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Understanding Your Dog

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Understanding Your Dog

Do you know the secret to have a good relationship with anyone, whether it’s your boss or girlfriend or husband or mother-in-law? The secret is to understand that person as an individual. When you realize why they’re concerned about the things that worry them, or why certain things are important to them, or why they’re sensitive to certain topics or treatment, then you have a better idea of how to treat that person in order to get along with him or her.

This might sound strange to some people, but understanding how dogs are and “what makes them tick” is going to go a long way toward being able to take care of them properly and being able to train them in an effective way.

This doesn’t mean that you need to take classes or get a degree in animal psychology or go through that much trouble. A basic understanding of what makes dogs act the way that they do and what they need to be taken care of both physically and emotionally is enough to get you on the right track when it comes to tending them.

Of course every dog is different and all breeds are different in their general temperament and needs; we will try to make notes of as many of these differences as we can, but these principles will apply in a general sense to all dogs and breeds.

Understanding Your Dog

SOCIALIZATION

While there are some parts of their temperament that are genetically inherited in your dog, there are other parts of socialization that can be trained and taught and that your dog will pick up because of the way she is treated.

As an example of this, think of how many people assume that pit bulls are somehow inherently dangerous and vicious. In reality, pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other breed of dog. In the old U.S. television show “The Little Rascals,” about a group of young children that played together, the group actually brought along with them one child’s pet pit bull for companionship. This TV series was filmed long before pit bull fighting became fashionable, but using a pit bull on the series was perfectly fine because the dog posed no extraordinary threat to the children. Those that started the “sport” of pit bull fighting chose these dogs because of their small and muscular frame, and taught them to be as violent and vicious as they wanted them to be.

This should just illustrate the point that a lot of how a dog responds to people and other animals around them is going to be something they learn. Some breeds are naturally more aggressive or defensive and others more submissive, but by and large they learn how to behave around others from what they are taught. The aggressiveness can be controlled and contained, and they can learn appropriate situations that need a defense and when this behavior is inappropriate as well.

Socialization is taught not just by humans but by other dogs as well. The most dominant dog will become the leader of the pack or the alpha dog and the other dogs around her will follow her lead. For the most part, domesticated dogs recognize their owner as being the truly dominant one or leader and most will be submissive to their owner’s commands, following the chain of command after that.

There are some factors that affect socialization beyond this. When food supplies are threatened dogs do have a self-serving mechanism that will kick in, or if they perceive a threat to their owner their defensive side will also take over.

LOYALTY

There are many families that can physically and emotionally take care of a dog, right? If you couldn’t take care of your own dog, the family down the street could do just as good of a job, right?

It’s easy for us humans to understand and appreciate this point, but this is something that dogs don’t really comprehend.

In the wild, dogs are pack animals because it’s necessary for survival and conquest. One dog alone cannot do much to fend off a larger predator but a pack of dogs can. They can also work together to bring down their own prey. When one gives birth the entire pack will protect the pups and bring back food to them and the temporarily incapacitated mother.

This pack mentality is one reason for a dog’s loyalty. To them, the family that has been feeding her and taking care of her for so long is the only one capable of doing so, and if she doesn’t return home and stay within the pack then she will face danger outside of it – as far as her mental state goes.

There is some controversy over how much emotion goes into a dog’s behavior as well. Some dog care experts believe that dogs feel an emotion that we would call love, whereas others feel that their actions are based solely on inborn instinct – they take care of their babies because their biology tells them to, and they return to the home where they belong because they are programmed to.

The problem with assuming that dogs behave only by instinct is that the more they are treated well, including being played with, groomed, spoken to, and so on, the more they respond in kind. They seem to crave this type of positive attention from their owners, and if they only reacted by instinct then these things would not be necessary! An owner could put out food and water and ignore the dog consistently if they only responded to instinct; studies have shown that dogs that are treated better are more calm and content and well-behaved, so certainly it seems that there is some emotion on their part that drives their actions!

TIP FROM THE EXPERTS: Don’t worry too much about whether or not your dog is actually feeling an emotion that we would call love. She will respond to your positive reinforcement, so give her adequate amounts of praise when she is obedient and don’t concern yourself with just how deeply she is interpreting this behavior! You don’t need to be a doggy psychologist or a mind reader to realize that dogs respond well to this positive behavior on your part.

INSTINCT

The question of emotion aside, there is a lot of instinct that drives a dog’s behavior and this instinct will often take over in any situation, even if it means a dog putting her own life in jeopardy. How so?

Protecting food supplies.

Not enough dog experts explain to owners how protective dogs get of their own food supplies, and this is just an instinctive response that is not meant to harm. When a dog is part of a family it’s very important that children be kept away from it when it’s eating and especially away from the food bowl as well. Being fed is a dog’s most basic need, and in the wild food supplies are often scarce and need to be fought over when other animals are around.

This is one of the secrets of successful dog ownership that far too many owners fail to appreciate. They often allow children and other animals to play around the dog while it’s eating and then become angry when the dog nips or growls.

It is vital for an owner to respect the dog’s instinct in this way and to be sure that other persons in the home respect it as well. A dog should be given a separate and secure area in which to eat; if this is the kitchen then it needs to be off to one side so there is no tripping over the dog while it’s eating. Be sure to keep children in the other room and do not take away a dog’s dish before it’s done with it!

Protecting babies.

Protecting their pups is probably the one big area where instinct will take over even if it means a dog putting her own life in jeopardy. Anything or anyone perceived as a threat will be attacked, and this includes humans around which the dog has been for years.

It’s unfortunate how many owners show such little respect and regard for this instinct of a dog, handling a puppy before the mother is ready to allow this or even pushing the mother aside to get to them.

Sometimes human intervention is necessary as domesticated dogs need food and water brought to them and this includes when they have puppies, but trying to take the puppies or handle them when they’re newborn, when they’re eating, or when the mother is just showing protective instinct is a mistake that many humans make.

