avidin which decreases the absorption of biotin. This can lead to skin and coat problems.

    It’s also important to note that bones from raw or cooked meat should not be given to your dog. It may seem like a natural choice, but the bones could splinter and cause harm to your dog. A dog also has the potential to choke on the bones if they are small. The AKC says that even though fish can be a wonderful treat for your dog, you should always pick out all of the bones – no matter how small.

  2. Grapes & Raisins

    This one is a bit of a mystery. The toxic substance in Grapes is not currently identified, but the results of consumption are pretty staggering. While symptoms may vary from dog to dog, the most common side of effect of eating grapes or raisins is kidney failure. This can occur even after eating only a small amount, according to the MSPCA. If your dog has ingested grapes or raisins, it may begin showing some symptoms. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, poor appetite, and decreased urine production.

    Seek immediate veterinary assistance if your dog shows these symptoms, and you believe they’ve consumed grapes. Without proper treatment, your dog may experience permanent kidney damage. The Huffington Post states that death from kidney failure can occur in as little as 3 to 4 days. Strangely, some dogs never show any signs of being bothered by grapes. But until the specific toxin is identified, it is best to avoid grapes and raisins completely.

  3. Alcohol
    Perhaps this one should be obvious, but it’s important to note that alcohol should never be given to dogs. This not only includes beverages, but also any foods that contain alcohol, says the ASPCA. Just like in humans, alcohol consumption in dogs can cause vomiting and decreased coordination. In addition to these typical symptoms, dogs also may experience diarrhea, difficulty breathing, a coma, and possibly even death.

    When a dog consumes alcohol it should be treated like they have ingested a poison, whether they ingested it by accident or on purpose. Allowing a dog to drink alcohol should not be done as an amusing activity. Because alcohol is considered a poison for dogs, they should never have alcohol – via beverages or via food.

  4. Onions and Garlic
    These foods are part of the Allium family, and include leeks and chives in addition to onions and garlic. All of these foods have the potential to cause red blood cell damage if consumed in large quantities. The AKC states that the stronger the Allium plant, the more toxic it is to dogs. Therefore garlic should always be avoided – even garlic powder.

    Allium plants like onions and garlic can cause anemia in dogs if enough are ingested. Symptoms of anemia include pale gums, weakness, and even collapsing. The red blood cell damage that these plants cause can lead to kidney failure if too many are eaten. It’s important to watch your dog for several days after it eats any onions or garlic. Symptoms sometimes take a few days to show themselves. But watch closely. If a case is severe enough, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

  5. Macadamia Nuts
    This is actually one of the most poisonous foods you can feed a dog, and also one of the more recent discoveries, according to the Huffington Post. Currently it is unknown what in macadamia nuts actually causes harm to dogs. After ingestion, the common side effects include vomiting, increased body temperature, and lack of coordination. Weakness and the inability to walk may also occur, due to the macadamia nut’s effect on the nervous system.

    The MSPCA says that most dogs will recover from ingestion within 24 to 48 hours, but those hours will be difficult for the dog. Depending on how many nuts were ingested and how your dog is affected by them, permanent damage could occur. Seek veterinary assistance if you believe your dog has eaten macadamia nuts.

  6. Xylitol
    This food is especially important to watch out for because it is an ingredient in many human foods. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, found in gums, candies, and even toothpaste. It is widely used in low-sugar products. And while it may have benefits for humans, in dogs it can be quite harmful.

    According to the ASPCA, Xylitol actually causes an increase in insulin production in dogs. This increase leads to a dramatic drop in blood sugar levels. The first symptoms to watch for include vomiting, lack of coordination, and lethargic behavior. These symptoms can worsen and cause seizures in dogs.

    The MSPCA says that symptoms will begin to show themselves in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion, so seek veterinary help as soon as you can. A veterinarian will have to use a sugar solution to correct the low blood sugar levels. Medication may also need to be administered to help improve liver function.

All dog owners know that sometimes even when we are 100% careful, dogs will get themselves into trouble. This is why it’s important to keep the phone number for your primary veterinarian and a veterinary emergency hospital on hand at all times. Save both numbers in your cell phone. Hang them somewhere prominent in your house, like the fridge. Make sure all family members, dog walkers, and pet sitters have access to these numbers. Also consider saving the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. They are a wonderful resource in addition to your local veterinarian. Always seek professional help immediately if you believe your dog has ingested something harmful.

Have any more tips on what should never be fed to a dog? Let us know in the comments below!

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