Your health and your family’s, of course, must be considered: if you suspect that someone in the family is allergic to dog hair, it’s better to find out before you bring the dog home and then have to take it away, causing much sad ness. Visit a family that has a dog, for several hours — if there are allergies, they’ll probably show up.
CAN A DOG AFFECT YOUR HEALTH?
It’s obvious that if there were any serious danger of the transmission of canine diseases to humans the history of our relations with this closest of animal friends would have been quite different. Certainly, rabies can be contracted from the bite of an infected animal, but no owner is going to neglect having a pet immunized, not only as a standard precaution but be cause of legal requirements in order to obtain a license for the animal. Bites by strays or strange dogs must be brought to the attention of a physician, however.
The only other serious possibilities are fungal diseases, such as ringworm, and parasites. In both cases, prevention starts with the animal itself, and it is as vital that the pet be treated as the human to prevent re-infection. These problems are dealt with in the appropriate sections below. The most important thing to remember is that if you show proper consideration for your pet’s health, you will be assuring that neither you nor your family’s health will be affected by owning a dog.
For the safety and health of both pet and humans, a certain amount of training is essential. Just how much you give your dog will depend largely on your own tolerance — it’s up to you whether you want to allow the animal on the furniture or not, for example. A completely undisciplined dog, though, will be impossible to live with.
Beating a dog to train it is not only unnecessary but poor practice. Who, after all, wants a pet that cowers? A firm scolding is equally effective. Dogs are sensitive animals and want your affection. You don’t need to shout at them — they will understand the disapproval in your tone. You can reinforce your point by slapping a newspaper against your leg, but you need not strike your pet with it. Simply ignoring the dog is extremely effective, once it understands what it has done that is wrong.
The most important point is that when the dog has done something wrong, you should act immediately — it is most desirable to catch it in the act. Dogs are highly intelligent animals but, like young children, they have short attention spans.
Pups between six and eight weeks of age are quite ready to start learning the basics, such as housebreaking; more complex training, such as tricks, should be delayed until they are between eight and ten months old.
In spite of the old saw about old dogs and new tricks, it is, indeed, possible to train an older dog. It’s harder — because it often entails untraining from previous habits — but it can be done.
HOUSEBREAKING. Your housebreaking technique will depend on where you live — if you’re in an apartment house, unless you’re on the first floor, you’ll have to paper-train a dog before it graduates to the outdoors. In any case, a puppy should not be taken out on the city streets until the age of twelve weeks, and until it has had its second distemper shot. Waiting until the series of distemper shots is completed is even better.
The first procedure, in outdoors housebreaking, is to select a designated spot outdoors. Pre-scent the area with a rag you’ve used to mop up the pup’s earlier mistakes.
After a nap, meal, play, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, pick up the puppy and take it to its spot. The puppy should wear a leash to prevent it from escaping, both for safety and so that it will not be distracted from its lesson.
When it performs, lavish the puppy with praise and give it an occasional treat to underscore the point. Should it continue to make mistakes in the house, scold it firmly — and take it out immediately to the proper place. Soon it will get the idea and let you know when it wants to go out. As it becomes accustomed to walking on a leash, you can take it to other places than the spot originally used, and show, by your praise, that these too are acceptable. Contrary to common belief, male dogs can be trained to use the gutter rather than trees, flower beds, and stoops.
If you are training your puppy to go on paper, in a confined area, place newspapers over the entire floor. Choose the spot you ultimately want used and pre-scent it. Gradually remove portions of the newspaper around this, exposing areas of the floor, and encourage the puppy to use the remaining papered area following naps, meals, and so forth. With time, only a small area of paper will be needed, and the puppy will not make mistakes else where in the house.
If or when the pup is to graduate and learn to go outside, remove the newspaper, pre-scent a spot outside with used newspaper, and follow, the outdoors housebreaking technique described above.
LEASH TRAINING. Train the puppy to the leash as early as possible. Do not tug or yank at the leash, but call its name and give the command “come,” gently pulling it toward you. This should be done simultaneously with training it to come on command without the leash. As it learns its name, the puppy will come spontaneously when called if you respond with praise and affection. But use the command “come” so that this will become associated with the act.
