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Caring for Your New Dog

Ready to bring home your new four-legged friend? Here’s everything you need to know to make your pooch feel like part of the family.

Dog Supply Checklist

[   ] Leash
[   ] Collar with Pet License
[   ] Water/Food Bowls
[   ] Vaccinations/Rabies
[   ] Bed
[   ] Toys
[   ] Training pads for puppies

Registration and Identification

Make sure your dog is registered as required by Broward County law, and properly identified. A Broward County Rabies Registration Tag as well as another form of identification, such as a name tag or implanted microchip, can help ensure that your dog or cat is returned to you if it becomes lost or stolen.

Handling Your New Pet

Small dogs, sometimes referred to as "lap dogs," are the easiest to handle. To carry a puppy or small dog, place one hand under the dog's chest, with either your forearm or other hand supporting the hind legs and rump. Never attempt to lift or grab your puppy or small dog by the forelegs, tail or back of the neck. If you do have to lift a large dog, lift from the underside, supporting his chest with one arm and his rear end with the other.


Puppies that are eight to 12 weeks of age need four meals a day. Puppies three to six months of age need three meals a day. Puppies six months to one year need two meals a day. Once your dog reaches his first birthday, one meal a day is usually sufficient. But some dogs, especially larger canines or animals that are prone to bloating, may do better with two smaller meals per day.

Premium-quality dry food provides a well-balanced diet for adult dogs and may be mixed with water, broth or canned food. Your dog may enjoy cottage cheese, cooked egg, fruits and vegetables, but these additions should not total more than 10 percent of the animal’s daily food intake.

Puppies should be fed a high-quality, brand-name puppy food. Please limit "people food" however; because it can result in vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems and may cause very picky eating habits and obesity.

Clean, fresh water should be available at all times, and be sure to wash food and water dishes frequently.


Dogs need exercise to burn calories, stimulate their minds, and stay healthy. Exercise also tends to help dogs avoid boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors. Supervised fun and games will satisfy many of your pet's instinctual urges to dig, herd, chew, retrieve and chase.

Individual exercise needs vary based on breed or breed mix, sex, age and level of health, but a couple of walks around the block every day and 10 minutes in the backyard probably won't be enough. If your dog is a six- to 18-month adolescent, or if it is an active breed or mixed-breed from the sporting, herding, hound or terrier groups, requirements will be relatively high.


Ever watch your dog roll on the ground, lick its coat or chew at a mat on its fur? These are ways dogs use to keep themselves clean. Most dogs don’t need to be bathed more than a few times a year. Sometimes, though, your dog will need a little extra help to look its best.

Grooming sessions should always be fun, so be sure to schedule them when your dog's relaxed, especially if your dog is an excitable type. Until your pet is used to being groomed, keep the sessions to just five or 10 minutes. Gradually lengthen the time until it becomes routine for your dog. You can help your dog get comfortable with being touched and handled by making a habit of petting every single part of your dog, including such potentially sensitive areas as the ears, tail, belly, back and feet.

Before bathing, comb or cut out all mats from the coat. Regular grooming with a brush or comb will help keep your pet's hair in good condition by removing dirt, spreading natural oils throughout the coat, preventing tangles and keeping skin clean and irritant-free. And grooming time's a great time to check for fleas and flea dirt – those little black specks that indicate your pet is playing host to a flea family.

If your dog has a smooth, short coat (like that of a chihuahua, boxer or basset hound), you only need to brush once a week. Use a rubber brush to loosen dead skin and dirt. Next use a bristle brush to remove dead hair. Then polish your low-maintenance pooch with a chamois cloth.

If your dog has short, dense fur that's prone to matting, like that of a retriever, your weekly routine is a little different. Use a slicker brush to remove tangles. Next, catch dead hair with a bristle brush. Don't forget to comb the tail! If your dog has a long, luxurious coat, such as that of a Yorkshire terrier, it will need daily attention. Every day you’ll need to remove tangles with a slicker brush.

Gently tease mats out with a slicker brush. Next, brush the coat with a bristle brush.
If you have a long-haired dog with a coat like a collie's or an Afghan hound's, follow the steps above, and also be sure to comb through the fur and trim the hair  around the hocks and feet.

