Expert Advice

Is a dog really man’s best friend?

We’ve all heard the expression man’s best friend but really how good a companion and friend can a dog be?

Have you ever thought how your dog knows to go to the front door for another member of the family way before they arrive or how they know when it’s walk time even though you have said nothing or even maybe someone could be ill and they know to treat that person differently.

Dogs as we all know have an unbelievable sense of smell but also have an incredible ability to understand what others are feeling or experiencing including for example fear or anger. When scared or frightened we secrete Adrenaline and other associated hormones which lead to small increases in sweat production which dogs can detect. From this they may even enter their own state of anticipation in case they need to defend us as after all we are ‘their family’ also.

As well as Fear and anger they read your face and body language and can understand and detect mood, whether you are happy or sad and maybe just need some extra love.

The capability and ability of a dogs nose to smell is quite staggering. It has been suggested that a dog can smell up to 100,000 times better than a human. To put this into perspective, it can detect half a spoonful of sugar in an Olympic sized swimming pool which if trained correctly can be used in a multitude of different formats including sickness detection. They may also be able to detect if you are pregnant even before you know yourself though subtle changes in your behaviour or demeanour.

The ability to read body language goes further in that they can tell if you like someone or someone likes you through the detection of the Oxytocin hormone – the love hormone! which gives way to an interesting concept of bringing your dog along next time you go on a date!

Just because dogs don’t communicate in the conventional way that we do, it doesn’t mean that they don’t know what is going on or where you have been or where you are going but for me, my two dogs really are my best friends.

What type of Dog should I get?

The decision whether or not to have a child in life is, I would suggest pretty serious and equally that of adding a pet to the family is not much different. Assuming you have got past the ‘if’ question, the next big question is what type and within this, there are a few factors to consider on how to choose the best breed of dog for your family that will lead to the best companion for you and your kids.

  1. Think about why you want the dog. Is your future pet intended to be a companion for just you, or maybe your family or maybe there are older people involved or maybe you might even require specialist trained dogs. Do you want it to guard the house or be a playmate for your kids? These factors all need to be taken into account.
  2. Do some research getting to know the various breeds which will acquaint you with their various traits and any temperament issues including exercise requirements which you will need to know to decide on the right breed. There are lots of books and internet based resources available.
  3. Evaluate your lifestyle before settling on a particular dog breed. Determine whether your family’s lifestyle suits or can adapt to having a dog around. Do you both work? Who will mind the dog during the day? Does your family have time to regularly walk the dog? Will you be able to commit to this even on the darkest wettest wintery days? Are you an outdoor family or do you prefer to just to stay indoors playing on the computer?
  4. Consider your children’s ages and interests. If you have young children who may be on the ‘more energetic’ side, it’s important to have a dog to match their level of energy and not have a toy dog for example that may have less energy. Having a dog that matches your family’s temperament whether outgoing or more on the reserved side ensures the development of the bond to be stronger and thus hopefully avoid any incompatibilities in the long run.
  5. Maybe most importantly is what will the dog cost me? I suggest to do a monthly budget- Food / Grooming / Insurance / Vet Bills and any potential medicine. Generally larger breeds cost more money since they take so much more food and may have more expensive healthcare costs aside from being more expensive to purchase. Some pure bred dogs maybe more prone to certain health problems that mixed breeds do not have to worry about. Knowing how much the cost of maintaining for these dogs will let you know if you can afford certain breeds or not.
  6. Consider living space and location. If you live in an apartment with limited space, obviously a large dog like German Shepherds are Rottweiler may have difficulty moving about. Large breeds may be more suitable for a family with a large house or a living area. If you are living in urban areas you may want to consider small dogs. Knowing how to choose the best breed of dog for your family will help you select the most ideal pet for your family and lifestyle.

What Bed is right for my Dog?

As you can imagine, the options for choosing the right dog bed or place to rest for your dog are almost endless with a huge variety of shapes, materials, sizes and styles available not to mention prices.

It’s important that your dog has his or her own bed to lie down and rest comfortably. This not only applies if your dog is just a normal household pet, but also if your dog mainly resides outside or is even a guard dog or a service dog. They ideally always should be as close as possible to where there is company. Mental stimulation is very important.

We suggest that if you have a puppy, you may want to hold off on buying an expensive bed until after the puppy is through their chewing phase. You can buy inexpensive bedding while the puppy is small or even use an old duvet or blanket until chewing has passed.