Warding off predators and other dangers.

Dogs really don’t know that the mail carrier is not there to harm you, or that a playful tussle between children is not a real fight meant to hurt someone. They perceive danger in a different way than humans do; humans can reason and judge another’s motives much easier than a dog and know when something is meant as a playful gesture versus an actual attack.

A dog doesn’t reason on things this way. Any combative physical gesture is seen as an attack, so that playful wrestling between children can naturally trigger their instinct to bark or to stand between one child and another protectively.

This ability they have to sense what they perceive as danger and their natural reaction to strangers is part of what makes them such good guardians of the home, but owners who misinterpret or fail to respect this are in for problems. A dog does need to know that someone is not a threat, but chastising them for growling or barking is only going to send confusing messages to her. She is acting on instinct and when she is punished for that, this is very detrimental to her emotional state.

A better approach is to understand and recognize why a dog is responding the way she is and to help her to understand that there is no real threat. Speaking in a calm and soothing way is best, and allowing the dog to get to know a stranger will also help her to recognize him for next time.

Protecting itself from harm.

Have you ever seen the U.S. television show, “America’s Funniest Home Videos”? It’s made up of snippets of home movies sent in by viewers where they have caught funny or embarrassing moments. Since these are everyday people filming everyday occurrences, obviously many snippets involve the family pet and something humorous that has happened with it – one such video featured two family dogs attacking a man’s new “bunny slippers” as they thought they were really a threat to their owner, another showed a dog marking it’s territory by urinating on the family Christmas tree, and so on.

While videos like this may be amusing, there are far too many that show families being very rough with their dogs and especially allowing their children to do so as well. For some reason there are people that think it’s cute to see children grabbing a dog’s fur or tail or ears, and often you’ll hear someone chastising the dog when it nips or yelps at the child.

Ask yourself, how would you feel if someone came up and grabbed a hunk of your skin or your ears? If they grabbed your neck and tried to carry you that way or drag you from one room to the other? Wouldn’t you yelp and perhaps slap their hand away, if not even worse? As a matter of fact, someone that did this to you could no doubt be reported to the police as having assaulted you!

Some people unfortunately assume that dogs should just put up with whatever treatment is dished out to them, but dogs have an instinctive reaction to protect themselves from physical harm or danger just like any other creature. Especially when vulnerable areas of the body are threatened such as the eyes, mouth, nose, ears, tail, genitals or anus, will the dog respond with a sharp bark, nip, or growl.

This can be true also when children are present as the dog does not recognize them as being harmless and children often have little understanding of how they’re hurting a dog by behaving this way. Parents may view the dog as a threat to the child but in reality the dog is reacting to what it perceives as a threat to itself!

THE NEED FOR ACTIVITY

Rarely do you see a pack of dogs in the wild just sitting around doing nothing; if they are, it’s only because they’ve just eaten and are digesting or have been active all day and need their rest.

Dogs are active creatures and need freedom of movement and they also need entertainment. In the wild, dogs have an endless variety of circumstances to occupy them. They have other creatures to chase, odors to investigate, and so on. Unfortunately when they’re domesticated these things are taken away from them.

Many owners fail to recognize this need in their dogs and chastise them for chasing after squirrels or other small animals, or after cars. While humans see this as misbehaving, in reality dogs do these things for the same reasons that humans go for a walk – they need to be active and they need to be occupied. Wanting to protect them from running into traffic and not wanting them to tear up a small animal is certainly appropriate, but this simply means that there needs to be substitute activities for a dog to pursue in order for her to be healthy mentally and emotionally.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR DOG

How can you properly care for and train an animal if you have no understanding of how it thinks and why it reacts the way it does?

It’s easy for humans and dog owners to forego really understanding their dogs in favor of an easy “do this and then do that” type of instructional manual, and unfortunately there are many dog trainers and so-called experts that will provide anyone with that type of information, but dogs are like people – they have distinct personalities and need to be taken care of in an individual way.

For you to make the best decisions about how to train your dog and care for it physically, mentally, and emotionally, you need to take into consideration all these major forces that are driving its actions.

TIP FROM THE EXPERTS: One common mistake that many owners make is to assume that a dog is misbehaving when in reality it is simply acting how a dog should act or is being guided by its instinct. Before you simply punish a dog or get angry at it, consider if there is another underlying reason for its behavior and then work to correct it gently or reinforce positive behavior rather than simply punish “wrong” behavior. And remember to be aware of how dogs react when they perceive a threat to themselves, to their food supplies and even to their owners. Be sure that nothing is causing your dog to think that their reaction or behavior is warranted.

Special Training and Handling of Puppies

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Training and Handling of Puppies

As with baby humans, baby dogs need some special handling and training, and this includes situations that you may not even realize as being training. For example, when you take a young child to play with other children you are actually teaching that child socialization or interpersonal skills, even though you may not think of this as a lesson being taught. Puppies are much the same – there are things they need to be taught or trained even if you don’t necessarily realize that this is a training session.

Let’s take a look at some important factors when it comes to a puppy’s care and training.

Training and Handling of Puppies

SOCIALIZATION

Much of a dog’s temperament is going to be inborn, but much of it can be formed by how well a puppy is taught to socialize with other dogs and how soon it starts learning this lesson.

As soon as the vet tells you that it’s appropriate, you need to begin introducing your puppy to the outside world and other dogs and people as well.

This actually begins with you. It’s good to interact regularly with your puppy as much as it’s physically safe from the time they’re born. The first few days mean just standing nearby as the mother cares for the pups, but within the first week you should be stroking the dogs and calling them by their name. This makes them used to human interaction and touch right away. As they get bigger they can be introduced in a safe and controlled way to others, such as children, the mail carrier, and visitors. Puppies that are very young are still insecure and vulnerable so they need to be respected in who handles them and how, just as you would a newborn baby. They are not toys and while young children may find them irresistible, they need to be monitored carefully so they are not rough with them.

