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Caring For Your Best Friend - Featuring Mdzananda on educational publisher, Twinkl

To celebrate the companionship of dogs, we’ve compiled the best expert advice on caring for your four-legged friend. How to adopt, helping them settle in and more.

Dogs are, as attributed to King Frederick I of Prussia, considered "man’s best friend". Did you know they could be our oldest one too? They are believed to be the first animal domesticated by humans about 11,000 years ago. These days, dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are among the most popular pets kept across the globe. According to the Canadian Animal Health Institute, there are about 7.7 million dogs in Canada. In the United States, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the figure reaches almost 77 million.

In Canada, the most popular breed remains ‘mixed breed’, followed by Labradors and Golden Retrievers. While some dogs are intentionally cross-bred to create a specific mixed breed (such as Cavapoos and Labradoodles), many dogs that fall into the category ‘mixed breed’ are often a mix of several breeds resulting in a unique dog in terms of looks and character.

Table of Dogtents

How do dogs help humans? Dogs are known for many character traits such as loyalty, strength and incredible hearing and sense of smell. These have made dogs ideal candidates for training them to be useful to people in a range of professions. Here are just some examples of how dogs can help people.

Guide Dogs have long been worthwhile companions to those of visual impairment and physical disabilities such as paraplegics. But they have also found new service as Autism Support Animals. These dogs serve not just a physical purpose but also an emotional one in providing children who, due to neurodiversity, may struggle to relate to kids of their age, with a loving companion. As Guide Dogs ZA have shown, they can also help with speech therapy, confidence, tactile issues and more.

Badge of Life have been helping provide service dogs to combat veterans to assist with those who've obtained visible and invisible injuries from their own service. As Rodriguez et. all showed, the role of service dogs in managing PTSD symptoms was influential in tasks from simply acting as a calming influence through to waking them from nightmares. Overwhelmingly found that those with an animal were significantly less likely to suffer severe symptoms than those without.

Dogs, of course, have long had an influential role in the emergency services, especially with explosives and narcotics detection: South African Police K9 Unit PowerPoint This is still just the tip of the iceberg with search-and-rescue dogs deployed for those missing in the wilderness or after natural disasters and even dogs are thought to be able to detect cancer & COVID-19.

How can I adopt a dog?

There are many things to consider before adopting a dog. Can you commit the time that the dog will need? Have you got enough space at home? What will you do if you want to travel?

These are important questions to ask as dogs can accompany you for many years and are a long-term commitment. So if you think you’re ready to adopt a dog, here are some things to consider:

  • Having a pet brings extra costs - you will need to budget for vaccinations, regular visits to the vet and food as well as extras such as toys, a suitable bed and car safety accessories.

  • Looking after a pet will change your daily routine. Consider how much time each member of the family is out of the house for and take into account the time required to walk your dog several times a day, whatever the weather. Check out Rebarkable for plenty of practical tips, including options to consider if you work full time but still want to be The Best Dog Parent.

  • It is important to have an emergency reserve in case your dog becomes ill or has an accident. To learn more about the most common diseases in dogs (and ways to prevent them), check out this blog.

  • If someone in the family has allergies, it's important to consider the impact of having an animal living in your home.

  • You’ll need to find out if the dog you’d like to adopt has already been neutered. If not, take into account not only the cost of the surgery, but also the amount of time you will need to devote to the animal while it recovers.

  • Dogs can live between 10 and 15 years, and some breeds even longer - are you ready for that long-term commitment?

  • While there may be many dog-friendly options for a local vacation, think about who will look after your dog if you travel further afield. Consider the price of pet hotels and dog sitters, or talk to someone you trust who is willing to take care of your friend.

  • Our friends at Welltierchustzgesellschaft have given us this great advice around adoptions and vaccinations:

"For various reasons, adopting a dog is not possible for everyone. However, there are still many ways how you can lend a hand to help suffering dogs. Especially in developing countries with high numbers of stray animals, animal welfare organizations such as WTG e.V. need every support they can get to support animals in distress.

One of the most important means to reduce animal suffering is the careful castration of stray dogs to control population densities. At the same time, WTG e.V. offers mobile clinics, where stray dogs receive basic veterinary care and wound treatment, vaccinations, de-worming and treatment against parasites. To raise awareness of animal welfare among the local population and achieve responsible animal husbandry, education is another key component of animal welfare work.