Use a mild shampoo that’s safe for dogs. Place a rubber bath mat in the bathtub to provide secure footing, and fill the tub with about 3 to 4 inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose to thoroughly wet your pet, taking care not to spray directly in the animal’s ears, eyes or nose. If you don't have a spray hose, a large plastic pitcher or unbreakable cup will do.

Gently massage in shampoo, working from head to tail. Thoroughly rinse with a spray hose or pitcher; again, avoid the ears, eyes and nose. Be sure to rinse all soap out of the coat, or the dirt will stick to soap residue.

Check the ears for any foul odors or excessive debris. If you choose to use a cleansing solution on a cotton ball, take care not to insert it into the ear canal. Dry your pet with a large towel or blow dryer, but carefully monitor the level of heat.

All done? Here’s one of our most important tips of all – pile on the praise and offer your pooch a treat when the session is finished!

Bath Time: Some animals seem to think that bath time is a perfect time to act goofy. Young puppies especially will wiggle and bounce all over the place while you try to brush them, and tend to nip at you. If this occurs, put a toy that floats in the tub with your pet so it can focus on the toy rather than on you.

Special Breeds Have Special Needs: Dogs with loose facial skin or wrinkles, such as shar pei and pug dogs, will need special attention at bath time. To prevent dirt and bacteria from causing irritation and infection, clean the folds with damp cotton. Always thoroughly dry the areas between the folds.

If your dog has long or droopy ears, you should check them weekly. Remove wax and dirt from your pet's ears with a cotton ball moistened with water or a little mineral oil. You may need to remove any excess hair leading into the ear canal; ask your pet's vet or groomer to show you how before trying it at home. There are special hair removers that allow you to carefully pull one strand at a time.

Nail Clipping

Most people really don't handle their dog's feet until they are about to clip the nails and then…watch out! Some animals can get very upset at this totally foreign feeling. That's why it's a good idea to get your dog used to having its feet touched before you attempt a nail trim. Rub your hand up and down the animal’s leg and then gently press each toe. Be sure to give your animal lots of praise and food treats as you do this. Every animal is different, but chances are that within a week or two of daily foot massage, your dog will be better able to tolerate a trim.

Begin by spreading each of your dog's feet to inspect for dirt and debris. Use sharp, guillotine-type nail clippers to cut off the tip of each nail at a slight angle, just before the point where it begins to curve.

Take care to avoid the quick, a vein that runs into the nail. This pink area can be seen through the nail. If your dog has black nails, however, the quick will not be as easy to find, so be extra careful. If you do accidentally cut into the quick, it may bleed, in which case you can apply some styptic powder available at pet supply stores to stop the bleeding. Once the nails have been cut, use an emery board to smooth any rough edges.


Your pet needs a warm, quiet place to rest, away from all drafts. A training crate is ideal or you may wish to buy a dog bed, or make one out of a wooden box. Place a clean blanket or pillow inside the bed. Wash the dog's bedding often. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, be sure it has access to shade and plenty of cool water in hot weather, and a warm, dry, covered shelter when it's cold.

Dog Behavior

A well-behaved companion canine is a joy. But left untrained, your dog can cause trouble. Teaching your dog the basic commands – “Sit,” "Stay," "Come," "Down," "Heel," "Off" and "Leave it" – will improve relationships with both your dog and your neighbors. If you have a puppy, start teaching it manners as soon as possible! Use little bits of food as a lure and reward.

Puppies can be enrolled in obedience courses when they have been adequately vaccinated. Information on Classes

Broward County Law Animal Laws require that you should always keep your puppy or dog on a leash in public. In addition be sure your pet will come to you at all times whenever you say the word. A dog who is disobedient or aggressive is not ready to play with others.

Good Health for Your Dog

Your dog should see the veterinarian for a full check-up, shots and a heartworm blood test every year, and immediately if it is sick or injured.

Bad Breath

Pay attention to what a pet’s bad breath may be telling you. Bad breath is most commonly an indication that your dog is in need of a dental check up. Dental plaque caused by bacteria results in a foul smell that requires professional treatment. After a professional cleaning, the teeth and gums may be maintained in a healthy state by brushing the teeth regularly, feeding a specially formulated dental diet and treats, and avoiding table scraps. Your veterinarian can give you more tips on minimizing dental disease and bad breath.

