The health and happiness of a dog depend upon its surroundings and the attention given its sleeping quarters, food, grooming, washing, and habits of life; for a healthy dog which is forced to occupy dirty, vermin-infested quarters and subsist on unwholesome food, and which is seldom or never exercised, groomed, or washed, will soon be in a miserable condition-dull, lifeless, rough-coated, and out of sorts.
Every dog should be provided with sleeping quarters that he may consider his own. For a small pet dog a basket is all that is necessary, and for bedding there is nothing better than a folded Turkish towel, as it can be washed easily and kept clean. Women are partial to cushions for their pets. If these have removable linen covers that can be changed and washed two or three times a week, no objection need be raised to them, but the fancy velvet or plush-covered affairs commonly used are abominable, as it is impossible to keep them clean.
Large dogs which sleep in the house can be given a rug. This should be aired and dusted daily and washed at least once a week. Another good bed consists of a wooden frame about six inches deep over which is tacked a piece of canvas or burlap, like the head of a drum.
If a dog is kept out-of-doors it must be provided with a kennel. A very simple one may be made from a kerosene barrel, the objectionable smell being removed by burning a handful of shavings in the barrel. This will ignite what remains of its past contents and the flames can be smothered by turning the open end of the barrel to the ground. With a piece of canvas hung over its front, that the dog can push to one side when going in or out, this will make a water and wind-proof kennel that is free from crevices that harbor vermin.
If it is concluded to have a carpenter construct a kennel, have the entrance at the side and not at one end. A bench open in front, but protected at the sides and top, on which a dog can rest and enjoy the air, will add to its comfort. The top should be removable so as to permit of easy and thorough cleaning of the sleeping apartment.
Whenever it is possible to do so, place the kennel under a shed that is open to the south or east. This will render it cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and in every way more comfortable than if the roof of the kennel be exposed directly to the elements.
If a number of dogs are kept larger buildings must be provided, and the architect and builder should be consulted.
Kennels should always be placed on clay or black soil, for fleas are very partial to and breed in the sand, and inmates of a kennel located on sandy soil are sure to be infested with fleas.
If the dog is to be kept on a chain, a strong wire on which is an easily sliding ring should be stretched from a post near the kennel to another post or tree some distance away, so that by snapping the dog’s chain to the sliding ring he will have greater opportunity to exercise than if he were chained to his kennel or post. In these days of cheap wire netting it is better to provide a dog with a yard in which he can exercise freely, as the constant tugging when on a chain sometimes affects a dog’s throat and chest or the conformation of his shoulders.
In warm weather a dog requires little or no bedding and is probably more comfortable on bare boards. During cold weather oat straw makes the warmest and most comfortable bed, as it does not mat and is free from the seeds and dust that are the chief objections to hay. During the fall and summer pine shavings make a good bedding, as they are objectionable to fleas, and this property can be intensified by sprinkling them with turpentine. In fleainfested sections some breeders mix tobacco scraps with the bedding. Another excellent practice is to lay a strip of tarred paper under the bedding. Every morning the bedding should be stirred up and examined. If it is dusty, damp, dirty, or packed down, it should be renewed, and to insure its being fresh should be changed once a week at least.
The dog is a carnivorous animal and in a state of nature lives on an all-meat diet. Domestication and association with man have so altered its organs of digestion that it now thrives best on a mixed dietone containing meat, grain, and vegetables. Meat does not affect the scent of a dog nor does it cause germ diseases or worms, as is frequently stated, and a dog which has sufficient exercise would thrive on an all-meat diet. But when the life led is artificial and the opportunities for exercise limited, the danger from feeding too much meat lies in the fact that meat is so stimulating that it loads the system with impurities that the organs of the body are unable to eliminate, thereby resulting in diseases of the skin.
Dogs should be fed twice a day. In the morning give a light meal, consisting preferably of one or two Spratt’s Dog Cakes. These should be fed dry, so that the dog will gnaw at them, thereby stimulating the secretion of saliva that is important to insure complete digestion. Feed a heavy meal at night, allowing the animal to eat until satisfied, for a dog always sleeps best on a full stomach. Dogs should never be allowed to nose over their food. As soon as they show that they have had enough the remnants of the meal should be immediately removed.
Feeding time affords the owner a favorable opportunity of informing himself as to the health of his dogs. If a dog does not eat his evening meal with the usual gusto, take it away and let him fast until the next day. Then try him again, and if he still refuses to eat, or only noses his food, consider him sick and take means to restore him to health. All that most cases require are a few doses of Dent’s Condition Pills. If the bowels are constipated and the liver is out of order, it may be necessary to give a laxative pill to insure a good cleansing of the system. Cases due to worms or distemper should be given proper treatment.
Pet dogs suffer from overfeeding and the promiscuous use of sweets and other candies that produce indigestion and other ailments. The proper diet for them is Spratt’s Dog Cakes, stale or toasted bread and milk, a little well-cooked, lean meat, beef broths, etc., with an occasional bone of good size.
If but one or two dogs are kept, table scraps, if fresh, not too highly seasoned, and free from chicken or fish bones, make a satisfactory and wholesome diet.
Where a number of dogs are kept, an excellent food can be prepared by boiling sheep or beef heads until soft and then thickening the liquor in which they are boiled with stale bread, crackers, vegetables, and meal.
