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How to Take Care of Your Dog: 21 Vet-Approved Tips

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

Taking Care of your Dog

How to Take Care of Your Dog: 21 Vet-Approved Tips


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Whether you’ve brought home your first dog or your 10th, ensuring that you take proper care of them is a huge responsibility. They’ll be an integral part of your family for at least 10 years, if not much longer!

You want your pup to be healthy and happy and with you for as long as possible, so you must meet their essential requirements. The first step is to understand everything that’s necessary to take care of your dog, so here are a few factors that serve as the cornerstones for fulfilling their basic needs.

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Feeding Your Dog

Dog Feeding Schedule
Image By: Jaromir Chalabala, shutterstock

The first and probably the most obvious part of caring for a dog is providing them with food and water.

1. Food

High-quality dog food is one of the most important purchases you can ever make for your dog. Read reviews, research, and find a food that provides a nutritious, complete, and balanced diet for your dog and contains the right ingredients. For example, you should see meat listed as the first ingredient rather than grains or a mystery meat by-product since it will ensure that you are feeding the best healthy protein.

If you decide to cook homemade meals for your dog, only do so after consulting your vet to ensure you’re serving a nutritionally balanced meal. Don’t solely rely on what you read online, as what works for one dog won’t necessarily work for yours—not every dog has the same dietary needs.

Introduce any new food slowly, keep an eye on your dog, and note any changes in their health or appearance.

2. Food Schedule

How frequently and how much you feed your dog are also important factors. The following are general guidelines for how often they should be fed according to age:

  • 8 to 10 weeks: 4 meals per day
  • 3 to 6 months: 3 meals per day
  • 6 months to 1 year: 2 meals per day
  • 1 year and up: 2 meals per day

It’s best to create a feeding schedule. Always pick the same time of day to feed your dog, and remember that most dogs need to relieve themselves about 20 to 30 minutes after eating.

3. Water

This might seem like an obvious suggestion, but it’s a vital part of caring for a dog. Water is even more important than food, but, of course, dogs need both. Dehydration is a serious condition that can occur if a dog doesn’t always have access to water, leading to organ damage and even death if not remedied.

Always ensure your dog has fresh and clean water, and consider bringing a travel bowl if you take your pet out for long hikes or runs.

4. Treats

You need to be careful about giving your dog too many treats or pieces of people food. Your best bet is only to give your dog treats made for training purposes and to double-check with your vet about giving human food to your pup. Also, note that not all commercially available dog treats are the best option; opt for those that provide more protein and less carbs.

Some human foods are safe, but others are not, and they can contribute to obesity and health problems.

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Veterinary Care for Your Dog

Vet Care
Image Credit: Freepik

Finding an excellent veterinarian is an essential part of caring for a dog. The vet will care for your pet throughout their life and ensure they stay healthy.

Before settling on a vet, you can interview them to ensure they will be a good fit for you and your dog. You can also double-check reviews online.

5. Vaccinations

Most states and cities have laws to ensure all dogs receive the rabies vaccine. You’ll need to check with your vet about the regulations in your area. Completing a puppy’s vaccination schedule is very important; after that, they will only require boosters. Several vaccines are administered yearly, and a few are administered every 3 years. Regularly vaccinating your dog will provide protection against serious diseases.

6. Annual Check-Up

The annual exam usually includes checking your dog’s teeth, updating vaccinations, and completing a physical exam and taking some biological samples if needed. It also allows you to talk to your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s behavior, health, and training.

7. Spaying and Neutering

Neutering the male and spaying the female dog usually occurs between 6 months and 1 year of age, depending on the breed1. Not only does this procedure help prevent unwanted pregnancies, which contribute to pet homelessness, but it can also prevent severe health conditions.

Additionally, neutering and spaying can stop unwanted behaviors, such as dogs that wander or run away and aggressive behavior.

8. Microchipping

olgagorovenko_shutterstock_ Dog Microchip
Image Credit: olgagorovenko, Shutterstock

Getting your dog microchipped can help you locate them if they escape. The microchip is about the size of a large grain of rice and works as a way to identify your pet using a scanner and a database.

It’s implanted under the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades and the procedure is very simple, fast, and relatively painless. If your dog is stolen, runs away, or is lost and brought into a vet clinic or shelter/rescue group, they will be scanned with a microchip reader, which will have all the required information available so your dog can be returned to you.

9. Parasites

One unfortunate side effect of owning a dog is the pests and parasites that love to latch onto them when they have the chance, including fleas, ticks, roundworms, and heartworms. Preventive treatments are critical if you live or walk your dog in the countryside. Each treatment is different and there are several options available, but some of the most popular require application once a month.

10. Medication

Some dogs need medication for health conditions, such as diabetes or allergies. Depending on the situation, you must provide your dog with antibiotics, antifungals, or pain relievers. Be sure to get these medications only from your vet.

11. Health Insurance

This isn’t necessary for all dogs, but it could benefit you, particularly if your dog is still a puppy as any health condition they might develop can be covered. You’ll be required to pay a monthly premium, but the insurance should cover most of the cost if your dog is hospitalized through illness or injury.

Shop around until you find the insurance company that’s right for you. One company to look at is Lemonade, which offers balanced, customizable pet insurance and responsive customer service.

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Grooming Your Dog

Image Credit: Lucky Business, Shutterstock

No matter how easy it might seem to groom your dog, there will always be aspects you’ll need to look after, especially trimming their nails. Ensuring your dog remains mat-free is also crucial since the mats pull on the skin and can be painful.