When they are strong enough to venture outdoors it may not be a good idea to just let them run free in the yard as they are again still vulnerable. In the wild the mother and other members of the pack keep a careful eye on young pups, but with domesticated dogs you and your family now need to take the place of that pack.

TIP FROM THE EXPERTS: Stay very close to them when they go outside so they do not get hurt on shrubbery or by other animals. It may seem unlikely but puppies can actually be attacked and hurt by animals as small and seemingly harmless as squirrels, rabbits, and even cats. It’s also easy for them to wander off or into trouble spots, and since their bond with the family is not completely developed they may not know how to get back home.

With other people.

Animals need to learn to be comfortable with other humans but this introduction needs to be controlled as well.

Invite people over to see the puppy but don’t simply pass it around. While the puppy should be allowed to explore and sniff out these new visitors, it can be gently steered away from places it doesn’t belong such as purses, coats, and anyone that’s not comfortable around the animal.

With children.

Probably one of the biggest problems families have with puppies is their interaction with children. While it’s easy to blame the puppy as being aggressive or misbehaving, remember that animals don’t have reasoning ability. They act on instinct and react to certain treatment that is directed their way.

Puppies of course need to learn to “play nice” with children but most pet experts will tell you that many problems between puppies and children are caused by improper treatment of the pup at the hands of the child. Toddlers see puppies as toys and grab at them, pull their tails or ears, and so on. Younger children too don’t realize how frightening it is for puppies to be picked up roughly; imagine if someone twice your size just grabbed you by your middle and roughly yanked you around the room! This is not just frightening for the puppies but often downright painful.

And of course any dog’s only recourse for this type of treatment is to nip at what it perceives as being an attacker; in the wild animals nip at each other as warnings that something is unappreciated. Humans often misinterpret these nips as being attacks and chastise the dog rather than teach the children to treat the animals appropriately.

On the other hand, dogs do tend to try to assert their dominance over other animals including children. Dogs that are a bit older may try to dominate children by pushing them or even sitting on them! Threatening behavior by dogs should not be tolerated around children, and any that seem aggressive should be separated from them, especially when it comes to helpless infants.
Socializing a puppy with children is not very difficult if you start early and do it properly. Young puppies should be treated the same way you would have a child treat a newborn baby. This means no pinching, grabbing, dragging, pulling of the ears, tail or fur, or anything else that you would not allow with a new baby. If the child is big enough, he or she can sit still and have the puppy in his or her lap and pet it very gently, being sure to avoid the eyes or any part of the face. As the dogs get older and can handle more interaction, it’s still important for children to understand what is and is not proper treatment of the dog.

HANDLING THE DOG

Dogs typically socialize better with people and other animals if they are cared for and interacted with from an early age. Handling them physically, if done properly, can go a long way toward making your dog gentler, calmer, and more social with people and animals.

Brushing the puppy.

Having one’s coat brushed is very relaxing for dogs if it’s done firmly but gently. This can be a daily or weekly routine for the owner once the puppy is old enough and strong enough for this, and should be done with reassuring words so that the dogs enjoys this activity and is not defensive.

The type of brush you will use will depend on the length of hair for your particular breed. Long-hair breeds need longer bristles whereas short-hair breeds need shorter and softer bristles.

Avoid wire brushes as these can be very uncomfortable, unless your vet has given you specific instructions for this type of brush.

Handling their paws.

Dog’s paws get very sore from all the pressure they put on them constantly, so handling your puppy’s paws when they’re still growing up is not only soothing for them but will get them used to being handled as well.

Handling their face.

Older dogs often need their teeth brushed and to have their mouths checked regularly by the vet for good oral health. Typically dogs hate having their face touched for the same reason that most humans do – it’s perceived as a threat.

One good thing that a puppy owner can do is to get it used to having its face touched by doing this gently as the dog grows up. As you gently stroke the puppy you can move your hands very gently over the front of its mouth and run your thumbs over its teeth, being careful to avoid its eyes and nose.

NUTRITIONAL NEEDS OF PUPPIES

As with human infants, the nutritional needs and abilities of a puppy are different than that of an adult dog. Their bodies need more of certain nutrients in order to help them grow and develop while their delicate systems need to be respected also.

Most dogs remain “puppies” for the first year of life; for larger breeds it may be two years. During this time they need food especially designed for them at this stage. Their need for calcium and fatty acids is increased during this time as their bones and joints are developing. They also need far more protein than adult dogs as their muscles are also growing during this time.

What to avoid.

As much as you love your puppy and want to spoil or indulge it, feeding it table scraps is a very unhealthy habit. This adds a lot of unnecessary calories to her diet and can lead to her being overweight and even obese, which in turn leads to greater problems later in life.

A puppy can also learn to be a very finicky eater, turning up its nose at the healthy dog food you give it in favor of those calorie-packed treats. In addition to weight problems you will then probably also have nutritional deficiencies in your dog as well.

Treats are also something that should be given out sparingly, even when training. A dog should never get used to having these items on a daily basis, much like how humans should avoid having junk food every single day.

Changing foods is a difficult thing for a puppy to accept; when you do this, add some of the old food in with the new for about two weeks so she can gradually adjust.

TIP FROM THE EXPERTS: Feed your puppy three modest meals per day; your vet can give you an exact amount depending on the breed but puppies are like adult dogs in that they rarely overeat. The danger in giving them more food than this is that they may think you “want” them to eat more and so they’ll do it as a way of gaining your approval.

Taking Care Of your Dog’s Physical Needs

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Dog's Physical Needs

Dog's Physical Needs

Food and water is all that an animal needs, right?

Oh, if only it were that simple.

Many people make the mistake of going way off balance in one direction or the other when it comes to their animal’s care. What this means is that some think that since dogs are just dogs, they can be treated as if they were animals in the wild. They’re given some food and water and that’s it. On the other hand, some people go in the opposite direction and purchase every little luxury items for their pooch, many of which are just wasted on the animal that has no idea and no need for it.

