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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Where a person lives certainly has an effect on people and their families. But have you ever thought about how it’s affecting your dog? The dog-friendliness of a city varies widely and depends on many factors.

Several studies have been done to determine which cities in the United States are the friendliest for dogs. These studies – which were done by SmartAsset, Realtor.com, and WalletHub – took into account factors like the number of dogs parks, the number of pet friendly restaurants, number of pet caretakers in the city, and a variety of other factors to determine the top dog-friendly cities.

But the lists are all a little bit different. What’s a dog owner to do when different cities show up on different lists? Well, we did the dirty work for you! We compared the three studies – and even compared them to this list by Forbes – to determine the ULTIMATE five cities in the United States that are truly the best for dogs, and you of course!

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada

    You might be surprised to see this city on the list. But we’ve actually featured Las Vegas as a top destination for vacationers and their dogs. So why not take the plunge and move there?

    Vegas was actually the only city from all three studies that was featured in the top ten. This is because they are one of the highest ranked cities for most dog parks per capita and for most pet businesses per capita. As if that weren’t enough, it hardly rains there! No rain means no wet dog smell. And no wet dog smell means a happy dog owner!

    In addition to these great assets, Red Rock Canyon National Park is less than a 30 minute drive from the Vegas strip. Take a break from the night life, and take a hike! With this great balance of outdoor adventure and quality resources, it’s no wonder Las Vegas was featured on every list.

  2. San Diego, California

    San Diego is another city that was featured in every study, but it didn’t make WalletHub’s top ten. But don’t let that turn you off! With its great California weather, multiple beaches, and plenty of hiking spots, this city deserves to be at the top of every dog lover’s list!

    In addition to the natural beauty of San Diego, there are also plenty of dog parks for you and your pup to play in. Add to that the seven dog-friendly shopping areas that feature over 1,000 pet-friendly stores, and you and your pup will never be bored!

    The tricky thing about San Diego is its walkability. But even though it ranks somewhere in the middle for this, there are more than 1,000 registered dog-walkers in the San Diego area. So if you don’t have time to do the walking, another dog lover surely will!

  3. Scottsdale, Arizona

    Scottsdale can be found in the top ten of two of the studies we looked at. The warm weather gives this city a great “outdoor friendliness” ranking. But more than that, pets here are healthy. WalletHub puts Scottsdale in the number one spot for pet health and wellness!

    But life isn’t just about doctor’s appointments. You and your dog are going to want to have some fun! Scottsdale boasts plenty of boutique shops for dogs, specifically for smaller dogs. In fact, they are ranked one of the top cities for most pet businesses per capita! Many of these stores feature designer-inspired products for the fashion forward dog.
    And after a day of shopping, Scottsdale offers plenty of outdoor dining, including 20 bars where your dog can join you for a drink. You and your dog will be living the high life!

  4. Tampa, Florida

    Another city that’s featured in the top ten of two of our studies, Tampa, FL is a fantastic city for dog lovers who crave the outdoors. With plenty of sunshine to be had, you and your dog can take advantage of their many off-leash dog parks all year round. It’s also a great place to live with your pet if you’re on a budget. WalletHub puts Tampa in the number ten spot for pet owners who don’t want to dish out too much cash.

    But some dog owners do like to spoil their pups. Lucky for them, Tampa has plenty to offer in that category. With numerous pet supply shops and boutiques, the dog that craves the good life will be happy in Tampa. And if you’re just shopping for yourself today, you can still bring your dog with you! Many stores in Hyde Park, an upscale, open-air shopping mall, leave water dishes out and supply dog treats for your furry shopping companion. What more could you ask for?

  5. Fort Collins, Denver & Colorado Springs, Colorado

    Because we love our readers, we decided to make the last spot on this list a 3-for-1 deal. Every study we looked at featured a city in Colorado – but each one picked a different city! To us, that meant that most any city in Colorado was going to be dog-friendly. What fun-loving dog could turn down all that outdoor adventure? But let’s take a look at the featured three.

    As expected from cities in Colorado, all three locations are highly regarded for their outdoor activities. Fort Collins has extensive hiking trails, four dog parks, an even areas where water-loving dogs can swim. Denver is noted for being fairly cold, but don’t let that stop you from playing outside! And Colorado Springs is ranked the number two city in the United States for “Outdoor Dog Friendliness.”

