According to a survey published by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council Inc, there are approximately 700,000 pet dogs in New Zealand. As there are a range of documented health benefits from owning a dog, this is great news. From fewer visits to the doctor, to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and lower rates of stress, “Man’s Best Friend” is also man’s best medicine.
Our friends need to be kept in good shape as well; some tips, courtesy of the RNZSPCA are:
Accommodation: Your dog is now part of the family. Give him his own special place in the house and provide a bed somewhere free of draughts and near the center of family life, without being in the way. At times when you need to leave your dog outside the house he must have access to suitable shelter which in most cases means a properly constructed kennel of suitable size. Never allow your dog to sleep on concrete for any length of time, even in summer.
Vaccination: As a puppy your dog should have been fully vaccinated against Distemper, Parvo Virus, Hepatitis and Kennel Cough, but he still needs a booster each year so an annual visit to your Veterinarian is advisable. This annual visit is a good opportunity for a check of your dog’s teeth, skin, ears, eyes and general health. It is also a chance to talk over any concerns you may have. Your veterinarian is your dog’s best friend. Keep his telephone number handy. See the RNZSPCA website for a list of common healthy problems.
Dogs and children: Young children must always be carefully supervised when around animals. They must learn never to tease the dog but to treat it kindly and with respect.
Desexing: An unspayed female dog can produce two litters of puppies a year. Large breeds have big litters – maybe 10 or more at any one time. They make a lot of work, cost a vast amount of money to feed, and finding homes for them all is difficult, often impossible. Un-neutered male dogs make up the largest proportion of impounded dogs. Be a responsible dog owner and have your dog desexed as soon as it is old enough – around 6 months of age. You will improve its health, minimize aggressive behavior and the tendency to roam. You will have a far better companion and you will also help to alleviate the stray dog problem.
Exercise: The daily outing is the high point of your dog’s day. Suitable exercise for his size and breed is essential for his physical and mental wellbeing. It is your together time for play and socialisation, and it’s good for you, too.
Feeding: Most adult dogs thrive on commercially prepared foods, but at the same time they do enjoy some variety. Follow feeding instructions on the tin or packet, and ascertain your dogs ideal weight, as like people, dogs differ in their dietary needs. A stew of cooked meat with added rice and vegetables is nourishing and economical. All dogs need access to a little grass which they eat from time to time to maintain their natural digestive balance. A bowl of fresh water must always be available.
Obedience training: This is a gentle means of giving a pup or dog the guidance it needs to prevent the development of unacceptable behavior. It is a constructive, progressive process which is good fun for both dog and owner. Basic obedience training is the key to having a well behaved dog. Once trained, the dog is more controllable, more dependable and happier in itself as it has a better idea what is expected of it. The effort is small but the benefits last a life-time.
Registration and Microchipping: Every dog owner must register his/her dog when it reaches the age of three months and re-register each year with their local authority. Dogs must wear a collar bearing the current registration disc.
All dogs being registered for the first time must also be microchipped.
Another important consideration is pet insurance. The cost of illness or injury of your beloved pet can easily reach four figures and pet insurance can be a way to provide peace of mind that you could afford the costs involved. See our Types of Pet Insurance article for further information.