The life of stray dogs is tough. Supporting organizations engaged in improving the lives of these animals makes a huge difference for each dog. By donating, you make a better life of stray dogs possible, which can be as fulfilling as having your own dog at home:"

So, having thought about all the above and having done your own research, are you definitely ready to adopt a dog? If so, congratulations! We’re sure your new-found friend will bring years of happiness to you and your family! Now, the next step is to find a suitable dog for your lifestyle. According to Humane Canada, almost half of the 28,000 dogs taken in by the 170 shelters across the country end up being adopted, and over one in four of them are reunited with their owner.

  • The Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, cares for abandoned pets. They wanted to share two important adoption tips.

    1. Adoption is fun, but also serious.

When you open your home to a pet, you will be taking in an innocent soul which completely relies on you for care. Ask yourself if you are willing to and able to care for the pet’s needs. Can you provide shelter from the sun and rain, daily nutritious food and water, medical care, exercise, sufficient space and enough love and attention? Like human beings, pets thrive on a balanced life including all the above.

  1. Patience.

All too often people adopt a pet and, if her/she doesn’t immediately fit in with the family or other pets in the home, gets returned the next morning. Give at least two weeks for pets to settle. Ask yourself, how would you feel if you were put into a new home? You would need some time accustom to the new environment. The other humans in the home would need time to adjust too. Adopting a pet will change your life for the better. They have the most wonderful healing energy, joy and unconditional love. They are known to alleviate depression, help children develop compassion and serve as companions. All they ask in return is your love and care.

Parts of a Dog Labelling Activity Look for Non-Governmental Organizations, shelters or your city's Zoonoses Center to find out about some animals available for adoption. You will usually need to prove that you are over 18, show proof of residency, and sign a waiver confirming that you will take good care of the dog, among other specific requirements. Take advantage of the visit to answer any questions you may have about pet care, vaccination card and neutering. Talk a little about your routine and your personality, and try to find a furry that suits these factors: some dogs are more active, while others are calmer, for example.

Depending on your location, you can find reliable information who to contact in these instances. For Canadian readers, you may want to start with the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada. They don't just support and help animals across Canada but they also fundraise and support other organisations through providing grants. This helps prevent confusion about where to contact by acting almost as a central hub for Canada so you know that if they aren't the people you need to speak to, they know who is.

For South African readers, for instance, Rescue Rehab SA has provided a frankly comprehensive list of Animal Welfare Organisations across the country you can contact.

"The change in our routines due to the COVID19 pandemic is also affecting our companion animals. Taking part in an online meeting with a dog barking in the background or a cat jumping up on a desk, has caused quite a few laughs! The truth is that our companion animals have become increasingly more important during these stressful times. Taking good care of them doesn’t mean that you have to spend money – just look at how you can include your companion animals in your new routine. Use an old blanket so they can lie by your feet. Join friends at a local park for a dog walk. Give them a bath and brush them so they shed less hair.

Always remember, they don’t need the latest toy - all they want is to be with you." Claudia Cloete (Director & Manager: South African Veterinary Association Community Veterinary Clinics)

The importance of sterilisation - African Tails’ Lauren Janse van Vuuren Mass sterilization is the only proactive way of curbing the problem that is over-population of dogs and cats. When there are simply not enough good and sustainable homes for these animals; it leads to suffering, cruelty and neglect. A huge portion of these animals are born into poverty and there are no finances to care for them.

Uncontrolled breeding leads to the spread of zoonotic and other diseases, stray and abandoned animals, animal fights as well as huge pressure on local shelters and animal welfares. African Tails not only promote sterilization and encourage each animal owner to sterilise their pet, we also choose certain impoverished areas where there is little to no veterinary assistance, and we sterilise at least 70 percent of the breeding population.

We believe that there is no space for breeding, whatsoever. There are thousands of healthy dogs and cats that are put to sleep purely because there are not enough homes. Animal welfare organisations are forced to face horrendous realities due to irresponsible pet owners. Even with the dream of mandatory sterilization, the shelters will continue to be full for a very long time to come. We believe that adoption is the only option. There is nothing more rewarding that saving a soul and opening up a space for the next rescue.

How to take care of your pet dog

Just like any living thing, dogs have their own needs. To ensure that your pet is being properly cared for, it is important to always keep a few questions in mind:

  • Make sure your dog has a comfortable place to sleep and be aware of the temperature in the room. If you live in a place where it's cold or you often turn on the air conditioning at home, have a blanket that your dog can use. The same goes for heat: the animal's bed should not be directly in the sun, and the environment needs to be well ventilated.