To properly take care of your pet you need to understand their very basic needs when it comes to their physical care. Any items you care to purchase for them after that – gourmet dog food, silk sheets for the doggy bed, etc. – is your own personal decision.

FOOD

People may not think much of their brand or type of dog food, reasoning that in the wild dogs ate anything and everything. But if you do give it some thought and try to understand your dog’s nutritional and physical needs you’re better able to make an informed decision about what to look for when it comes to dog food, treats, and so on.

Their age and condition.

Dogs are like people in that their nutritional needs change according to their age and their physical condition. Those that are older and more inactive need far fewer calories, whereas younger ones and more active (people and dogs!) need more calories to sustain themselves in a healthy way. This would be appropriate also for those that are considered hard working dogs, such as those on a farm or that have a busy working day for whatever reason.

Getting complete dog food.

There are many brands of dog foods available today that have vitamin supplements added right in; if you choose one of these brands you’re not going to need additional vitamins or other drops and supplements.

Some wonder if organic dog food is worth the investment and this is a personal decision. While there may be some health benefits to buying organic, typically regular dog foods are not harmful to your dog’s health and organic may simply be an unnecessary item for your pet.

Dog’s nutritional needs.

In nature dogs eat mostly meat with some vegetation, mostly when they need to settle their stomachs.

When shopping for dog food, look at the list of ingredients. The first ingredient should be meat of some sort.

As with food you would buy for your family, you want few fillers and more natural items such as corn, wheat, and so on. You will always have some ingredients added to the mix but the fillers and other byproducts should be at the end of the list of ingredients

Table scraps and other treats.

One of the problems with feeding your dog table scraps and other treats is that these are usually very calorie dense and can lead to a normal dog’s obesity or weight problems.

If you make it a habit of feeding your dog table scraps or treats these should make up no more than 10% of her diet, and preferably even less. Treats should be reserved for when you’re training your dog or for very special occasions and should not be had on any type of regular basis.

When a dog is overweight then table scraps and treats should be eliminated altogether or at least reduced enough so that her weight can reach the normal level. As with humans, excess body weight can cause a lot of health problems for dogs, including arthritis, heart and lung problems, and compromising of the immune system.

How often they eat.

Typically dogs can regulate their own schedule of eating so if you have food out all day they will simply eat when they are hungry, and this is usually twice a day. Of course you don’t want food to go to waste so any food leftover at the end of the day should be thrown away. You can of course simply fill their dish once in the morning and then again during the day to make sure you waste less, but food should be readily available to them; there’s really no need to watch their portions of regular food.

Of course Chihuahuas are going to need less food than German Shepherds and those smaller indoor dogs less than the ones that are outside running around all day. Be aware of how much you’re giving them and if the bowl is consistently empty you may need to up the portions.

Water.

Fresh water should be available to dogs at all times. It also needs to be at room temperature and kept away from very dusty or dirty environments, such as next to the clothes dryer or a furnace vent.

It is also absolutely imperative that a dog’s water dish be emptied and thoroughly cleaned every single day. Failure to do so will allow mold to build up around the edge of the dish and on top of the water as well.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Even when in the wild dogs find a warm and comfortable place to sleep and enjoy sunshine and a soft spot to curl up in.

Smaller and more delicate dogs also need some consideration when it comes to their living conditions as they are typically more sensitive to cold and such elements.

All dogs should have their own sleeping bed regardless of breed or size. Curling up on the floor is no more comfortable for them then it is for you. If you don’t have a regular doggy bed or cushion for them, use an old thick blanket that you can fold up or scrunch up for them. This is especially important in winter months when the floor gets very cold.

Smaller dogs with smaller legs need to have some consideration if you allow them up on the couch or bed. Dog’s legs are strong but not unbreakable and a small dog putting all the pressure on the hind legs to get up to these higher surfaces can cause stress fractures and joint damage.

DURING YOUR ABSENCE

Believe it or not, some of the worst abuse of animals occurs when their owners aren’t even home. Unfortunately some who work during the day leave their dog unattended in the home or the yard, or worse yet lock them in kennels or cages until they come home.

Kennels and cages should be used for dogs only if and when you are traveling or in case of emergencies. Locking a dog in a cage for hours is just like putting a person in a jail cell. This isn’t something that should be done on a regular basis for no good reason.

Leaving your dog unattended can be acceptable in certain circumstances; they need access to food, water, and their bathroom area and need the freedom to move around as well. If you have a home with a fenced-in backyard and a doggie door they can get in and out of then you may be able to leave them.

If you must leave your dog at home inside, hire a dog walker or someone else to take them out for a long stretch of time so they can use the bathroom and stretch their legs. Dogs are not meant to be cooped up all day.

EXERCISING YOUR DOG

Humans and dogs alike need regular exercise in order for them to be healthy; this is not just a matter of keeping one’s weight under control, but regular exercise helps dogs in these specific ways as well:

Alleviates boredom.

A human can sit still and read a book, watch television, or engage in conversation to keep themselves occupied but dogs are not like this. They need to be physically occupied in order to keep boredom at bay.

Dog care experts will tell you that boredom in a dog is not just an annoyance, but rather it’s something they fight the same way a restless child will – by acting out and sometimes destructively so. Anyone that has left their dog unattended inside the home all day may realize how this happens – virtually everything and anything is completely torn up, from newspapers to furniture to drapes and carpeting.
Just like humans, dogs need exercise every single day; unfortunately many owners assume that because they visit the gym just a couple of times per week then they only need to exercise their dog only a few times per week.

If you cannot get out and walk your dog every day, it’s time to find a kid from the neighborhood or hire a professional dog walker that can get this done for you. Dog’s exercise doesn’t need to necessarily be at a fancy dog park or such, just some jaunts around the block for an hour or so is a good idea.

The body’s development.

We often think of exercise as just keeping obesity at bay but in reality the benefits are endless, both for humans and dogs. Regular exercise helps to increase blood circulation and this helps to feed muscles and organs. It also works the heart and lungs, making them stronger and healthier.