    Denver actually boasts one dog park with a unique set up: separate areas for high energy and low energy dogs. This is ideal for social dogs who are seeking friends at their own pace. And Spring Canyon Dog Park in Fort Collins has four separate areas for dogs of different sizes.

So, did we convince you to move yet? Or perhaps now you’re thinking of taking a vacation to one of these doggy paradises? Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever been to one of these cities. We’d love to hear from you – and your dog!

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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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We love our dogs for their wonderful, and often goofy personalities and we try our best to capture these moments through photos and videos. Dogs can say a lot with just one look, but some seem to say more than others. Check out these six incredibly silly dog faces – guaranteed to make you smile today!

  1. “Flashback Face”
    As a dog lover, maybe you’ve seen the show “It’s Me or the Dog” on Animal Planet. If you have, you’ve definitely seen the now-famous dog named “Stains” who appears to be experiencing a severe flashback while staring at a plate of cupcakes in this video.

    Clearly Stains just really wants those cupcakes and is trying with all his might to obey! The internet loved his silly face so much, several spoof videos were made. In this video, dramatic music is played while Stains looks longingly at the cupcakes. The emphasis on how badly he wants those cupcakes makes the face even more hilarious!

    Or how about this “flashback” video? The wide eyes on Stains’ face look as though he’s being reminded of some tragedy that happened to him long ago. Lastly, this video plays that up by making the joke that the sight of the cupcakes triggered war flashbacks.

    No matter what is going on in the dog’s head, we applaud Stains for being so obedient. Good dog!

  2. Marnie the Dog
    This video isn’t so much about the face that the dog is making – it’s about the face that’s always there! Marnie the dog has one of the silliest and cutest faces we’ve ever seen on a dog. This little sweetheart likes to go on adventures all over town, like this trip to Duane Reade she took with her owner.

    And if one adventure isn’t enough for you, check out Marnie’s entire YouTube channel. This little goofball goes all over the place, just loving life as a silly-faced dog! We’re happy to see that Marnie has such a fun-loving family to take care of her. She’s truly living it up!

  3. Best Guilty Face
    All dog owners know the look. You come home to find the trash can tipped over, or the couch cushion torn to shreds and there’s the dog, looking up at you with guilty eyes. The dog knows they did something wrong, but that guilty face is just too much to handle!

    Most dogs have mastered a good guilty face, but have you ever seen a guilty face like this one? Neither have we! This silly dog bares her teeth when she knows she has done something wrong. Perhaps she thinks she’s smiling? We’re not sure, but we know we love it!

  4. Dog’s Reaction to Ear Petting
    Of course dogs love to be pet. From belly rubs to ear scratches, dogs usually get a face a pure happiness when they are getting love and attention and we’re happy to provide it the love!

    Check out this funny face when this dog gets his ear pet – his lip curls in the silliest way that we’re laughing right along with the owner!

    The dog of course seems perfectly happy – perhaps even unaware of what is so funny. Who could complain when they are getting all that attention?

  5. Reacting to Baby News
    Adding a dog to your family can be a big step. Adding a baby to the family is an even bigger step. Delivering the news of a future baby to family and friends can be very exciting, but how are you supposed to break the news to the dog?

    Well this dog isn’t sure he likes what he hears. In fact he seems downright shocked! And who wouldn’t be? Most dogs are used to being the baby in the family. Who wants to share that role?
    We’re sure this silly sweetheart did well with the new baby once he arrived. Congratulations!

  6. This Dog that Says Cheese
    Is it just us, or is taking a picture of your dog never as easy as you want it to be? Once you’ve gotten your dog to sit still, they decide to look the other way. You try bribing them with a treat, and they get too excited. All you want is one adorable picture! What’s a dog owner to do?

    We find ourselves wishing that the dogs we take pictures of were more like this one. The big, goofy grin is infectious. No wonder the dog’s owner is laughing so much! We are too. And truthfully, we might even be a bit jealous. If every dog said cheese on command, we’d all have some pretty adorable family photos!

Does your dog make any silly faces? Know any hilarious videos that we missed? Share them with us!