  • Take your pet on daily walks and let them play a lot. Even the calmest dogs need to expend energy, so take your dog for a walk every day: some need to go out two or three times in the same day. Let your pet explore the environment, sniff, run and play, but be responsible and keep him on a leash (unless the space is suitable for free-roaming and your dog has no behavioral problems). If you notice that your dog has been decreasing the mood for walks and physical activity, be aware: this could mean some kind of joint problem.

  • Feed them the right kind of food. Take into account your dog's age, physical characteristics (animal size and hair length, for example) and your dog's health condition to decide on the best type of food or ration to choose. If necessary, ask for an expert opinion.

  • Provide fresh water at all times. Never leave your puppy without water available (and change it often).

  • Be aware of changes in behavior. When a dog is licking its lips and ears back without looking at its owner, for example, it may be worried. If it's lying down with its ears flat, teeth bared, and its tail tucked between its legs, the dog may be feeling unhappy or angry.

  • Also pay attention to actions that may indicate illness. If the animal scratches itself excessively and has redness and sores, for example, it is possible that it has a skin disease. If you notice the symptoms, take it to the vet.

  • Beware of foods that are toxic or dangerous to dogs. Chocolate, grapes (including raisins) and avocados, for example, are completely prohibited.

  • Take your pet to the vet regularly to keep it healthy and away from parasites. The veterinarian will know how to guide you about the specifics of your animal, as well as provide documentation for travel, apply vaccines and indicate the most suitable toys and accessories for your friend.

  • Faustina Gardner from DARG (Domestic Animal Rescue Group) had this say on the subject: "Dogs, just like humans, need mental stimulation not just exercise. They thrive when given enrichment toys and activities. They also help avoid unwanted behavioural issues such as digging, barking or chewing household items from boredom. "Stuffed Kongs are mentally stimulating and challenge your dog's ability to get to the yummy treats. Puzzles are also an excellent way to get your dog’s brain working. Teaching your dog a new trick/cue is another great fun activity for your dog. For example, teach him how to shake each paw, roll over or crawl. If you are concerned about your pooch gaining weight, you can always decrease the amount of food you give for dinner. "Alternatively, dinner can also be given in a Kong or scattered on the patio as this mimics what dogs (who are scavengers) do in their natural environment - They are using their noses and eyes to find their pellets and this is mentally enriching for them. In addition, mental stimulation can also help slow cognitive decline in a dog. Remember a mentally stimulated dog is a tired dog and a tired dog is a calm, happy dog.

Dog Colouring Pages A Pet Is Not Just For Lockdown - FOUR PAWS

One of the few positive pieces of news during the COVID-19 lockdown was that many animal shelters reported being empty for the first time ever, as people decided to adopt a pet during this time. But sadly, this situation did not last long. Shelters around the world are now reporting the backlash that animal welfare organisations were so worried about, and that is that pets adopted during this time are now being returned to the shelters.

In addition, existing pets are also under threat of being relinquished because of the economic situation and many puppies and kittens which were bought online, at premium prices, during this time are being re-advertised for sale. It seemed like a good idea at the time, to add a pet to the family when we were all stuck at home due to lockdown. But as the restrictions are being lifted and the economic impact becomes clearer pets are becoming the new victims of COVID-19.

When pet acquisition is not thought through carefully, it can quickly turn into a situation where the animal suffers. This is the case with COVID-19 where many pets have been bought to keep their new owners occupied during this time with little thought given to how they will be cared for going forward.

A pet is not just there to serve the needs of their owner, they are individuals with specific needs that need to be fulfilled. And while they often do not fit perfectly into our routines, it is up to each pet owner to adapt to make the situation work. We have a duty to care for our pets for their entire lives not just during lockdown!

What happens when you no longer want your pet?

The animal was an unwanted Christmas gift, it was bought for your child who is bored of the animal now, you can no longer afford to keep the pet or you simply don’t have the time anymore- whatever the reason, you are now sitting with an animal that you no longer want and are faced with the question, “What am I going to do with this animal?” Here is some advice on what to do if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation:

  • Think twice before giving the pet to friends or family.

It is extremely irresponsible to simply pass an animal to friends or family, especially if you don’t know them very well. There are many dangers in casting an animal away like this, most times, the animal ends up in a worse off state than they were before.

  • Don’t give the animal “free to a good home” or sell the animal online.

Many charlatans pose as animal lovers online, only to exploit the animals that are placed into their care. You will have no control or guarantee that the animal will be adequately and compassionately cared for.

  • Don’t dump or abandon the animal.