12. Brushing & Trimming

The frequency of brushing depends on your dog’s coat. Some dogs, like Huskies, have short double coats to help them in cold weather, so they require extra brushing, particularly when they shed (every spring and fall is shedding season). Others, like Beagles, have short, smooth coats that shed excessively and require weekly brushings.

Dogs with long, thick coats need frequent brushing and regular trimming. The Bichon Frise has hair instead of fur, which means the coat doesn’t stop growing and should be brushed at least several times a week and trimmed every couple of months.

Research the dog you’re interested in before you commit to one. Depending on the breed, grooming can be easy or high maintenance.

13. Baths

Most dogs should be bathed (and only with a dog shampoo) about every 4 to 6 weeks or only when necessary. Some breeds need more frequent baths, including hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested, which might need weekly baths.

There are also dogs like the Basenji (a great dog to have if you’re also a cat lover), which groom themselves and rarely need a bath.

Our Favorite Products

Selecting the right shampoo and conditioner makes the world of a difference when grooming your pup. Our favorite products are the duo by Hepper. The Oatmeal Pet Shampoo is formulated with aloe and oatmeal to soothe skin and hydrate the coat. The Pet Conditioner works at eliminating tangles and taming frizz and static. Both products are pH-balanced and formulated with pet-friendly ingredients, free of harsh soaps, chemicals, and dyes. Give this duo a try to heal and nourish your dog's coat, and leave them with an irresistible just-left-the-spa cucumber and aloe scent. 

Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates

At Dogster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool pet company!


14. Daily, Weekly, & Monthly Husbandry

Nail trimming, ear cleaning, and brushing teeth are all regular parts of weekly and monthly maintenance you must perform on your dog. Cleaning their ears helps you keep an eye out for infections and parasites. Regularly brushing their teeth will help them in the same way it helps you. Dental issues can lead to gingivitis and could eventually lead to heart disease.

A dog’s nails grow continuously and eventually grow into their pads, making it difficult for them to walk and stand. White/translucent nails are the easiest to trim, as you can usually see the quick (inner blood vessel).

You are free to use this image but we do require you to link back to for credit

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Exercising and Training

Image By: Khakimullin Aleksandr, Shutterstock

Exercising and training your dog are vital to their health. Exercising keeps your dog happy and allows them to release pent-up energy. Training is vital for your sanity and helps your dog become a well-behaved pet.

15. Exercising

The amount of exercise a dog gets depends on their breed. High-energy dogs, like the Border Collie, need a lot of walking, running, and opportunities to play, whereas many of the small breeds, like the French Bulldog, require short walks and little exercise.

You need to ensure your dog gets enough time to expend their energy, or they might exhibit destructive behaviors.

16. Picking Up the Poop

Part of owning a dog includes picking up their waste. It’s not fun, but it’s absolutely necessary. Even if it’s in your backyard, the poop should be cleaned up since it’s a polluting substance. It can kill the grass and carry parvovirus, which is highly contagious in dogs. Feces can also contain other bacteria and parasites that can be transmitted to humans.

17. Training

Dogs need consistency and structure and must be able to function appropriately within our society. This is for their safety and yours. For example, if your dog runs off, you need to be able to call them back before they run into the road.

How you train your dog will depend on the breed. Some pups are treat-motivated, while some love to be put to work and others will become bored with training if you don’t make it enjoyable. Some canines need more repetition to learn tricks and commands, while others will learn very fast. However, all dogs respond best to positive reinforcement.

18. Socializing

Dogs must be socialized when they are young, even when they are just a few weeks old. Introduce your dog to as many people, smells, sounds, and places as possible so they will become used to different situations. This will make for a well-adjusted dog that won’t be fearful, shy, or aggressive when encountering something new. A week after receiving their first set of vaccines, puppies can be exposed to known healthy dogs and once their vaccination schedule is completed they can be exposed to other unknown pets at public parks.

19. Dog License and Tags

Most cities and states in North America require dogs to be registered and to wear a tag on their collar at all times. Check with your vet or local shelter regarding registering your dog.

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Ensuring the Happiness of Your Dog

happy cheerful woman hugging her beloved pet dog at home on the couch
Image Credit: Evgeny Atamanenko, Shutterstock

Lastly and just as important as the other tips, providing your dog with shelter, love, and attention is vital.

20. Housing and Shelter

Most dogs belong inside with you and should not be chained up outside. You should have a quiet and warm place available so that your pup can rest comfortably in a stress-free environment.

Some dog owners prefer to use a crate when they are out of the house. It should be a comfortable shelter that your dog will voluntarily go into as their safe space.

21. Lots of Love

Our dogs love us unconditionally and should be treated with respect, love, and affection. If your dog misbehaves, don’t yell, and certainly don’t hit them, as they won’t understand what they did wrong, and you’re only teaching them to fear you.

Instead, find ways to keep your dog feeling safe and happy; this will reflect right back to you as well.

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You are free to use this image but we do require you to link back to for credit

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Be sure to research and read up on the breed of dog you have or are interested in. The more you know about the breed and their care, the more confident you’ll be, and you can give your pet a safe and happy place to live.

Taking care of a dog will be an incredibly rewarding experience, and they will be a loving and constant companion. Be prepared to spend lots of time, money, and emotional investment on your pet. It’s worth it!

See also:

Feature Image Credit: Helena Sushitskaya, Pixabay

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