In order to get the correct type of dog bed for your dog, we suggest that a little bit of observation time is required to see how your dog rests and sleeps and to see what position the dog naturally assumes. Some dogs love to curl up tightly in a ball while others prefer to lie flat on their side with their legs straight out. Some prefer to rest their head on something and others not. Watch your dog sleeping and measure the area the dog’s body takes up while they’re lying down. This will give you the dimensions you’ll need when making your purchase.

Mattress Style (rectangular Shaped) or Cushions are good for dogs who like to stretch out on their side. Lounger Style Beds with bumpers or walls surrounding the cushion are better for dogs that prefer to curl up. Crate mats are great also for smaller dogs, inside a crate or even to throw in the back of the car or in the corner of the room to provide a nice bit of padding and warmth.

Similarly blankets can also keep the car interior free from pet hair as they can at home when used to cover the upholstery.

All the Beddies® range of Beds, bar the Plush Range have removable covers that make laundering easy. Whichever dog bed you choose for your dog, consider having more than one bed too. It’s nice for the dog to have a comfortable place to chill in each room where he or she spends time.

Exercise Time and playing with my Dog

As much can be said about our own lives, exercising or playing is a crucial part of both mental and physical stimulation! And the bigger the dog generally the more exercise/ stimulation is required.

Small white dog on a cushion

Not only is exercise and playtime good for the dog but it’s equally as important for us.

Play encourages communication, interaction and loyalty and can be a great way to train him/her to obey and encourages good behaviour and prevents bad behaviour. Just in the same way, that our lives need stimulation both mentally and physically, a dog is the exact same and playing gives them the chance to use some of their instinctive behaviours, such as hunting, retrieving, sniffing and searching, running, jumping – and even swimming!

Hide and Seek

This game is centuries old and can be formatted in a multitude of different ways from food treat based seeking to toy based(ball / frisbee) or anything really that the dog engages with including yourself. This is a great mentally stimulating reward based game and certainly the food based seeking can be played indoors on rainy days as well as outside. There are specific treat based games on the market these days but it’s often more rewarding and strengthens the bond even further to play these games yourself. Get your dog to “stay” and show him a tasty treat. Take the treat and place it somewhere within clear sight. Return to your dog and encourage him to go to the treat – you can use command words such as “Fetch”. When he returns to you with the treat praise him and let him eat the treat. After a bit of practice, you can vary the game by using a toy instead of a treat or hide the treat out of sight.

Similarly outside a ball or frisbee can be used. Find an open space and throw a toy ball or a frisbee for him to retrieve. Once your dog has mastered the game you can throw the toy further away each time. This is also a good game to play in water if your dog enjoys swimming but make sure that the conditions are safe and that he is a competent swimmer. Frisbees are great toys for dogs with a lot of energy to burn off and if your dog enjoys jumping he can leap to catch them mid-air. Similarly ball launchers are a great way of tiring your very energetic dog.

Toys

There are so many options available on the market but mostly I think can be categorised into the following: Rope and Ball / Chew / Tough / Soft. Rope and Ball are as the name suggests made of ‘Rope / Ball’ and provide Tug based game and stimulation. Soft are generally also as the name suggest ‘Soft squeaky and interactive. Tough are hard plastic and very durable and Chews are you’ve guessed it ‘chewy’.

Selection of the right toy is very important depending on size of your dog, the age of your dog, how active is your dog and how much mental stimulation do they require but I suggest there are more than enough options out there to keep everyone happy.

My Dog’s Well-being

  1. One of the most important things in looking after an animal is making sure that they are fed regularly with a quality diet. You should feed them twice a day according to their weight and always try and promote good manners by making them sit before they eat.
  2. Always keep fresh water available.
  3. Provide a protected and clean living environment for your dog including somewhere for them to rest.
  4. Aside from any more serious training, a must at the outset is establishing some basic housekeeping rules and toilet train your dog. This sets the boundaries for who is in charge. The more simple comments that you can do will only benefit you in the long run.
  5. Walking your dog and taking them on regular walks each day or any form of exercise is also an important aspect of being a responsible dog owner. Much like humans, being in good shape is very important for the well -being of the dog.
  6. Play with your dog and develop a relationship. This mental stimulation is very important and can be done by simple hide and seek games or more physical ball or frisbee games.
  7. Taking to the vet regularly for check-ups and vaccinations.
  8. Don’t overlook grooming, bathing and nail clipping.