Owning a dog is a full-time job and one that can be incredibly stressful for you and your furry companion if you’re not well-equipped. Here are five tips to helping your current or future dog live its best East End life.
Know your breed. Does your dog breed require daily walks and wide-open space to run? Is it more high-maintenance than your schedule can accommodate? You’ll want to learn all these things and adjust to suit your pet’s needs, to the best of your ability. This research process is especially important when thinking of bringing another pet into the home, as a great many people go about this the wrong way. “The worst thing you can do is walk past a pet shop, see a little doggie in the window and buy it,” warns Harbor Pets owner Alan Stone, who has seen too many dogs get rehomed due to poor breed research. “A lot of people have bought dogs that are the wrong dog for their lifestyle.”
Sportsman’s Kennels owner Helen Camlakides agrees that choosing a breed based on cuteness is not a wise idea. “You should always be looking to put the right dog in the right home, then it stays there forever and loves it to death,” she says.
You are what you eat. Getting the right nutrients is vital to puppies, adult dogs and senior hounds, and Stone has a few recommendations on how to do that. His personal favorite brand is Hauppauge-based Health Extension, which he uses for his nine dogs. “The food is very palatable for dogs, and they use the same probiotic that they use for making yogurt, so it’s good for sensitive stomachs,” he says, adding that if your pet is dealing with a diet problem or health issue, Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food is the way to go, as they have specific foods to answer most problems. “Feed your dog the best-quality food that you can, within your budget,” he advises.
Companionship is key. One major aspect of a dog’s quality of life is companionship, and if you’re not leaving your pooch with a human playmate when you head out for the day, you’ll need to get them a furry companion. “People now realize they’re never home—they’re very busy. And of course, the dog becomes very needy,” Camlakides explains. “Do you like to be alone all day? So your dog doesn’t either! All the toys might be fun, but it would have a lot more fun with another buddy.”
Groomer knows best. Many dog owners don’t realize that dogs’ ears should be combed nearly every day and their fur should be brushed often with a brush designed for their breed. “A dog’s coat needs continual combing and brushing, and people don’t do it. So what happens is the dog goes out in the snow or rain and gets matted. The next thing you know, they bring the dog in three or four months later to get it groomed and the only thing you can do is shave it down because the mats are so close to the dog’s skin,” Stone explains. “And if the dog’s skin can’t breathe, it sets it up for infections.”
Train yourself, not the dog. Dogs and especially puppies need to be kept on a predictable routine, and this scheduled-keeping is infinitely more difficult for owners than it is for their pets. “Dogs are easy,” Camlakides says. “I think the whole concept of dog training is going about it the wrong way. When we send the dog home, we’re training the person.” She explains that by the time the puppies at Sportsman’s Kennels go home, they know how to use pee pads and are accustomed to three specific meal times and a set bed time. It’s up to the owner to keep up with a structured routine for the sake of the dog. “Keep puppies well-fed, keep them warm, keep them clean, give them lots of love, make them happy—then they have a trust for people, and they’ll listen,” she adds. “If you raise them with love and kindness, I think you get that back tenfold.”