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Halloween should be a fun time for adults, kids and of course our dogs! Have some fun with your dog this year and create a costume for them yourself. We’ve scoured just about every single do it yourself guide for dog Halloween costumes. Here are the top 11 we found.

Editor’s Picks

A Delicious Cupcake – From LovelyIndeed.com


















Pirate Dog – Jack Sparrow and his Pirate + their Booty! – From Coolest Homemade Costumes – Video guide















Starbucks Dog Costume – From Coolest Homemade Costumes
















Hot Dog Vendor Costume – By Stephanie Lynn

























Unicorn Costume For Your Dog – From the Live Colorful Blog























Fairy Princess Costume For Your Dog – From the Polished Habitat blog




















Little Bad Wolf Costume Dog – Coolest Homeade Costumes














Batman Dog Costume (No-Sew) – From the Sage + Sparkle blog


























Chia Pet – Kitai – From The Flirty Guide blog




















Skunk Dog – Coolest Homemade Costumes














Light-Up Dandelion Dog Costume – Instructables.com by SwitchGirl

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The Boston Terrier has been around since the mid-1800’s and has been recognized by the AKC for almost as long as the breed has been around. Today, the Boston Terrier is the 23rd most popular breed and for good reason! With wonderful personalities, low-maintenance fur, and a compact size, these little gentlemen make excellent companion pets. Read on for our six awesome facts about the Boston Terrier!

  1. They are Nicknamed the American Gentleman
    Boston Terriers are a distinctly American breed. These little dogs got their start as a cross between the English Bulldog and the English Terrier. The first known Boston Terrier was called “Judge.” William O’Brian of Boston sold the dog to Robert C. Hooper who was also from Boston, reports the AKC. This was the beginning of the Boston Terrier.

    They are called the American Gentleman not only because of their origins, but because of their gentle disposition. Their kind personalities make them fantastic house pets. Reputable breeders carefully select for these wonderful personality traits. It’s important to select a respected breeder if you are considering purchasing a Boston Terrier.

  2. They are a University Mascot
    Keeping their roots in the city of Boston, the Boston Terrier is the mascot for the well-known Boston University. As a large university with over 32,000 students, BU has a wide range of athletics that are all represented by their Boston Terrier mascot. Players and fans alike are simply called “Terriers.”

    The Mascot himself is named Rhett. This name is taken from the character from Gone With the Wind. The colors of BU are scarlet and white and as stated on the Terriers’ page, “no one loves Scarlet more than Rhett.”

  3. They are Extremely Playful
    Boston Terriers are well known for being playful and having plenty of energy. The type of exercise you give a Boston can vary widely, depending on where you live and what your housing arrangements are. Luckily, Boston Terriers aren’t too picky about their exercise, so long as they have a chance to put that energy somewhere.

    An ideal situation is to provide a fenced-in yard for a Boston Terrier, however due to their small size, the yard itself doesn’t have to be large. If there is enough room to throw a ball, that’s enough for a Boston! Because of their terrier ancestry and instincts, many Bostons will enjoy chasing balls, frisbees, and other dog toys.

    Access to a dog park can also be a great asset. Boston Terriers tend to be social creatures, and love to run and play off-leash with other dogs. It’s important to understand dog park etiquette before going to one. Try starting at the park when it’s quiet to see how your Boston Terrier does. Gradually increase visits and begin going at busier times. It’s important to remember that even though Boston Terriers are high energy and appear to have no fear, they are still quite small! Safety should always be an important concern.

    Due to their shortened muzzle, Boston Terriers are more likely to overheat quickly than some other dogs. Take precautions when playing outside in the summer months. Bring plenty of water to keep your Boston Terrier hydrated. Wherever you are, be sure to find a shady spot where your Boston can relax and cool down. If your Boston Terrier appears much overheated, it’s okay to cut play time short and find an air conditioned space. You can always make up for it later.

  4. They Excel at Agility
    Since they have a ton of energy, Boston Terriers make excellent agility competition dogs. The Boston Terrier is a smart breed, and will learn obedience and even agility courses quickly, with plenty of enthusiasm.

    Agility is especially fun for Bostons because of their love for running and playing. Courses that include jumping, climbing, and running through tunnels will be great for a Boston Terrier and a lot of fun for you to watch!