With or without a leash, the dog should be trained to walk at heel. This is not only a convenience (a lunging dog that tangles its leash around your legs is no fun to walk) but a safety precaution. Even in the country, when walking along roads with little traffic, you want sufficient control over your animal to be sure it will not be run down by a car. The training is relatively simple. Hold the leash in your left hand. Give the command “heel” and pull the puppy into position so that it is walking with its head beside your leg. When it tries to pull ahead or to lunge in some other direction, pull it back and repeat the command. When it has walked in position for a short while, praise it. Gradually give it more leash, command it to heel, and show your appreciation when it obeys.
Choke collars are excellent for large breeds to restrain them. Training choke collars are useful to teach the dog to walk with its head up. Holding the head up may help prevent nasal tumors, which have been postulated to be caused by inhaling carcinogenic pollutants from the ground. A dog with its head up will also avoid some of the contagion from worms (in feces) and dangerous food. Toy breeds such as poodles and pugs should wear harnesses rather than collars because of the risk of collapsed tracheas.
BAD HABITS. Bad habits, such as jumping on people, getting on the furniture, biting, chewing, and begging for food, can be avoided or corrected early by gentle but persistent scolding. There is a strong connection between boredom and bad behavior — sometimes a high-spirited dog has such a tedious life, it develops bad habits to keep itself occupied, and in an effort to gain attention. Some variety, as well as scolding, would be the prescription.
Bear in mind that chewing has a function. It is virtually essential for a teething puppy and is important to the dental health of older animals. Chewable toys made of nylon or hard rubber are excellent. If the dog is given real bones, they should be removed before they have been whittled down to the point where they can be swallowed. Brittle, small bones, such as those of a chicken, should never be given to a dog. Heavier bones, such as beef or lamb, should be given the pet when raw (cooking destroys their resilience and there is the possibility of swallowing sharp fragments), after meat and fat have been trimmed off. Because of the risk of trichinosis when they have not been cooked, pork bones should be avoided.
A dog that lives outdoors must, first of all, be given enough space to allow it to run for exercise. Second, it should have a dry, draft-free house large enough for it to sleep in comfortably. In cooler climates, additional space is undesirable. Bedding should be well padded, dry, and warm.
Extremes of climate must be taken into consideration. In areas with harsh winters, only specialized breeds such as malamutes can be kept outdoors without risking frostbite. In the South, because of the risk of heat stroke, runs should be in the shade. (See Heat Stroke and Frostbite under Emergencies and First Aid)
Indoors or outdoors, your pet’s bedding should be changed once a week.
Cloth bedding, which is excellent, should be washed before it is used again.
Exercise is as important for the house dog as for the pet that lives outside. Regardless of housebreaking requirements, which become less frequent as the animal matures, your dog should be taken out for a walk at least twice a day. The more exercise the better — and bear in mind that these outings are good for your health too. If you go in for jogging, your dog will thoroughly enjoy it and will make an excellent companion. In any case, once around the block is not enough. And don’t let your dog persuade you to duck out and right back in again just because the weather is nasty. Owners who bundle their pets up in little coats during the winter fail to realize just how hardy these animals actually are, and that their natural coats actually become thicker through exposure to the cold. (One must be more careful of a clipped poodle, of course — but still a coat is unnecessary.)
As an example, for quite a few years New Yorkers enjoyed the early morning sight of one Scottie who insisted on having his daily swim in Central Park’s lake. As winter set in, he would jump up and down on the ice until he broke through. Even after it finally became too thick, he went right on trying, until spring finally brought the thaw.
If you have a puppy, there is one indoor danger of which you should be aware: watch to make sure it doesn’t chew on electrical wiring. Chewing toys will help remove the temptation, but alertness is also necessary. The pup will not risk electrocution with the first nibble (see Electrical Shock), and if you keep your eyes open, you can train it to leave the wiring alone and to stick to its toys — or your favorite slippers.
Plants are another problem. Dogs, and particularly puppies, will chew them. In some cases, this can be a danger (see Poisoning), and, at best, it is bound to affect your interior decoration.
What about other animal residents? Forget all the myths about natural enemies. Certainly, a dog in the wild is a predator and behaves as such, but with an assured diet it will make a good companion to and enjoy the company of virtually any other animal. Bear in mind the domesticated breeds that defend sheep against their wild cousins, the wolves. The problem of bringing different animals together in the household has less to do with species than with concepts of territory. It is no easier to bring in another dog than a cat. The easiest way around any jealousy that might arise is to intro duce the animals while they are young. The relationships can become quite close; and many a family dog has been seen to challenge larger animals of his own species in defense of his cat companion. (See “How to Have a Multi-pet Family.”)
