If your dog didn’t receive everything on his wish list this holiday season, at least make sure he has the essentials. Here is a list of the 10 things your dog should have.

1. Outfit your dog with an identification tag and collar. Your dog should always be wearing a collar with an ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. Another good idea is to have a microchip implanted by your veterinarian. This will increase the chance that your dog will be returned home safely. For tips on finding your pet should he become lost, check out previous Pet Chat column Homeward Bound.

2. Obey your local laws for licensing. Dogs require a license in Santa Barbara County and to obtain this license you must have a current rabies vaccination. Check with your local animal control to find out more information about licensing.

3. Watch over your dog. A fenced-in yard is a bonus for dog owners, but be careful not to leave your dog outside unsupervised for too long. Dogs crave companionship and prefer to be with their human family, plus you never know what they can get into when they’re not being watched. Be especially careful with your dog if you don’t have a fenced-in yard. There is a leash law in Santa Barbara County that requires your dog to stay on your property, so always keep an eye on your pooch.

4. Take your dog to the veterinarian for regular checkups. Prevention is the best medicine. By taking your dog to the vet once a year for regular checkups, you will catch diseases in their early state. For more advice on veterinary care, visit Pet Chat column Vet Visits.

5. Spay or neuter your dog. Spaying or neutering helps your dog live longer, it eliminates many undesirable behaviors, plus it helps prevent animal overpopulation. For more information on spaying and neutering, check out previous Pet Chat column Preventing Overpopulation.

6. Give your dog a nutritionally balanced diet. When you purchase dog food, make sure the ingredient list contains “meat” and not “meat by-product.” This will ensure your dog is getting the best nutrition.

7. Become the “pack leader.” The energy you project internally is the message you’re sending to your dog. Utilize your dog’s energy in a positive manner. If you haven’t read Pack Leader by Cesar Millan, you need to. For more information on becoming the pack leader, check out Pet Chat column Pack Leader.

8. Walk your dog. Ideally, you should walk your dog twice a day. If you don’t have time for this, consider hiring a neighborhood kid to help. Of course you’ll want to make sure your dog can walk well on a leash before you do this. For more advice on getting your dog to walk well on a leash, visit previous Pet Chat column Good Doggie.

9. Set aside time to play with your dog. While walking is great exercise for your dog, playing Frisbee and fetch help keep your dog’s mind engaged. Try taking your dog to the beach or park on the weekends and play a game of fetch.

10. Be patient with your dog. Make sure the expectations you have of your companion are reasonable and keep in mind that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved. And remember that the best pet owner is an informed pet owner. The Natural Dog: A Complete Guide for Caring Dog Lovers by Mary L. Brennan and Norma Eckroate is one of my favorites. Bookstores have entire sections on just pets, so there are many to choose from.

By taking care of these 10 essentials, you’ll not only keep your dog healthier and safer, but also develop an even more rewarding relationship.


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