Nearly all dogs are fond of boiled liver, and it can be given with good results once or twice a week, as it has a very desirable laxative effect upon the bowels.
Dog cakes have come into general use in the last few years, and although some dogs refuse to eat them, a little tact and perseverance upon the part of the owner will accustom the dog to them. They form a very satisfactory diet and the trouble of feeding is reduced to the minimum.
Puppies can be weaned by dipping their noses into a pan of milk. They proceed to lick the milk off from their noses and soon learn to lap it. They should be fed at least six times a day on milk that has been scalded; to it can gradually be added broken crackers and other solid food. Sour milk also should be given two or three times a week, as it is a preventive of worms.
Dogs can go several days without food and escape serious consequences, but any restriction in their supply of drinking water will be followed by eruptions of the skin and a disgusting odor from the body. It is, therefore, important that dogs have before them at all times an unfailing supply of fresh water. During warm weather this must be frequently changed, to insure its being cool and pure. Earthenware crocks make good drinking vessels, as they can be kept clean without much labor, and are not easily tipped over. No benefit is derived from placing a lump of sulphur in the water, as sulphur is a mineral that will not dissolve in water.
Dogs from time to time require washing to remove the accumulations of dirt and the fine scales that the skin is constantly exfoliating.
When washing dogs every precaution should be taken to prevent the animal contracting cold. If the bath is to be given out of doors during the summer, a warm, sunshiny day should be selected; if in the house, see that the room is properly heated, and do not allow the animal to enter the open air until the coat and skin are thoroughly dry. In washing large breeds, such as St. Bernards, they can be placed on some clean surface; collies and setters can be placed in an ordinary tub, while a footpan answers for small dogs. Fill the receptacle with lukewarm water as high as the dog’s knees. The animal’s coat should then be moistened all over, beginning at the neck and shoulders, either pouring on the water from a small tin cup or using a sponge. Dog soap should then be rubbed well into the coat, more water gradually added, and the animal carefully rubbed until a profuse lather is produced. The head should be washed last and care exercised that soap or water does not gain entrance to the ears or eyes. Allow the lather to remain on a few moments and then rinse off with clean water.
The animal must now be carefully dried with a coarse towel, those made from a salt sack cut into suitable sizes being efficient and durable.
Even after a dog has been thoroughly dried there is danger of its taking cold, and while most authorities advise giving a freshly washed dog a warm kennel or a bed before the fire, a better procedure is to blanket it lightly and induce it to exercise for fifteen or twenty minutes. The natural warmth of the body, induced by exercise and retained by a blanket, will restore the natural circulation quicker than artificial heat. If the weather is such that the dog cannot be safely exercised out-of-doors, exercise him in a warm room and give him a warm bed of clean straw. A good meal at this time will nourish him and stimulate his powers of resistance. Therefore, the best time to wash a dog is about one hour before feeding time.
When washing long-haired toy breeds, such as Yorkshires, place the dog in a pan and cleanse his coat by brushing him with a long-handled hair brush kept saturated with the soapy water. By preserving the part of the hair down the dog’s back, all danger of snarling the coat will be avoided. Rinse in clear water and dry by brushing before a fire with two or more ordinary hair brushes that can be alternately warmed and used.
When washing collies it is advisable to dissolve the soap in the water instead of applying it directly to the dog’s coat, and in drying this breed brush the hair the wrong way and force the air into the coat with a fan.
Dogs require plenty of exercise and unless they get it are unhealthy and liable to attacks of skin diseases, indigestion, constipation, and other bowel complaints. Some of the active breeds, like collies and setters, will get all the exercise they require if turned loose for a thirty-minute run, twice a day. Large breeds, like St. Bernards, are not so easily taken care of. They require a slow walk for at least an hour every day, and if it is not given them their bones and muscles do not develop properly. Pet dogs, such as toy spaniels or pugs, should be given a run every day, and it is an excellent idea to teach them to chase a rubber ball indoors, as in this way they can be given considerable exercise. On returning from exercising a dog, don’t forget to examine his feet for cuts, pieces of glass, thorns, or splinters.
There is an old stable adage that a grooming is worth more than a feed. This is also true of dogs. A dog should be brushed and rubbed down every day. Brushes and combs are, of course, useful implements for removing snarls and burrs, but after the coat is straightened out and the snarls removed, nothing is so good for putting on the finish as the naked hand, and a little care of this kind will work wonders in the dog’s appearance.
Fleas are the greatest annoyance dogs have to contend with. The common flea does not lay her eggs on the dog, as commonly supposed, but in piles of rubbish, cracks in the floor, carpets, and rugs. These eggs hatch out in about four weeks, and jump upon the first dog that comes their way. The lather from most dog soap will kill fleas and lice; but if the dog is returned to flea-infested quarters, he will probably accumulate another crop. The importance of keeping the yard and kennel clean, and the necessity of using some good disinfectant are evident. To properly disinfect a kennel sweep up and burn all old bedding and rubbish and then scrub the walls and woodwork with common brown soap and plenty of warm water; also dash buckets of boiling water over the floors and woodwork. Hot water, soap, and elbow grease are the best all-around disinfectants. To destroy odors, sprinkle the quarters with one of the commercial disinfectants.