There is really nothing mysterious about the proper diet for a dog. Their nutritional requirements are quite similar to those of humans, and you would do much better to think of a dog as being like a child rather than belonging to an alien species.
Because of their high metabolisms, puppies have special feeding requirements (see Mothers and Puppies), but for a dog over eight months of age, any of the commercial canned, dry, or semi-moist diets are good, and the choice will depend largely on your dog’s personal preference. At this age the dog should be receiving two meals a day. As it becomes an adult, depending on how active the animal is, this may be cut to one. The proper amount must be determined by trial and error and will depend on both the dog’s size and, again, how active it is. If it appears to be ravenous, let it eat. If it seems to be gaining weight after it has reached its full growth, cutback.
Table scraps should not be the main staple of the diet — but they do have their uses. Vegetables, for instance, are excellent in the dog’s diet and should be included frequently. Leftovers are fine for this purpose, and there is no need for any fixed schedule; simply make them available, and leave it to the dog whether they are accepted or not. Starchy foods, on the other hand — such as bread, potatoes, and rice — pose the same problems for dogs that they do for humans. They are fattening and, since they are not necessary from the standpoint of nutrition, can be considered undesirable.
All-meat diets are too high in phosphorus and too low in calcium and, fed over a long period, will result in very serious bone diseases. They should not be relied on as the main source of your dog’s diet.
The best assurance of a healthy pet is to provide it with variety, using any of the available foods at any one lime but constantly changing around, guided by your dog’s own taste. Following this general guideline, no rigid formula diet is necessary. Bones, while they are desirable for other reasons (see under Bad Habits), should not be considered a factor in nutrition.
Fresh water should always be available, and should be changed daily. This is especially important for older animals. If you have an older dog whose thirst and, perhaps, frequency of urination have noticeably increased over a few months, or a dog that drinks so much that it vomits afterward, do not deprive it of water — instead, give it ice cubes to lick. This could indicate a disease, too, and the animal should be checked by a veterinarian.
Bowls for food and water should not have sharp edges. Plastic and steel are best because they are easily cleaned. The bowl should have a heavy, flat base so that it cannot be turned over. The proper size will depend on how large the animal is.
BATHS. A dog should receive a bath only when absolutely needed or when treating a specific skin disorder requiring medicated shampoos.
Since the majority of commercial dog shampoos are too harsh for the dog’s skin, it is better to use baby shampoo. The water should be lukewarm; keep shampoo out of your pet’s eyes. Various ophthalmic ointments or a drop of mineral oil can be put in each eye br protection. As with most shampoos, the most important step is to thoroughly rinse all the shampoo from the body. This is particularly important in long-haired dogs. Once the shampoo dries on the skin, it can become extremely itchy and uncomfortable.
When the bath is complete, either towel-dry or blow-dry the dog’s hair with a hand hair dryer. Keep it confined indoors for the next eight or ten hours to prevent its catching a cold.
BRUSHING. Brushing your dog daily or several times a week can be an enjoyable experience and can minimize the number of baths needed. Remove all large hair mats before brushing. Using a wire-bristle brush and a wide- toothed comb, smoothly brush out all the snarls and additional hair mats. Brush gently in both directions to remove the loose, thick, undercoat hairs that are responsible for shedding and mat formation. A final brushing with any commercial dog coat conditioner will add luster and make the coat glisten.
TOENAILS. Next, check the toenails. Using a Resco or White’s nail trimmer, available in pet stores, cut just at the junction of the nail and its blood vessel. This can be seen easily in dogs with white, transparent nails. In dogs with black nails, cut the nail just beyond the point where it starts to curve down ward. If unsure where to trim them, have your veterinarian demonstrate. The nails of house dogs should be cheeked; they will probably need trimming twice a year — unless the dog runs on rough pavement sufficiently.
EARS. Whenever you are grooming your dog, as a matter of routine inspect its ears and clean them gently with facial tissue and mineral oil. Avoid sticking Q-tips down deep into the ear. A good rule is to go down into the ear only as far as you can see.
At intervals, hair should be removed from the interior of the ear. Use the thumb and forefinger and pull out very small amounts of hair at a time. With schnauzers and poodles, this should be done four to six times a year, one to two times with floppy-eared breeds, and only once a year with dogs such as shepherds which have upright ears.
Signs of ear trouble to watch out for are pawing, redness, hot skin, and excessive dirt. Refer to the section Ears for discussion of various ear conditions, and also Ear Mites and their control.
