Veterinarians share 14 things every dog owner should do for their pet

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Veterinarians share 14 things every dog owner should do for their pet
Vets told Insider the advice that just about all dog owners should follow.Elizabeth Moehlmann/Getty Images
  • Insider asked veterinarians about the important things all dog owners should do.
  • From trips to the vet to mealtimes, pups thrive off a set routine.
  • Keep your pet's rules and training consistent so they don't get mixed signals.

Whether you're a new dog owner or a seasoned pup parent, there's always something new to learn about taking care of your pet.

Insider asked veterinarians to share the top things every owner should do to keep their pet happy and healthy.

Always use some kind of safety restraint when your dog is in the car

Veterinarians share 14 things every dog owner should do for their pet
The best type of restraint to use can vary by the breed.Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Veterinarian Jennifer Coates, advisor for Pet Life Today, told Insider that you should make sure all humans and dogs are buckled up when riding in the car.

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"Unrestrained dogs are a distraction and can seriously injure themselves or human passengers in the event of an accident," Coates said. "Use a canine seat belt or crate when your dog is in the car."

Consult with a vet to determine the best kind of car restraint for your particular dog, as the safest option may vary based on breed and size.

Keep your dog on heartworm medication

Coates advised that unless a veterinarian recommends otherwise, owners should keep their dogs on heartworm medication year-round.

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"The dose of medication required to kill microscopic heartworm larvae is tiny and extremely safe," Coates said. "In contrast, treating advanced heartworm disease is dangerous and not always effective."

As some options may interfere with other drugs your dog is already taking, always talk to a vet before giving your pet any new medicine.

Maintain a regular routine to keep your dog from feeling stressed

Veterinarians share 14 things every dog owner should do for their pet
If you need to change your schedule, gradually do so.The Washington Post/Getty Images

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Veterinarian Kurt Venator, chief veterinary officer at Purina, told Insider that dog owners should try and keep their schedules as consistent as possible.

"Having a predictable routine lets your dog know what will happen next, which reduces stress," Venator said. "Changing their environment or routine can trigger anxiety in dogs."

A dog-friendly daily routine should include exercise, playtime, and regularly spaced meals.

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If you're anticipating changes to your schedule, it's better to ease into them, like gradually shifting your dog's mealtime by 15 minutes each day.

Make sure your dog has good traction on stairs and floors

Veterinarian Dani McVety, founder of veterinary hospice Lap of Love, told Insider that all dog owners should make sure their pets have good traction on smooth floors.

"Tile or wood floors can be difficult for dogs to walk on," McVety said. "Use rug runners, bath mats, or yoga mats to give them a 'runway' to walk on."

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Owners looking to add traction to slippery floors should use rugs or mats that won't slide around and are easy to clean.

Clip the hair between your dog's toes to improve their grip

Fluffy dogs with longer coats can develop thick tufts of hair between their toes, and McVety advised keeping these strands short to help your pup correctly use their paws.

"By using a beard clipper for people, you can clip all the hair around their toes and help expose their pads," McVety said.

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Make sure to comb out the hair beforehand and be extra cautious not to nick your pup's paws during the clipping process.

Add extra water bowls around the house to prevent dehydration in older dogs

Veterinarians share 14 things every dog owner should do for their pet
It's best to make your older dog's trip to the water bowl as short and easy as possible.Soho A Studio/Shuttershock

Making sure your older dog has constant access to water can help prevent dangerous dehydration.

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"Having multiple water bowls around the house or yard will help your pet make shorter trips to get a drink," McVety said.

If your dog has difficulty climbing stairs, it's a good idea to keep their food and water bowls on the ground floor of the house.

Keep goodbyes short and sweet

Veterinarians share 14 things every dog owner should do for their pet
You can also play with your dog just before heading out.Shutterstock

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Dogs are great at reading their owners' emotions and body language, so showering your pet with attention just before leaving may actually make them more anxious when you're gone.

"Don't drag out hellos and goodbyes," Venator said. "Stay calm when leaving and give them a treat as you walk out the door to create a positive association with you leaving."

Venator suggested that if you feel guilty heading out without saying goodbye, try having a play session 10 to 20 minutes before stepping out the door.

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Give your dog personal space if they need it

All dogs are different - some pets love to snuggle up, but others don't like to be closely cuddled or held.

"There's evidence that hugging can actually cause fear and stress in some dogs," Venator said. "Give your dog their personal space if necessary and find ways to show your affection that don't involve hugging."

Long play sessions, active games, praise, and treats are all ways to show your dog that you love them without invading their personal space.

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Keep verbal cues consistent and simple

If you're struggling to train your dog, miscommunication may be the problem.

"Giving dogs inconsistent verbal cues can be confusing for them," Venator said. "Similarly, owners shouldn't use training phrases longer than one or two syllables."

For example, telling your dog to "go potty" one day and "go pee" the next can be confusing.

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Instead, train your dog using the exact same word or phrase every time and try to keep those cues short, like saying "down" rather than "go lay down."

Try to keep your dog's diet consistent

Veterinarians share 14 things every dog owner should do for their pet
Suddenly changing your dog's food could upset their stomach or give them diarrhea.bohemama/Shuttershock

Veterinarian Tiffany Tobaben, medical director at Operation Kindness, told Insider that dog owners should try to keep their pet's meals as consistent as possible.

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"Changing a dog's food too quickly can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea," Tobaben said.

Tobaben recommended that if you do want to change your dog's diet to meet different nutritional needs or simply to add more interest to their meals, try mixing small amounts of the new food with your dog's current plate.

You can then increase the amount every few days until your pet has completely transitioned.

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Brush your dog's teeth every day

Just like those of humans, dog's teeth should be regularly brushed to avoid cavities and bad breath.

"I recommend brushing your dog's teeth every day," Tobaben said. "Not tending to their teeth can cause serious issues like gum disease, tooth decay, and painful infections."

If you aren't able to brush your dog's teeth, talk to your vet about products that your dog can chew on to control tartar buildup.

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Make and keep regular vet visits

Dogs can sometimes develop health problems that aren't obvious to the untrained eye, so it's important to schedule routine visits to the vet.

"Regular vet visits mean that any medical issues can be diagnosed and treated in a timely manner," Tobaben said.

Regular checkups are also opportunities to monitor your dog's dental health and keep them up-to-date on vaccinations, which can help you avoid costly interventions in the future.

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Resist the urge to bend the rules, even on special occasions

Veterinarians share 14 things every dog owner should do for their pet
Changing the rules can leave your pup confused and stressed.Shutterstock

Tobaben told Insider that bending the house rules or not being consistent with training can make dogs feel confused about their expectations.

"If you bend the normal rules and aren't consistent, dogs can eventually develop behavioral issues," Tobaben said.

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For example, allowing your dog on the furniture as a treat but then scolding them for jumping on the sofa the next day can be very confusing, so try to establish clear house rules and stick to them.

Praise your dog for good behavior instead of scolding them when they're naughty

Coates said that it's always best to use praise rather than punishment to control your dog's fearful behavior.

"Never punish a dog when they are reacting out of fear or anxiety," she said. "Physical reprimands, in particular, will simply result in more fear and make the behavior you're trying to correct worse rather than better."

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Instead of scolding your dog for being afraid or nervous, try showering them with praise when they calm down or giving them a treat when they appropriately react to a stressful situation.

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