Routine dog care – what you need to know

What’s involved in routine dog care? 

Most people are familiar with the daily routine and expenses (of both time and money) of dog care. That involves feeding, usually two times a day, the best dog food you’re able to provide. It’s also daily walks, both for elimination and exercise. It should also include daily training games. And some cuddle time, too.

Many first-time dog owners don’t realize there’s more to it than that. Even aside from annual veterinary visits, or periodic appointments with a groomer.

Regular routine dog care 

Since we sisters have four dogs, all very different, and all with individual characteristics, we thought we’d share our dog care routine. We realize we have an excessive number of dogs, and we’re far more obsessed with dog stuff than “normal” people, but it gives an idea of the things that should be dealt with on a regular basis.

On Mondays and Thursdays every dog gets brushed. Three of our dogs are short-coated, and a brisk going-over with a rubber curry brush works for them. Simon and Booker, the Boston Terriers, shed a little bit. With brushing it’s even less. Torque, the French Bulldog, sheds continually and abundantly. Every time we brush him we’re surprised by the amount of fur that comes off. 

Tango is a rough-coated Brussels Griffon and gets slicker-brushed those days. His bearded-and-mustachioed face gets extra washes on Wednesday and Friday. Without that extra care routine, he develops sores at the corners of his eyes where gunk can build up. 

All of our dogs have short faces – it’s the look we prefer. But it does come with some extra care needed. We pay extra attention to wrinkles and folds, wiping as needed. If they’re not kept clean and dry, “fold dermatitis” happens and it’s not fun for anyone. 

Sunday morning is dog care time

Every Sunday morning we’re home is “ablutions.” All four dogs get their nails trimmed. That’s 66 nails (Torque has his dew claws.). Then we move on to brushing teeth, washing faces, and cleaning ears. 

We check each dog over and give extra attention where it’s needed. Booker has a couple of places between teeth that need extra care – we’ve even been known to floss if required. That attention to our dogs’ teeth has meant that none of their teeth has needed professional cleaning in years. Which means no anesthesia. It’s something we avoid if at all possible.

Tango’s face fur gets trimmed every other week before we wash his face. It keeps the gunk to a minimum.

We douse Torque’s feet with medicated powder during his turn. It keeps him from itching and has reduced the foot-licking. Which means no redness or irritation.

Torque also gets an application of Nose & Paw Balm – his nose leather tends to dry out and crack unless we keep it moisturized.

Everybody needs something

Nail trimming is part of routine dog care
Simon ready to get his nails “buzzed” during routine dog care

Simon, 2-years-old and the best-behaved for grooming maintenance, doesn’t need any extra weekly attention. But don’t think we get off scot-free. We don’t know why, but he’s not a clean pooper. His poops are totally normal, but his butt always needs wiping when he’s done. Every single time. 

Worth all the work

All together, we probably spend about an hour per dog each week on regular care. It adds up because we do have multiple dogs, and the two of us usually work together. So that’s about eight man-hours per week, just to take care of four dogs. 

That’s not counting feeding and walking. 

They’re worth it. 

Dogs put on pandemic pounds, too

We’re embarrassed to admit – we’ve let pandemic pounds creep up on the dogs. We realized the truth this week at the vet’s office. When Hope absolutely refused to put Torque on the scale.

The last several weeks Hope’s French Bulldog, Torque, has been wearing the cone of shame. Another eye injury. And weekly trips to the vet for progress checks.

Torque, a French Bulldog, has put on pandemic pounds

This week, while waiting for the vet, Hope noticed that Torque’s looking a bit thick. He’s definitely an “easy keeper” – which translates to “puts on weight by looking at food.”

We can certainly identify. Unlike the Boston Terriers, who seem to have non-stop metabolisms, Torque gains weight easily. This has been particularly painful for us because we have to carry him up the stairs from the basement. He’s not great at stairs at the best of times. Wearing a cone, they’re impossible. So our weight-lifting has included schlepping a Frenchie up a flight of stairs, multiple times a day.