The nursing puppy, in the first eighteen to twenty-four hours of life, receives a large amount of protection against disease in the form of active antibodies in the colostrum of its mother’s milk. This immunity is variable and short term, lasting anywhere from four to eight weeks.
Puppies are given a series of vaccinations starting around seven or eight weeks old, continuing every couple of weeks or so until the puppies are fourteen weeks old. Vaccination programs will vary from one veterinarian to another, but the same principles apply. After the initial series, there will be booster shots at intervals.
Most unfortunately, many pet owners, not understanding the technical questions in immunity, think their pets are immune when they are not. Owners who do not complete the series of shots — who stop after one shot, thinking it will protect their pets — are misinformed. They may lose their pets to unnecessary, preventable diseases; and endanger other pets and, in the case of rabies, humans.
The most common vaccinations are against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and rabies.
Distemper-hepatitis is a combined modified live virus vaccine to which leptospirosis bacterin is often added. The vaccine is given at two- or three- week intervals starting at around seven or eight weeks of age and continued until the puppy is thirteen or fourteen weeks old. Thereafter, it is a yearly booster. In areas endemic for leptospirosis, it is advised to receive the leptospira bacterin every six months. There are various forms of distemper or distemper-like vaccines available (measles virus, killed virus, and so on) that your veterinarian may use in establishing a sound program of protection for your pet.
Rabies vaccine is supplied either as killed virus or as modified live virus. Vaccinations are usually started at four to six months of age, and boosters are given at yearly intervals with the killed virus vaccine or else every two to three years with the modified live virus vaccine. If done properly, both types of vaccination series are totally effective; puppies under four months should not, however, receive the modified live virus.
DISTEMPER. Distemper is perhaps the most common viral infectious disease. The young, unvaccinated dog is most susceptible. The virus invades all the tissues of the body and may cause symptoms that include high fever, poor appetite, chronic non-responsive diarrhea, weight loss, pneumonia, nasal and ocular discharge, muscle twitches, and convulsions. There is no absolute test to diagnose distemper. Diagnosis is made on the basis of no vaccination, a variety of symptoms, retinal changes, and conjunctival scrapings.
Not all distemper is fatal, but often it is. Treatment is combating the debilitating symptoms and preventing secondary bacterial infections. Prevention — provided the pet has the complete series of shots — is totally effective.
HEPATITIS. Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) is a viral disease that can occur in dogs of all ages, but particularly in young dogs. It mainly affects the liver, intestinal tract, and eyes. Symptoms include very high fever, thirst, loss of appetite, bloody vomit and diarrhea, tense painful abdomen, and blue hazy cornea of the eye.
The treatment of ICR is prolonged supportive and intensive care. The disease usually ends in death. Prevention — hepatitis vaccine — is completely effective.
LEPTOSPIROSIS. Leptospirosis can affect both man and animal. The micro organisms are spread by infected animals in the urine. The disease is very rarely spread from a dog to a person, and it is not spread between people. Cattle are the most common source. Signs include fever, listlessness, depression, vomiting, and diarrhea. In more severe infections, kidney failure occurs.
Diagnosis is difficult and depends on finding rising leptospirosis antibody liters seven to ten days apart or finding the spirochaete organism in the urine during the acute phase under dark-field microscopy.
The favored treatment is penicillin and dihydrostreptomycin with supportive care. Prevention — by vaccine — is fully effective.
RABIES. Rabies is a viral disease that can infect people and animals. The virus is shed in the saliva during the active phase of the disease; if a rabid animal’s mouth contacts an open wound — as through a bite wound, or licking cut skin — the disease can be spread. Depending on site of entry the incubation period varies between ten and forty days. Rabies is communicable only during the acute stage. Skunks and bats are perhaps the biggest reservoir of rabies infection. Rabies infection occurs in two distinct forms:
1. Dumb or paralytic, characterized by paralysis of muscles of the mouth and throat to the point the animal cannot drink water, becomes comatose, and dies within a few days.
2. Furious, a progressive deterioration of the central nervous system to the point where any noise or movement can provoke an attack.
Rabid animals die within ten days of the onset of the acute stage. Any suspected rabid dog should be quarantined under observation for a period of ten days. Any bite wound should be reported to local authorities.
There are shots available for people bitten by rabid animals; they are painful, and not totally effective, but are more effective the earlier they’re begun.