    If you are considering doing agility with your Boston Terrier, get ready for some exercise of your own! Despite their small stature and short legs, Boston Terriers are fast. Any owner planning to do agility with one will have their own fitness tested during the agility trials!

  5. Above All, They are People Pleasers
    A Boston’s playful spirit and excellence at obedience activities is all centered around one fact: they love people! No matter what activity a Boston Terrier is performing, they will do it to the best of their ability if they are with you. In fact, if no person is there, they may not do it at all!

    A Boston Terrier is certainly not an outside dog. They don’t possess the independent spirit of some breeds, and prefer to be with human companions as much as possible. Their social nature is what draws them to activities such as dog parks and dog day care. They love to interact with others!

    Because they are so people focused, Boston Terriers can make excellent therapy dogs. Their small size means they can visit with a human in need in almost any situation. They are often equally happy curling up in someone’s lap as they are playing with that person in the yard. Because they are so loving, they do well with almost anyone – from young children to seniors. They truly are a lovable dog!

  6. Despite Their Short Coat, They Do Shed
    Their short coat may seem appealing to a future dog owner with allergies, but the Boston Terrier does in fact shed. And they shed year round, so be ready to brush them about once a week. Choose a brush that is gentle on the skin, since the Boston Terrier has a short, single-layered coat. Weekly brushing and a basic vacuuming schedule can keep the hair under control.

    Boston Terriers are also prone to dander, which is the real culprit when it comes to allergies. If you have your heart set on a Boston though, diet can keep the dander under control. High quality, fish-based dog foods are rich in omega-3s and healthy oils that keep a dog’s skin in good condition. If switching food isn’t an option, fish oil food additives can also be purchased to keep your Boston’s coat glossy and their skin healthy.

Share photos of your Boston Terrier with us! We’d love to see what kinds of activities your Boston’s love to do with you.

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It’s almost that fun time of year where you get to dress up as your alter ego! But it’s not only you that can have fun. Let your furry friend have some fun too this year and dress them up as their (or your) favorite alter ego!

Editor’s Picks

1. Football Player Dog Costume – $2.42 – Costume Craze
Seem’s like it’s only available in size XL however the price is amazing!













2. UPS Dog Costume- $24.99 – Spirit Halloween












3. Spider Pup Dog Costume – $24.99-$29.99 – HalloweenCostumes.com












4. Darth Vader Dog Costume – $16.99 – PartyCity

















5. Taco Dog Costume – $12.99 – Target














6. Skunk Dog Costume – $14.49 – Casual Canine on Amazon














7. Tootsie Roll Dog Costume – $17.99 – BuyCostumes.com













8. Iced Coffee Dog Costume – $19.99 – Rubie’s on Amazon














9. Pizza Slice Dog Costume – $17.99 – BuyCostumes.com

















10. Vampire Dracula Dog Costume – $17.92 – Costume Craze














11. Santa Dog Costume – $19.99 – HalloweenCostumes.com




















12. Suit Up Dog Costume – $19.95 – Rubie’s on Amazon

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Pugs are actually one of the oldest breeds of dog. The AKC officially recognized the Pug in 1885 – only one year after the organization was founded! The popularity of the Pug comes and goes. Currently these little balls of energy are the 34th most popular breed in the United States. But how much do you know about the Pug? Check out our 6 incredible facts about this ancient breed!

  1. They Used to be Guarded by Soldiers
    They Pug has a long and noble history. The breed can be traced back to ancient China during the pre-Christian era, according to the Pug Dog Club of America. The AKC dates their origins as far back as 400 BC – though their true origins are a bit of a mystery, as they were likely thriving before even the earliest known records!

    Many Pugs were pets in the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. But many were also the prized possessions of Chinese emperors. These royal dogs lived a luxurious lifestyle. And because they were such prized animals, they were sometimes even guarded by soldiers!

    Pug dogs weren’t the only dogs prized by the Chinese emperors however. Both the Pekingese and the “Lion Dog” were popular among Chinese royalty. What we know as the Pug today, was actually called the Lo-sze or “Foo Dog.” Today, we can see physical similarities between the modern Pekingese and the modern Pug, due to their common ancestry.

