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59% of those surveyed say pets are good for their health and the health of their family and help them relax. 40% say that owning a dog motivates them to exercise on a regular basis. Three-quarters of dog owners consider their dog like a child or family member and more than half of cat owners say the same (NPOS). From APPMA

How to Care for Dogs

Knowing how to care for dogs is an essential part of being a good dog owner. You want to meet all of your dog's basic physical and emotional needs to keep him as healthy, happy and safe as possible. Here are some dog care basics to help you along.

Provide Your Dog a Nutritious Diet

In order to be happy and healthy, dogs need a nutritious, balanced diet that meets their physical needs. Choose a quality food that your dog likes. You don't have to buy the most expensive food; pet food companies perform extensive research to ensure that their foods provide balanced nutrition. However, there's a risk that if you buy the cheapest food, it could be mostly filler.

Choose a food that's in the middle of the price range. You might need to change foods a few times until you find something that your dog likes. Your dog won't eat enough if he doesn't like his food, and if he doesn't eat enough, he won't be healthy.

If you'd like to provide a homemade diet to your dog, discuss his nutrition needs with your vet before you begin. Discuss potential ingredients at length, and make sure you're aware which human foods (such as grapes, walnuts and onions) are toxic to dogs.

Once you've settled on a diet, watch your dog carefully for the first few weeks. Note any change in appearance or behavior. If his coat appears dull and his skin dry, or if he begins to have stomach upsets such as gas, vomiting and diarrhea, a change in diet might be called for.

Provide Proper Medical and Preventative Care

Of course, if your dog begins to show signs of illness that last more than 24 hours, take him to the vet right away. But remember that proper medical and preventative care involves more than just taking your dog to the vet when he's sick. Proper vet care involves vaccinations in puppyhood and annually thereafter. He'll also benefit from a yearly medical check up.

Your dog needs regular exercise to stay healthy. Establish a daily exercise routine. Different breeds need different amounts of exercise, so take into account your own abilities to walk or play with a dog before your decide which breed you want.

Caring for dogs also requires basic grooming. Many breeds need no more than a regular bath and nail trimming. Some breeds need more extensive grooming, including haircuts. If you're bathing or grooming your dog yourself, use it as an opportunity to examine your dog's skin and body for injuries, growths, discolorations and parasites.

Make Your Dog A Member of the Family

Dogs are pack animals and are happiest when they can perceive themselves as a member of a family. Dogs thrive best indoors. Give him a kennel, crate or bed that he can use as his own exclusive space. Establish off-limits areas and enforce ground rules but remember to treat your dog in a warm and loving manner.

Your dog also needs structure and discipline. Follow through with training, whether it's on your own or as part of a training program. Earn your dog's love and respect by encouraging good behavior, but firmly, gently and consistently discouraging bad behavior.

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