You can clean your canine's teeth with dog toothpaste or a baking-soda-and-water paste once or twice a week. Use a child's soft toothbrush, a gauze pad or a piece of nylon pantyhose stretched over your finger.

Some dogs are prone to periodontal disease, a pocket of infection between the tooth and the gum. This painful condition can result in tooth loss and spread infection to the rest of the body. Veterinarians can clean the teeth as a regular part of your dog's health program.

While bad breath caused by dental disease may not be too serious if caught early enough, some odors may be indicative of fairly serious, chronic problems. Liver or intestinal diseases may cause foul breath, whereas a sweet, fruity smell may be indicative of diabetes. If your dog's breath smells like ammonia or urine, kidney disease is a possibility. Any time you notice your pet has bad breath accompanied by other signs of ill health, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, depression, excessive drinking or urinating, schedule a visit to the veterinarian.

Fleas and Ticks

Daily inspections of your dog for fleas and ticks during the warm seasons are important. Use a flea comb to find and remove fleas. There are several methods of flea and tick control. Speak to your veterinarian about these and other options.


Keep rat poison and other poisonous substances away from your dog. If you suspect that your animal has ingested a poisonous substance, call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center for 24-hour animal poison information.

24-Hour Animal Poison Control Center
(There is a fee for this service)



Dogs are commonly exposed to worms and possible infestation, even in urban areas. Microscopic eggs produced by intestinal worms are passed in an infected dog's feces. Most puppies, even from healthy mothers in good homes, carry roundworms or hookworms.

The key to treatment is correct diagnosis. This will ensure that the medication is effective against the parasite your pet has. A dewormer that eliminates roundworms, for example, will not kill tapeworms. Your veterinarian can best determine the culprit and prescribe the appropriate medication

The heartworm parasite lives in the heart and is passed from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Heartworm infections can be fatal. Your dog should have a blood test for heartworm every spring-this is crucial for detecting infections from the previous year. A once-a-month pill given during mosquito season will protect your dog. If you travel south with your pet during the winter, your dog should be on the preventive medicine during the trip. In some warmer regions, veterinarians recommend preventive heartworm medication throughout the year.

Responsible Pet Ownership: Spay, Neuter and Vaccinate


To help reduce pet overpopulation and prolong your pet's life, female dogs should be spayed – removal of the ovaries and uterus – and males should be neutered – removal of the testicles – by six months of age. Spaying before maturity significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer, a common and frequently fatal disease of older female dogs. Spaying also eliminates the risk of an infected uterus, a very serious problem in older females that requires surgery and intensive medical care. Neutering males prevents testicular and prostate diseases, some hernias and certain types of aggression.


Broward County law requires all dogs (four months and older) to receive a yearly rabies vaccination and wear a Broward County Rabies Registration Tag. Though you can purchase an identification tag without a rabies vaccination, the Broward County Rabies Registration Tag proves your pet received its rabies vaccination. Yearly vaccinations protect you, your dog, and your family. In addition to the rabies vaccination, puppies should be vaccinated with a combination vaccine (called a "5-in-1") at two, three and four months of age, and then once annually. This vaccine protects the puppy from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. A puppy's vaccination program cannot be finished before four months of age.

Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and American Staffordshire terriers/pit bulls should not be vaccinated until five months of age.

If you have an unvaccinated dog older than four or five months, it will need a series of two vaccinations given two to three weeks apart, followed by a yearly vaccination.

Do not walk your puppy or unvaccinated dog outside or let her walk or sit on the floor of an animal hospital until several days after her final vaccination.

Since laws vary around the country, contact a local veterinarian for information on rabies vaccination. In the State of Florida, the law requires all pets older than three months of age be vaccinated for rabies. The first rabies vaccine must be followed by a vaccination every year or every three years as determined by your vet.

There are a variety of vaccines that may or may not be appropriate for your pet. Your veterinarian can tell you about them.

If your dog gets sick because it is not properly vaccinated, vaccinations should be given as soon as your pet has recovered.​​​​