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Your Dog's Habitat
Dogs are pack animals, and you are the pack leader. Therefore, wherever you are, your dog wants to be with you. His habitat needs to be your habitat. A dog will not be happy if he lives outdoors in a kennel, or even having the run of a fenced back yard -- he wants to be indoors with you. This means you will have to dog-proof your home, and set some rules. Decide early whether or not your dog is allowed on the furniture, or if there are certain rooms into which he can't go, and then enforce that. Prevention is the key to a safe, happy home! For example, if your dog can't open the lid of the garbage can, he can't get in trouble for nosing through it. If you don't leave socks where he can find them, he can't get in trouble for chewing them to shreds. Control the environment, based on the rules you have set, and you will both be happier. Also make certain that poisons like anti-freeze, lead-based solutions, and cleaning supplies are kept where your dog definitely cannot get to them. And finally, keep the environment clean. Many dogs will eat their own waste, or that of other animals, if it is available. If your dog has fleas, he will ingest them while grooming and will likely develop a case of worms.
Many owners teach their dog to use a crate (a small kennel or box) as their personal den in the home. While we've never preferred this strategy with our dogs, it can be a useful tool for housetraining, a safe retreat from stress, and a place for the dog to stay while unattended.
Most dogs enjoy being outdoors, and need a safe, enclosed area in which to romp. Letting your dog run free seems to some people to be only humane, but it is much more dangerous than using a leash. These dangers include cars, strange or aggressive dogs, other wildlife, attractive-smelling garbage, and so forth. Your dog needs your guidance and protection to stay safe, so if you give your dog free rein, make sure it is in the safest place possible.
Often, dogs must share their habitats with other pets. If you are introducing your dog to a new animal, keep them separated for a few days. They will be able to smell the newcomer, but won't feel the stress that seeing or confronting a new animals can bring. Always monitor the interaction of your dog with other animals, even if they've lived together happily for a long time. You never know what can set off a dispute over territory, and even the friendliest dog can injure a smaller animal in seconds, if he is stressed enough, or even in play. Make sure that smaller animals are securely caged, and that cats have somewhere high that they can go in case of emergencies.
Copyright 2001, Steph Bairey -- All Rights Reserved
Steph Bairey is a web developer and pet owner, with 25 years of pet care experience and 30-40 pets at any one time. Get immediate, reliable answers to your pet care questions at Steph's website, Practical Pet Care, located at http://www.practical-pet-care.com.