Exercise also regulates the amount of sugar in the blood, helping the body fight off diabetes and other sugar problems. As a matter of fact, there are many ways that regular exercise helps with the body’s health overall.

Socializes the dog.

The more time a dog spends with other dogs, the better it will behave around them and around humans. They learn what behavior is threatening and what isn’t and how to interact appropriately. If they spend more time with other humans they will realize that few of them are dangerous to themselves, their owners, and so on.

Dogs need to learn how to interact with other dogs as well, so exercising them at dog parks or having them walked by a dog walker with other dogs is also a good idea.

TIP FROM THE EXPERTS: Remember that dogs love to explore the world around them through scent, so when out walking or exercising with them, allow them some room on the leash so that they can explore trees, bushes, and so on. Not letting them explore at least a little bit is like going to the mall and not being allowed to look through store windows or go inside any; what’s the point of that? A dog should be allowed to exercise not just for the physical activity but for the mental stimulation she gets through this exploration.

Understanding Dog Food Ingredients

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Dog Food Ingredients

Dog Food Ingredients

Dog food is not exactly the same as people food but many of the ingredients work the same way as those in human food. By understanding the components of the food and how it breaks down in their bodies and why certain ingredients are needed, you can make the best decision as to which brand to purchase.

CARBOHYDRATES

The purpose of carbs in a dog’s system is to provide energy. Carbohydrates are found in sugar, starch, and some fibers.

Some dog foods use cereal products as fillers or cheaper ingredients but these products are also important in any dog food. A starch is a like a long chain of sugar that needs to be broken down in the body before it can be used; this is unlike simple sugar which doesn’t need that further digesting before it gets broken down and absorbed.

As with humans, when dogs ingest too many carbs that they don’t burn off through activity, these are then converted to glycogen and then fat, which is stored in the muscles and other areas of the body.

As humans can get diabetes from an overabundance of sugar in their system, dogs can contract or develop diabetes mellitus which is when the pancreas produces too little insulin. You can be aware of symptoms such as increased thirst and urination, generalize weakness, and fatigue. When there are low levels of insulin in the system the sugar in the blood cannot be broken down in the muscles for fuel and then builds up in the bloodstream.

Carbs are found in grains such as rice, oats, barley or meal, or high-starch vegetables such as corn or lima beans. These items should make up no more of 50% of dry dog food; if any of these items are listed first in the ingredients then chances are it’s much more concentrated with carbs.

Most dog treats are also made of a high concentration of carbs and sugar, another reason why these treats should be limited to a reasonable amount.

FAT

Just like humans, dogs need some fat in their diet in order to be healthy. Fat itself is not dangerous; it is the excessive consumption of it that then becomes a problem.

Fat contains concentrated forms of energy; they are one of the components that is broken down for energy when a dog is active, along with carbohydrates. However fat is very calorie-dense meaning that there is a lot of calories in not a lot of fat, so any animal, dogs or humans, that consume more fat than they burn off by way of physical activity will have that fat stored in the body.

Omega fatty acids.

In both humans and animals, fats are necessary for healthy skin and hair (or fur in your dog’s case). The oils in fats feed the skin to keep it soft and protect it from small cuts and breaking or abrasions. Hair is kept soft and smooth and fed through those omega fatty acids.

Some fats that are essential for health are not produced by the body and need to be ingested through food.

A lack of these essential fatty acids can result in dry and flaky skin and coarse hair. This is not only painful for a dog it also means not being protected from harsh weather and elements.

Watching fat intake.

As with humans, a dog’s body weight is a ratio of calories ingested versus calories burned. Too many calories eaten versus what is burned through physical activity will result in those extra calories being stored as body fat.

So while fat is essential for a dog’s health it’s also important to be balanced. When a dog is overweight it’s time to cut back on the sugar, fat, or both in the animal’s diet.

PROTEIN

Protein is one of the most important nutrients that a dog can eat; when you think of a dog in the wild you realize how much protein is in their diet!

This element is needed to feed muscles and tissue, along with the blood and immune functions, as well as providing a good source of energy.

Amino acids are essentially the makeup of proteins; different forms of protein are made up by different links and quantities of these amino acids.

What dogs require by way of protein.

When a dog has inadequate amounts of protein in her system she can suffer from poor muscle tone and anemia. She may also be more susceptible to diseases and sicknesses as her immune system is often compromised.

Most dogs require protein at about 25% of their dietary composition. This is one reason that meats should be listed as a first ingredient in any dog food.

It’s also very important that a dog’s source of protein be from more than one source. Not all forms of protein have an adequate supply of different amino acids that are necessary for her health. Simply relying on one type of meat or high-protein vegetable to provide protein will not be enough. With meats you should also try soybean or corn ingredients.

FIBER

Fiber is a substance found in plants that is very difficult for the body to digest. It binds to food and helps it move through the digestive system, softening stools and helping with elimination. It also helps to stimulate the muscles of the digestive system when it is time for elimination, keeping a dog regular.

A lack of fiber is one major cause of many gastrointestinal diseases in both humans and dogs. Without enough fiber dogs can be constipated and suffer from hardened stools that are difficult to pass.

Certain fiber elements are used by second-rate pet food manufacturers as filler ingredients and have little benefit, but many of these ingredients are important if used in proper proportion. It is also believed that fiber can slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream which can ward off the condition of diabetes in dogs.

Fiber with weight loss.

Fiber also helps a dog to feel full and allows her to moderate her own portions. This helps to keep dogs at a healthy weight. Many dog foods made for weight loss have a higher concentration of fiber than other products.
Sources of fiber.

There is no fiber in meat so this needs to come from plants and other elements. Good sources of fiber in dog foods include bran of all sorts (rice, wheat or oat), soybeans, apple and tomato pulp (which may be referred to as pomace), or pulp from other citrus fruits.