  2. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Wife Used a Pug to Deliver Secret Messages

    Before she was even married to Napoleon, Josephine Bonaparte used her dog to send secret messages. During the French Revolution, Josephine was imprisoned in the Les Carmes – one of the most brutal and terrible prisons in France. In order to communicate with her loved ones, she needed to do so discreetly. So she used her pet Pug named Fortune.

    Fortune had been her beloved pet for quite some time, and he was the only one who was permitted to visit during her imprisonment. Conflicting reports state that Fortune delivered messages to Napoleon himself, though it wasn’t until after Josephine was released from prison that she married Napoleon. Regardless of who the Pug was delivering messages to, it is certain that this brave little dog was the one real link to the outside world for Josephine!

  3. Pugs are ‘Pigs’

    One of the pugs favorite activities? Eating! Perhaps it is due to their royal heritage that they enjoy indulging themselves in the finer things. But whatever the reason, there is no doubt that Pug dogs love their food.

    The PDCA cautions that Pug owners must be very careful to monitor their feeding as they grow older. Due to their small stature and voracious appetite, it can be easy to overfeed a Pug. Young Pugs can eat three meals a day, but after 6 months of age this can be decreased. Some owners only feed their Pug once a day when they reach adulthood, which is sufficient.

    It can be very tempting to feed your Pug treats and table scraps when they give their owner the wide-eyed look – but it’s important to resist! Again, it’s easy to overfeed a Pug, so treats should be limited and table scraps should never be given to them. A healthy portion of dry dog food is really all they need! Consult with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your Pug’s weight or eating habits.

  4. They Only Come in Two Colors

    Unlike some breeds that come in a vibrant array of colors such as the Australian Shepherd, Pugs only come in two colors: black and fawn. And no matter the body color, the “mask” on their face should be black. This is all according to the AKC breed standard. Any other color used in a competition will result in a disqualification.

    Any color that is not within the breed standard is a sure sign of poor breeding practices. Any breeder who is reputable will only breed healthy Pugs who meet the AKC standards.

    White, blue, or brindle Pugs may seem “trendy” or “rare” to potential Pug owners, but in order to achieve these colorations unethical breeding practices are often used. Pugs with non-standard colorings or markings often have genetic defects that could prove harmful. Dogs with these colorations may also experience increased health problems because of the defect.

    The PDCA urges anyone who is interested in “unique” colorings on pugs to consider an alternative breed – such as the French Bulldog – where high variations in colors are natural and healthy.

  5. They are Perfect House Dogs

    Pugs may be the largest breed that is classified in the toy group, but their compact size still has many advantages. Their weight should fall between 14 and 18 pounds. And their small but sturdy stature makes them equally suited for apartment or country life.

    These little dogs also really appreciate the comforts of home. Pug’s have a difficult time tolerating extreme weather conditions. They thrive as indoor pets in moderate climates. But with proper attention to hydration in the summer and proper outerwear in the winter, a Pug can live almost anywhere.

    In fact, they can live with almost any person too! As the AKC puts it, “they live to love and to be loved in return.” With their excellent people skills and less-than-intimidating appearance, they make a wonderful pet for people of any age. The PDCA also calls them “clowns at heart” making them wonderfully entertaining and fun for both children and adults.

  6. Be Careful How Much You Exercise Them

    It’s easy to think that the more exercise a dog gets the better. For some breeds this may be true, but for the Pug it couldn’t be further from the truth.

    This is primarily due to the Pug’s brachycephaly. Brachycephaly simply refers to the shortened skull and flattened muzzle found not only in Pugs, but in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs as well. This physical trait is sometimes accompanied by changes to the upper respiratory tract, according to The Pug Dog Club of the United Kingdom. These changes are known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).

    Symptoms of BOAS can include snoring, panting, and yes, even exercise intolerance. If you exercise your Pug to hard, it could lead to difficulty breathing. Always start small with a Pug’s exercise routine. Some Pugs will have a higher tolerance than others, so it’s important to go slow and watch for signs such as snorting or breathing difficulties. For some Pugs, short walks around the block is all they will need to stay healthy and happy.

We’d love to meet the Pug in your life! Share a photo, tell us a story, or leave a comment about these fun, and lively little dogs!

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