posted 03/19/15


            The decision to add a dog to your family needs careful thought so it will work out well for everyone.  First, consider your family as it is right now.  Are you single?  A young couple with no kids?  A couple with kids?  Are your children toddlers, school-age or older?  Are you looking to fill your empty nest with a four-legged companion?  Do you already share your home with another dog or perhaps a cat?  You must think ahead to the possibility of whom else might join your family in the next 10 to 15 years, because that’s a fair estimate of the time commitment you will be making.
            Each family has its own needs, personalities, medical requirements, space limitations and busy schedules.  If you take a careful, honest look at these, it will help you to decide on the type of dog that will enrich everyone’s lives rather than make them more difficult.
            A dog needs care, love and attention.  You or another adult in the family will need to have enough time to walk, groom and feed him.  And if he’s a pup, parenting duties will be doubled.  While children and dogs can be inseparable, the primary responsibility for your dog’s care must rest on adult shoulders.  Some dogs are low maintenance, but no dog is “no maintenance”.
            Caring properly for a dog takes money.  Not only are there the monthly food bills, there is the initial outlay for the things that every dog needs.  You’ll need a crate, bedding, toys, grooming tools and dishes.  Then there are vaccinations, vet visits, licenses and obedience training.  Those are the day-to-day and year-to-year costs you will have.
            Most dogs, even some of the smaller breeds, require a fair amount of exercise to stay happy and healthy.  There are breeds that will adapt easily to apartment living, but others will need a house with a yard and something more substantial than a white picket fence to stop them from wandering.
            Don’t equate the size of the dog with the size of living space he requires.  Just because a Beagle is small does not mean he is a great apartment dog.  Yet a Great Dane and some of the other working breeds don’t require all that much space.  Giant breeds, such as Newfoundlands and Great Pyrenees, can be real couch potatoes.
            Some smaller dogs, including many of the terrier types, not only need plenty of exercise and space, they are also some of the barkiest dogs-not necessarily a good thing in an apartment.
            The key to choosing your perfect match is to investigate the various breeds to find out a little bit about their personalities and behaviors.  Dogs from certain breeds may have personality traits that you simply can’t live with.  Terriers, for instance, dig.  Hounds, such as Beagles and foxhounds, bark.  They’re supposed to, since they were traditionally used to track game.
            Never buy a dog for another person without their knowledge, consent and input.  The decision is far too personal and important for you to make for someone else.  If you want to buy a puppy as a gift, wrap a stuffed dog and give it with the promise that you will help to locate the perfect real thing.  That way, the dog will be their dog, and their choice from the start.
            When people ask us what kind of dog they should-or shouldn’t-get, we sit down and find out about their personality, hobbies, what they expect of a dog, what “dog” experience they have and how much dog hair they can tolerate.  Their answers to these questions give us a much better idea of the breeds that will be best suited to them and their lifestyle.
            The good news is there’s a dog out there that’s a perfect match for you and whoever else you share your life with.  The time you invest in finding that perfect match will be well spent.



            According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80% of dogs develop gum disease by three years of age.  If you don’t brush your dog’s teeth regularly, plaque builds upon her teeth and under the gums, just as it does in humans.  If the plaque is not removed, a bacterial infection, called periodontal disease, can develop.  If left untreated, the bacterial infection can enter the bloodstream and spread to your dog’s kidney, liver, heart or brain.  Other problems, such as mouth abscesses and loose teeth, can also develop.  And dogs with dirty teeth and periodontal disease will have very bad breath.
            One way to avoid all these unpleasant problems is to brush your dog’s teeth daily.  Your dog should also be examined once a year by your vet, who may recommend a professional cleaning.
            Your dog’s teeth-cleaning accessories should include a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste made especially for dogs. It is important that you don’t use human toothpaste.  Most human toothpastes contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs.  Dog toothpastes come in poultry, beef and other flavors, so she’ll like the taste of them also.
            Your oral hygiene program will be more successful if you start slowly and patiently.  You want your dog to think of teeth-brushing sessions as enjoyable and positive time spent with you, not a punishment.  Start by lifting her lips at least a few times a day and visually examining her teeth.  When you can lift her lips and visually examine her teeth without fuss, start rubbing her gums and touching her teeth with your finger.  For about a minute each day, lift her lips and rub around her teeth with your fingers.  Try a good-tasting substance or the flavored toothpaste on your fingers if she resists, and always pile on the praise.  After about a week, she should feel okay about this and you can move on to a toothbrush and a little bit of paste-just let her lick the brush.  When she’s comfortable with this development, start wiping the brush downward on the front teeth.  Use gentle, circular motions and slowly increase the area you cover until all her teeth are being cleaned.  Brushing doesn’t need to last more than a minute, and always let her know what a good dog she’s been.
            Make sure that you visually inspect your dog’s gums and teeth as you work.  Keep an eye out for swollen or reddened gums: broken, fractured, or loose teeth: and especially bad breath.  Any of these should be investigated by a veterinarian.  If your dog’s teeth and gums are already in bad shape, see your veterinarian right away.  It’s much easier to maintain healthy teeth after a professional cleaning.
            Brushing your dog’s teeth is the most important part of dental home care, but there are also gels, rinse solutions and other anti-plaque products that are available.  Most rinses are squirted on the gum line, while gels are rubbed on the teeth and gums.  A hard rubber or nylon chew toy is a great way for your dog to have some fun and does her teeth some good, too.  Baked rawhide can be hard and brittle, so do best by her teeth and avoid it.
            Most veterinary dentists recommend that your dog’s teeth be checked once a year.  You can have it done at the same time as her annual exam




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