DOGS NEED VITAMINS TOO

Most humans know that they need vitamins but very few have any idea what each particular vitamin does or why it’s particularly necessary.

Animals too need vitamins and very often for the same reasons that people do.

Fat soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K and need dietary fat in order to be absorbed properly in the system. Water soluble vitamins include B and C and need adequate amounts of water to be absorbed properly.

Most dog foods have a good supply of vitamins for dogs and they typically don’t require supplements if they are eating a complete brand of dog food.

Vitamin A

Very often you hear of a food being advertised as high in beta-carotene; this is just a fancy term for vitamin A, which is important for the dog’s eyes, immune system, and growth.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is both a vitamin and technically a hormone, and assists in the body’s absorption of calcium which is important for strong teeth and bones. This is vitally important in humans but especially in dogs as they are usually much more physically active, putting pressure on their bones, and they use their teeth more readily for tearing meat and other foods.

Animals get vitamin D from their foods but also from the rays of the sun; if your dog is indoors quite a bit or if you live in a climate that is not very sunny, you may need to consider a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin E

Antioxidants are those substances that protect the body’s cells from free radicals or those agents that attack healthy cell membranes. Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant and protects the body’s cells from these free radicals. It is also a natural moisturizer that nourishes and protects skin, teeth and fur.

Vitamin K

We don’t often hear a lot about vitamin K but this is a substance that appears naturally in green leafy plants and vegetables. Its major function is to work as a clotting agent within the blood so that the body can protect itself from cuts and abrasions and to ensure proper blood circulation.

B Vitamins

There are many different vitamins that fall in the B category, including B1, B2, B6, and B12, along with several others. The B vitamins are not stored in the body but need to be ingested every day through one’s food or a supplement. The B vitamins are necessary for energy as they help to metabolize proteins, fats and carbs.

Vitamin C

Humans need vitamin C in order to produce collagen in their system, but dogs seem to not have any real requirements for this vitamin in their system.

OTHER DOG FOOD COMPONENTS

People often know that they need their “vitamins and minerals” but rarely do people know what minerals actually are. When taking care of a dog’s nutritional needs it’s important to know what all these minerals are and how important each one is to the dog’s overall health. One of the reasons for this is that dogs are usually much more physically active than even humans, which means that their overall health and ability to

Minerals refer to elements such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese, as well as others. These elements help to grow bones and cartilage, develop the muscles and nerves as well as hormones, and many other important functions.

Calcium and phosphorus.

Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth; many people know this. But what is also important is the level of phosphorus to the calcium as well. Usually it’s good to have one part calcium to 1 part phosphorus. Without phosphorus the bones may not be able to grow appropriately and protect themselves from stress fractures and the like.

Iron

Iron is very important for proper blood production in the body and for the blood to transport oxygen in order to supply it to all cells. Too little iron could result in anemia which in turn leads to weakness and fatigue.

Sodium

The body uses sodium as something of a transporter; it takes nutrients to the cells of the body and removes waste material from each cell as well. Sodium also works to balance the water levels between tissues and organs.

Zinc

The mineral zinc helps to bolster the immune system and also helps the body to absorb proteins and use them appropriately. In dogs, zinc also helps to protect some cells from damage due to oxidation or exposure to the outside elements.

Manganese

It may seem actually dangerous to include manganese in a dog’s diet as it is a metal element that gives steel added strength. However, in small amounts manganese actually helps to activate certain enzymes in the dog’s body that produce energy and regulate metabolism. This is especially important in very active dogs.

PUTTING THIS ALL TOGETHER

There just aren’t enough doggy dieticians these days to give you a personal recommendation for your dog and her own particular needs. But now that you understand the important components in any dog’s diet you can then make a better choice when it comes to the brand of dog food you choose.

Read the ingredients; as with food sold for humans, the ingredients need to be listed in order of volume, which means the first item listed makes up most of the food, the second item a bit less, and down the list.

As an example, consider some leading brands of dog food and what recommends them by way of ingredients:

Innova EVO

Innova contains no grains but relies on potatoes for their carbs. Meat is also the top four ingredients, including chicken, turkey, chicken meal, and turkey meal. Additional meats are also added in smaller amounts. Apples, carrots, tomatoes, eggs and cottage cheese are also added in.

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Dry

Meat is the first four ingredients of this brand; chicken, turkey, chicken meal and turkey meal top the list. Rice is used as their carbohydrates and there are no chemical preservatives used. Additionally, this brand contains no yellow corn or cornmeal, something that many experts say is overused in many brands of dog food.

Canidae Wet Dog Food

Canidae uses only meats that are hormone free for its foods and human-grade meats are the first ingredients, including chicken, lamb, chicken liver, and chicken broth. Rice and barley are also used as it’s carbs.

WHAT TO AVOID

All dog foods advertise that they have “complete nutrition” and are perfect for your dog; whatever you do, don’t believe the hype. Many dogs have suffered a myriad of illnesses because their owners have purchased whatever is the cheapest, whatever they have a coupon for, or whatever brand has nice lettering on the package.

Typically dog food brands that have corn or cornmeal listed as their first ingredient should be avoided as this is a filler and shouldn’t be the main ingredient. Wheat and wheat flour is also a filler and should be listed at the bottom of the ingredients, if at all.

Because your dog needs a variety of sources for its protein, be sure your brand has more than one type of meat as well.

Moist dog foods have a higher concentration of fat and fatty acids. This is good to a certain extent but of course you dog shouldn’t have its main diet be comprised of moist dog foods.

Some General Tips on Training Your Dog

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training your dog

training your dog

As with children, dogs need to learn that there are certain behaviors that are unacceptable and some things that are expected of them. But as with raising and disciplining a child, there are ways to go about doing this that will be effective and some things you may want to avoid in order to protect the dog from long-term harm.

It’s an unfortunate trend that developed in past years for owners to use choke chains and collars and other harsh methods of dog training in order to “teach” or “discipline” the dog.