Abandoning an animal or dumping the animal in the middle of nowhere to fend for itself is cruel and unnecessary. In South Africa, it is a contravention of the Animals Protection Act no 71 of 1962 to abandon an animal. If you are found guilty of abandoning an animal, not can you be sentenced to jail or fined or both, but you will also have a criminal record for breaking the law.

  • So, what should you do with the unwanted animal?

Surrender the animal to your local SPCA or animal welfare shelter. It’s as simple as that. The SPCA is open 24/7 to admit ALL species of unwanted or stray animals, regardless of whether it is a mouse, a dog or even an elephant. This is a service that is free of charge and simply requires you to sign a form stating that you are surrendering an unwanted or stray animal into the care of the SPCA. Animals are vulnerable and they depend on you to make the right choices for them. Do not contribute to their suffering by making irresponsible decisions, especially when there are compassionate solutions available. - This contribution was provided by the NSPCA SA. What if I can’t adopt or I’m not sure if I’m ready to adopt? Something that not many people may be aware of is that many animal welfares rely on fostering as part of their work. Fostering helps by:

  • Allowing the dog (or cat) to have a “normal” home experience. Dogs in cages or small enclosures can become quite stressed resulting in their behaviour and personality changing.

  • Identifying any health issues sooner than might happen in a kennel environment where dogs have less dedicated attention from a human.

  • Developing an understanding of the dog and their nature. A foster parent can help by providing feedback on the dog’s personality which can improve the chances of a successful adoption.

  • Preparing the dog for their new home. Fosters often have to be quite patient with house training their foster dogs as many of the dogs have not lived in a home before. Foster families may have other pets, and will typically include the foster dog in activities, which helps the dog to make an easier transition into their forever home.

A foster typically needs to:

  • Be willing to take the dog to any vet appointments that may be needed

  • Keep in contact with the welfare and provide pictures of the dog so that they can promote him / her for adoption, or make the dog available to attend an adoption day

  • Be patient and have extra love to give their foster dog!

  • The majority of welfares who ask for fosters provide for and cover costs for the duration of foster care. The foster period can as long or short as the dog and the foster family need.

  • If this sounds interesting to you, please reach out to your closest animal welfare.

How can I guide children to deal well with the pet?

If your child is very young or not yet used to pets, you will need to supervise their contact with the dog. But we have good news: dogs and children usually get along well. The Petiko team, a pet innovation company, with a subscription club for dogs and cats, has gathered a list of reasons that dogs are like children.

It's also a good idea to store your children's toys in a safe place so that dogs or cats cannot pick them up or chew them. If the child is old enough, you can take advantage of the mutt's presence at home to teach about commitment and responsibility: your child can help with some tasks, such as walking the dog (perhaps even unsupervised if you're confident), clearing up after the dog (especially in terms of, let's be polite and call it 'street mess') or keeping an eye on the dog's access to food and water.

But the fundamental thing is to encourage children to be kind to the pet. Talk about the importance of keeping dogs quiet when they are sleeping or eating, for example. Talk to your child about the pet's comfort and explain that the pet also feels pain, hunger, fatigue, irritation, happiness, calm, excitement… just like us humans. And you may have already noticed that happy, well-groomed and loved dogs create very strong bonds with your family – this is often especially the case with the babies and children of the house. If you have children and want to know why this protective bond develops and also how to strengthen the relationship between dogs and babies... Teach your child to respect the animal and they are sure to be great companions.

To own a dog can be one of the greatest gifts in the world.

"I often get asked, what is the right sort of person who can own a wolf? My response is always the same, anyone who can own a dog. A dog should never be a pet, a dog is a companion and should always be with their human, never left behind on vacation, people need to change their lifestyle when they bring a dog into their lives, almost the same as when you bring a baby into this world.

Like children, dogs need to be taught discipline so that they are easy to handle and are excepted by others, nobody likes an unruly child nor an unruly dog. Parents are always happy to hear what nice children they have, the same can be said about dog owners, parents/ dog owners should always make time for their children/ dogs, always put them first. People who dedicate their lives to their animals are always happy people, the love and respect that they receive is always far more than they will ever receive from their children, in fact the older a dog gets the more they love, they will always be excited to see you when you come home, I can’t say the same about children.

So remember, when you go out and get a dog, remember that this has to be life changing experience, if you’re not prepared to do this then rather get a garden gnome, they don’t need much attention, just a bit of paint every couple of years." -Larry Paul of HuskyRomi Animal Rescue

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