Caring for your dog

Looking after your dog

Bringing a dog into your life is a major commitment.

Dogs are pack animals and they love to socialise. They respond well to affection and kindness and are, both, playful and protective towards other members of their pack or family.

You will need to give your dog time and energy and it will give you many years of loyal companionship in return. 

The average life span of a dog is around 10 to 15 years.

Below are some things you need to consider before you decide to bring a dog into your life.

Do I have enough time to:

  • care for, socialise and train a dog?
  • toilet and obedience train a puppy? 
  • socialise a dog with other animals?
  • train a dog to interact with people?
  • exercise a dog regardless of the weather?
  • groom a dog?
  • play with it?

Is my property suitable for a dog? 

Think about the size of your property and whether it is securely fenced.

Will your dog have enough room for exercise? 

Will your dog always have food, water and shelter?

Will the dog get along with young children?

Be sure to choose the dog carefully.

Some breeds tend to be more tolerant of children. Both, children and dogs need to be carefully supervised, as they can, unintentionally, hurt or frighten each other.

See Choosing the right dog.

Can I cover the cost of caring for the dog?

Basic expenses for a dog include:

  • food
  • registration fees
  • regular visits to your vet
  • bedding, leashes, poo bags
  • possibly fencing. 

You should also consider the cost of pet insurance, obedience training, regular grooming and toys.

You will also need to arrange for someone to care for your dog when you go on holiday. Most pet-sitting arrangements or kennels will involve cost. 

Am I prepared to take responsibility for the dog?

As a dog owner, you are legally responsible if you breach dog control legislation, including council bylaws. Do you know what these laws are?

They include rules about aggression and places and times when you must have your dog on leash. 

You will need to make sure that your dog does not cause a nuisance through barking, wandering or fouling.

How will I choose the right breed of dog for my family?

When choosing a dog, it's a good idea to talk to people who have first hand experience with the breed you are interested in. 

Your vet, dog breeders and obedience trainers are a valuable source of information. See Choosing the right dog.


Click on the heading to read more about the following topics.

  1. You must appropriately contain your dog on your property. Examples of appropriate containment include:

    • fencing that prevents the dog from leaping over or digging under the fence 
    • a suitably proportioned kennel enclosed in a compound that gives the dog space to move freely
    • running a wire between two secured anchors to which the dog lead is attached (this must not encroach on the neighbours).
  2. Dogs should have their own sleeping area or a bed of their own. If your dog lives outside, you'll need to provide a kennel.

    The kennel must be big enough for your dog. If the kennel is in a fenced area of your property, the dog can run around in a controlled area.

    The kennel should protect your dog from draughts, strong sunlight and rain.

    You will need to keep the kennel clean to prevent infestation of fleas or other parasites. If the roof can be removed, this makes cleaning easier. Ensure your dog has access to clean water. 

  3. There are many good-quality dog foods that will give your dog a balanced diet.

    Scraps and meat and other human foods should make up no more than 20 per cent of a dog's diet to ensure the correct balance of nutrients. If you feed a dog any bones, only feed raw bones large enough so the dog cannot break them up and swallow the pieces.

    Ensure your dog always has clean drinking water. Ensure that your dog cannot tip its bowl over. Some pets bowls are designed to be 'no tip'.

  4. Dogs need daily exercise. How much time you set aside for exercise depends on the size and energy of your dog. In greater Auckland, there are many designated dog exercise areas

  5. Always carry a 'poo bag' with you when taking your dog off your property. You can buy biodegradable poo bags. Make sure to clean up after your dog and dispose of the waste appropriately.

  6. Dogs need regular grooming to make sure they remain clean and in good health. Grooming includes:

    • regular brushing. If you regularly brush your dog, your dog should not need regular bathing
    • bones and biscuits to help to keep your dog's teeth clean and gums healthy
    • cutting nails. Nails can be cut using special-purpose cutters that have a guard so that not too much nail is cut at once. However, we advise consulting your vet or a reputable dog groomer when your dog's nails need trimming as the nails contain blood vessels that cannot always be seen through the nail. If the blood vessels are cut, this can cause severe pain for your dog.

    You may occasionally clean your dog's ears.  However, you should not insert anything into the ear itself. If your dog frequently shakes its head or if its ears start to smell, consult your vet.

    If you bathe your dog, it is best to use products that are designed for dogs, as shampoos and soaps designed for people may be unsuitable for dogs. 

    At times, your dog may need to be bathed and have its teeth cleaned.

  7. Your dog should be on a vaccination and worming programme from as early as two weeks from birth or as soon as possible if you obtain an older dog.

    We strongly recommend that your puppy or dog is vaccinated against the four canine diseases: distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis and parainfluenza. A kennel cough vaccination is recommended for dogs that are to be kennelled, take part in obedience training, or are show or competition dogs.

    Canine leptospirosis is a disease that causes kidney and liver problems. Leptospirosis vaccination is most important for dogs that come into contact with rat urine (ie, when sniffing where a rat has urinated).

    We recommend that you schedule vaccinations with a vet.

    Fleas are by far the most common external parasite in dogs. Regular flea treatment is recommended for all dogs. Flea treatments range from flea collars to herbal and drug company oils and liquid applications available from vets, supermarkets, pet stores and environmental product stores and catalogues.

    Puppies should be wormed every two weeks until they are 12 weeks of age and then monthly until they are six months of age. Dogs over six months of age should be wormed every three to six months. Ask your vet for the most appropriate worming product for your dog.

  8. From the age of around eight to twelve months (puberty), female dogs ('bitches') come into season (commonly known as 'heat') once every six to nine months, unless they are de-sexed; your bitch can get pregnant during this time. 

    You can tell when a bitch is in season is due, from signs such as vulva swelling. She will have a bleeding discharge when in season for around 21 days. During this time, she needs to be confined to protect her from any male dogs.

    Male dogs can smell a bitch in season from up to 10-kilometres away, and may climb six foot fences, chew through wire gates or go through screen doors into homes to get to her. Some Auckland bylaws require you to securely confine a bitch in season. 

    A bitch which is usually docile and predictable and may become flirtatious or aggressive, may lose her appetite or may lift her leg to urinate like a male when on 'heat'. You can protect her from an unwanted pregnancy by using birth control medications or securely confining her.

    Your vet or reputable pet store can advise you about ways to prevent your dog's blood from staining furniture and carpets. 

    We recommend de-sexing male and female dogs at around six months.

  9. Once you have brought home your dog you may need help with training. There are various training or obedience clubs in Auckland listed in the Yellow pages or on the internet.

  10. As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to know the relevant laws (including bylaws). They cover topics such as dog aggression, nuisance barking, access to beaches, permits for multiple dogs on one property, and when you must leash your dog.

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