Pandemic pounds

It’s been months that our regular dog activities have been suspended. And now that the weather’s cold, we’re not even spending much time outside walking, playing, or practicing. So just like us, our dog that’s prone to gaining weight is doing exactly that.

Now that we realize what’s going on, we’ll start our “Torque needs to lose weight again” regimen. And we thought we’d share, because we know if it’s happening with our dog, it’s going on with others, too. 

Great substitutes

We’ve never been able to resist the “puppy dog eyes” look – especially the pitiful one that says “I’m starving!” – even when we know it’s not true. So, to keep the volume of food about the same, and lessen the calorie count, we make substitutions. 

Replacing some higher-calorie food with low-calorie options is as simple as: fill the dog’s bowl as usual, take a handful of regular food out. Replace it with the same size handful of frozen green beans. Then put in a couple extra beans, because guilt.

Veggies are your friends

Most dogs love frozen green beans, and they work great for calorie control. You can use whatever green vegetable your dog likes. Torque adores celery and cucumbers (or raw pickles), so we use fresh veggies, too. Be aware, though, that both of those have a high water content. Which is great for calorie control, but may mean your dog has to go out more often. 

We know there are many, many diet plans, for both dogs and people. Both Fran and Hope are long-time battlers of the weight-control war and firm believers in data. The data shows that when we (or our dogs) use more calories than we consume, we lose weight. Any combination of increased calorie use and decreased consumption results in weight loss, for us and our dogs. It works the same for pandemic pounds as any other type.

Invisible to the fat dog

Torque will never know that he’s on a weight-loss journey. He’s going to be satisfied by the meals he gets, and love every bite. We’ll know we’re successful in helping our fat dog when we see his waist reappear. We’re hoping that will coincide with being able to get back to doing “stuff” with our dogs and dog friends. And the era of “pandemic pounds” will be in the past.

3 Biggest Mistakes Dog Owners Make

When you read the headline “Mistakes Dog Owners Make” you probably thought it’s about particular products, or kinds of foods, or ways of caring for your dog.

It’s not. It’s about attitude and letting your dog be the best dog he/she possibly can’t. We think the biggest mistakes are the ones fail to appreciate how wonderful dogs are just by being dogs.

Mistakes dog owners make #1

Rushing. Chances are, in the course of a day, you have a schedule. It may be a weird one, since this is still 2020, but you still have stuff to do, places to go, errands to run. You want to get things done!

Your dog doesn’t have a timetable. Dogs live in the moment. They are where they are. And when we interact with our dogs, we need to be there, too. What’s wrong with playing fetch an extra few minutes? Or letting your dog sniff that fire hydrant and get all the latest “pee mail?” 

If you’re a listmaker, make “spend time with the dog” a list item. And give it more time than you think you should. No one really cares if the housework gets put off. You’ll remember how good it felt to cuddle your dog, how much fun you had together, not how immaculate your house is. 

And for the people who got a “pandemic puppy,” no dog is potty trained at three months old. And they shouldn’t be. We remember when our peers bragged about how young their children were when they were toilet trained. Nobody cares. It doesn’t matter. None of those kids was wearing diapers in college. It takes how long it takes.

Relax. Enjoy where you are. 

Mistakes dog owners make #2

Catering. More dogs are turned into finicky eaters by their people than for any other reason. Dogs don’t care if they eat the same thing every meal, every day. People like variety. Dogs don’t care. 

No healthy dog will purposely starve to death. If your dog doesn’t eat because he’s “holding out for something better,” be strong. There is nothing better. Hopefully you’ve researched dog foods, selected the optimum for your dog and your circumstances. That’s what your dog gets.

We do modify as we learn our dogs personalities. Hope’s French Bulldog Torque loves sweet things and doesn’t much care for fish. She figured this out because he eagerly dove into his bowl when beets or carrots were part of a meal, and took his time when there was fish. She didn’t dump out all the fish meals, but no longer includes it when making food. And there may be a few more beets and carrots in the mix.