To really drive home the point of how important it is to train your dog properly, ask yourself how you would feel if you were taught how to do a new job by having a choke chain around your neck and your boss yanking on it when you did something wrong or he or she wanted to get your attention. While it’s true that a dog’s neck is stronger than a human’s, it’s still very inappropriate, hurtful, and downright abusive.

So if you’re worried about how to train your dog properly without being abusive, there are some things you can remember and keep in mind.

MOTIVATION

When you understand what is going through a dog’s head you get a better understanding of why they act the way they do. Once you understand why they behave a certain way and why they react to certain input from you, then it’s much easier to “speak the dog’s language” and train her in a way that’s encouraging and beneficial as well.

Pack animals and the alpha dog mentality.

It cannot be emphasized enough how dogs are pack animals and that this pack mentality affects almost all of their behavior when around others. To domesticated dogs, the humans around them become their pack.

A dog’s owner becomes the leader of the pack or the alpha dog, and other dogs are going to follow that alpha dog.

As the dog’s owner you are its leader and the dog is going to want to make you happy. This is something to remember when training or teaching – there should be less of a need to discipline that dog when it does something you don’t like and more emphasis on rewarding it when it does things that make you happy. That positive reinforcement from the alpha dog is going to have a stronger impact on the dog’s behavior than the punishment will.

Praising and reinforcing behavior.

Never underestimate the impact it has on your dog’s behavior when you praise it and reward its behavior through rewards, petting, and so on. Your dog will crave this type of attention from you, the alpha dog, and will do whatever it can do to get that attention.

Here are some common ways that you should consider praising and reinforcing your dog’s behavior when she does what you ask of her:

  • Petting. As with humans, physical contact goes a long way toward making a dog feel content, appreciated, and loved. Petting a dog has a very reassuring and calming effect on her. It also creates a bond between the owner and dog itself and this helps to reinforce their loyalty.
  • Playing. If your dog has a favorite toy such as a ball or a Frisbee, tossing this around for them is a great way to reward their behavior. Unlike some humans, dogs actually like to be active and playing with them is a reward that they appreciate.
  • Tone of voice. Believe it or not, dogs don’t understand English! For that matter they don’t understand any language that an owner may be speaking. They have no idea what you’re saying when you talk to them, although they can associate certain words with certain concepts or items – they recognize the words “sit” or “go for a walk” but obviously can’t comprehend many words past the basics. However, they do respond to a tone of voice. They understand when you are scolding them, when you’re angry, and when you’re praising them. Saying the phrase “good dog” in a very reassuring voice is a reward for them; again, they want your approval and can sense when they have it by your tone.
  •  Edible treats. When used properly, dogs can associate their favorite edible treats with a job well done. This too is another reason why treats should be given sparingly – if they are handed out regularly then the dog will no longer be motivated to behave properly in order to earn one.

TIP FROM THE EXPERTS: Positive reinforcement is just as important as punishment or scolding. When you get your dog off the furniture, once he’s down then you can give her a small bit of praise or a pet her for a moment. This way they learn that obedience to your commands is also a good thing.

BEING CONSISTENT

Imagine having a job where your starting time is 9:00 a.m. One day you arrive at work right on time only to be told by your boss that you’re late and your pay is going to be docked. You’re confused and state that plainly; your starting time is nine o’clock and it’s even a few before that, so how can you be late? Your boss tells you plainly that he or she decided just now that your starting time is 8:30, so you’re late and you’re punished.

How would you feel? Angry, frustrated, confused, fearful of what will happen tomorrow and what time you should show up?

Consistency in training your dog is just as important. Allowing them to indulge in or get away with certain behavior for a long period of time and then one day punishing them for it is going to be terribly confusing for them, just like a boss that docks your pay when you arrive for work at the same time you’ve been arriving for years.

It’s difficult for owners to keep up with consistent training as they are often tired and allow their own energy levels to dictate when and how they train a dog, but this is going to be detrimental to her health overall. If you don’t allow the dog on the furniture, she needs to be told “no” and guided off of it every single time. If you do this and then one day beckon her to join you on the couch, she’ll be confused and probably afraid of you as well.

UNDERSTANDING INSTINCT

Dog care experts agree that dogs are not spiteful. They don’t chew up your shoes because they’re angry you went away; they do this for entertainment. They don’t urinate on the furniture because they’re trying to make you angry; they do this to mark their territory, because they haven’t been let out in time to go outdoors, or because they haven’t been housebroken properly.

This too is where your consistency comes into play. If your dog does something such as jump on the furniture or grabs your dinner off the counter, it probably thinks this is appropriate behavior. These behaviors are just instinct and unless you’ve corrected and taught the dog properly it will continue to do these things.

TIP FROM THE EXPERTS: Remember that dogs can rarely connect something they did hours ago or even minutes ago with a punishment or correction. You need to catch them in the act when correcting them. If you show them a shoe they’ve chewed up while scolding them, they may get the message but most likely will not understand what you’re angry about.

Dog – Man’s Best Friend Ever

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Dog - Man's Best Friend Ever

It might be a bit presumptuous to say that a dog is man’s best friend; for some men that title might be held by his pickup truck, his girlfriend, or maybe even his mother.  But in truth there’s a reason why dogs have such high esteem in the eyes of those that own them.  As a matter of fact, dogs have been used by men and women throughout the ages, not just as pets but also as true helpers in the household.  From farms to animal ranches to those that have hunted for a living, dogs have been a big part of mankind’s survival.

To really appreciate why so many choose dogs as pets and why they’re so valued by many, let’s take a look at some of the common traits of many dogs that make them so prized.  This might not help anyone that isn’t a true fan of the animal, but it can demonstrate how those who love dogs aren’t misplaced in their devotion.

Dogs as Hunters

Most dogs have a very heightened sense of smell and therefore can track down just about anything or everything that has a scent.

Humans have been using dogs for centuries during hunting expeditions as they are able to flush out ferrets or deer or rabbits or whatever other animal they’re hunting.  While some today may not appreciate this particular skill, keep in mind that for centuries people that didn’t hunt didn’t survive.  Many people and cultures would farm and fish and find various food items that way, but many cultures also relied on hunting for their very existence.  Without dogs to help them find groups of animals and to flush them out, some cultures would no doubt have had a much more difficult time just surviving.

Even today those that are serious hunters, whether for sport or for food, typically bring some breed of dog with them.  There are many different types of hounds that are bred specifically for their abilities to track down an animal and obey the owner’s commands to flush them out.

Dogs as Herders

Have you ever been to a ranch and watched a dog work in harmony with its owner in gathering up the sheep or cattle or other animals?  Most dogs have what is called a strong defensive drive, meaning that they protect their owners from harm or danger.  This is the drive that comes into play when herding; they are actually acting as a protection by moving the animals back where they belong.

This particular trait is very important and useful when it comes to herding and ranching.  Dogs not only keep animals in order, they also guide them to where they’re supposed to be going.  They are quicker and more nimble than men on horses and so can get to straying animals quicker.

Many who own ranches or farms of any sort will attest to how important these animals are and how they really could not do their job properly without them.

Loyalty of Dogs

How many stories have you heard of dogs that were hundreds of miles from home and somehow managed to make their way back?  This isn’t just some type of instinct on their part but is part of their loyalty to their owner.  Dogs become very attached to those that care for them and have an instinctive need to be with them, just like any other member of the family.  When a dog is separated from his or her owner their other physical abilities to hunt and track will help them to find their way back, but it’s that attachment that drives them to do so.

This loyalty of dogs is also part of what makes them good pets.  They can be trained to do what an owner tells them because their loyalty makes them obedient.  This is unlike other pets such as cats, who feel much less attachment to their owners at least to the point where they will sit, stay, come, or obey any other command.

Loyalty too is part of what makes some breeds good watchdogs.  They can be trained to bark at or chase away strangers but won’t show this same behavior to their owners because of that loyalty.

Some may argue that dogs are usually loyal only because their owner feeds them, but this is only part of the equation.  Many dogs can survive on their own but still choose to stay close to home, not just because this is where the food is but because they want to be part of that family dynamic.

Trainability

Ever tell a cat to “go lay down”?  If you did you probably got nothing more than a very bored look in response.  The same might be said for trying to direct a gerbil, pet rabbit, or fish.  It’s not that these animals have no respect for their owners, it’s just that they don’t understand and respond to commands the way dogs do.

The trainability of dogs is one reason that they make such good pets, workers, and parts of the family.  Of course you can’t have conversations with them but you can teach them rudimentary instructions that make them easier to live with and more useful.  They can be sent to another room when company arrives, fetch the newspaper or slippers, and communicate back when they need to go outside and take care of business.

This of course is very convenient given a dog’s size – a gerbil or hamster can be put in a cage, a rabbit in a hutch, and a cat’s litter box hidden away in a far room.  But if dogs were not trainable then there is no way they could be domesticated and would be just another type of zoo animal.

Dogs as Family Today

Today dogs are just as valuable to families as they have ever been.  While many are still used on farms and in cultures where they hunt for food, other places value them as members of their own family.  Dogs are taken on vacation and entire resorts are built around their accommodations.

For those that do need to be put in kennels for any reason, these are now more like little hotels for dogs with gourmet treats, planned out play areas, grooming services, and deluxe sleeping accommodations.

To many people their dogs are much like children and they care for them about as much as a parent cares for a child.  This might be scoffed at by some, but calling into question a true and loyal dog owner’s feelings for his or her pet will probably result in nothing but a fierce argument.

Caring for dogs has also become a big business these days.  Dog food has gone from “all natural” and “organic” varieties to those that call themselves gourmet and deluxe as well.  Some foods even rival the dishes you see that are made for humans!

Dog massage is also a fast growing business, and those interested in their dog’s health can even buy health care coverage for them that is close in benefits and coverage to their own medical insurance.

Taking care of your dog properly is a noble concern.  While they are still animals, they deserve to be treated properly.  It’s unfortunate that there is really no legal requirement of classes or education to own a dog, and some owners may have the best of intentions but still not be treating their animal properly.  Some treatment is so neglectful and inappropriate that it borders on abusive.

Certainly, you do not want to be one of those owners.  You want to make sure that you are taking care of your dog properly, are feeding it properly, and are making all reasonable accommodations you can for its health.

On top of which, many owners want to be able to train their dog in a humane and reasonable way as well.  The idea of chock collars and smacking the dog on the nose seems horrific to them, and for good reason.  At the same time, like children, dogs do sometimes need not just training but discipline as well.

There are right and wrong ways of going about these things.  There are basic necessities of caring for a dog and appropriate ways of training her as well as inappropriate ways.

And this is where this book comes into play.  We’ve interviewed many dog care experts to get tips on feeding, socializing, training, and all other details that will help you to have a happy, friendly, and obedient dog.

We’ll tell you:

  • How dogs think and why they react the way they do; this means around you as the owner, around children, and strangers as well.
  • A dog’s nutritional needs; how they’re different from people’s needs, how dog food ingredients react in a dog’s system, and why different dogs need different food and different feeding schedules.
  • The different and special needs of puppies; this is not just so that you can take care of them appropriately but that you can begin training your puppy from a young age to behave properly and to be happy and content through adulthood.
  • How to care for a dog emotionally. Many take for granted that dogs are thinking and feeling creatures, and they too need emotional assurance and entertainment not just for their overall happiness and contentedness but for their behavior to be appropriate as well.

Dogs have become more than just tools on a farm or employees on a ranch; today they are regarded not only for their usefulness and industriousness but for their loyalty and friendship as well.

And the best way that humans and owners can appreciate these traits from them is to teach them in a responsible way and care for them appropriately.

So if you have a dog or are about to get a dog, then let’s not waste any more time.  Let’s get started!