People also cater to their dogs outside of meal time. It’s not okay that your dog barks at people wearing hats, or tall men, or children, or women carrying bags. He/she doesn’t have to love them. He just has to learn to ignore them. Dogs don’t make the rules, we do. And every member of the family, including the dogs, have to live by them. 

Mistakes dog owners make #3

Helping. This is more for people who continue to have fun training their dogs, but applies to all dogs. Caring people tend to want to “help” when someone, or some dog, has a problem. Given the chance to figure stuff out on their own, most dogs are geniuses! 

A dog training mentor of ours has a favorite saying “the more you help, the more helpless they become.” And it’s true. Hope’s Teddy may not have been the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and he was so darn cute that Hope pretty much “fixed” things for him all the time. One day he trapped himself into a tight area of the yard. And yelled for help when he thought he was stuck. Hope consciously decided not to help him – he’d gotten in there and there was a way back. She encouraged him, and he kept trying until he figured it out. He was incredibly proud of himself, and learned how to navigate that problem forever.

It’s the Taoist saying come to life: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Just for fun – sniffing out new dog games

With few places to go, we’re getting creative with new dog games to play inside. Our morning play session with our dogs is one of the highlights of every day. It ensures that every single day starts with something to smile about.

Getting creative

The challenge, for us, is to keep it fresh and fun. Teaching our dogs a new dog game is Hope’s favorite part. Figuring out each “step” in the process, and how to communicate it to the dog. Then, once we try it with the dog, we learn how to change things up, based on that individual dog’s response.

This week Fran was introducing Booker to the bowling game. Torque’s been playing this one for a while. Hope sets up the toy bowling pins and sends her French Bulldog Torque off – “Go Strike!” to knock them down. Torque bashes into each one with his big head and dashes back to Hope for his reward. We think it’s adorable.

Booker is a Boston Terrier. He doesn’t have a “big giant head” and certainly doesn’t use the one he does have to bash into things. Instead, like a Boston, he uses his paws. 

We’d never seen that before in the bowling game. Thinking about it, Fran decided that, since Booker was more comfortable using his paw, slapping the pin would be Booker’s version of the game. His rules can be different from Torque’s. The game depends on the dog.

Sniffing for fun

Torque’s newest game is sniffing scents. His love for Hope’s essential oils actually gave her the idea. That, and reading about many friends competing in “Nose Work” dog sports. In Nose Work, dogs are brought into an area where certain scents are hidden, and the dog has to signal where they are.

In our basement game of sniffing, Hope puts a couple drops of essential oil (we’re using clove at the moment) on a cotton pad and Fran hides it while Torque and Hope are turned away. When it’s in place, Hope tells Torque to “find it” and he dashes around, sniffing everywhere. It’s a pretty new game for them, but Torque just loves it and seems to be catching on quickly. Except when he grabs the cotton pad and tries to eat it. Mostly he signals by pawing at it.

But we’re not sure this game would be a good idea for Booker. When Booker is feeling unsure, he “checks out” and goes sniffing. He disengages from Fran and loses focus and fun. For Booker, sniffing is a stress behavior. We’re not sure if making it part of a game would stress him even more, or normalize sniffing. 

New dog games adapt

When we’re developing a new game for our dogs, we try the set-up and see what our dogs do with it. All games change based on how that individual dog reacts and “plays” the game. Dogs who are used to learning new things, and know they’re allowed to try stuff, can be very creative in their reactions. 

We may have a picture in our minds of how a new dog game will go. It’s a rare occasion when it goes as planned. That’s part of the fun.

New dog games develop over time. And it’s so much fun to have a selection to choose from. Every day we can choose a beloved “oldie” to dust off and play, or a new favorite, or play a “work in progress” game. 

Just a few minutes a day can grow your dog’s brain, your bond with your dog, and start the day with a huge smile. It doesn’t take much room, much time, or much effort. What a huge payoff!

What games do you play with your dog?