Kathryn Lindsay
December 17, 2015 11:48 am

When your dog starts doing something weird or unexplainable, it’s natural to turn to the Internet. In fact, people had so many questions about their dogs this year that “dog questions” got its own category on Google’s top searches of 2015. However, the problem with asking the Internet about the health of your dog is the same problem you have when asking the Internet about yourself: you can stumble upon information that is hearsay, scary, or just plain inaccurate.

That’s why we turned to Dr. Christie Long from Pet Coach, a leading ask-a-vet website, to answer the top ten most-asked questions with information that is reliable and trustworthy.

1. Why do dogs wag their tails? We’ve always been told that dogs wag their tails when they’re happy, but it turns out it’s actually a lot more complicated. “Dogs wag their tails to convey strong emotion,” Long explains. “People think that a dog with a wagging tail = a happy dog, but I’ve been (nearly) bitten by dogs with wagging tails. It’s a way that they communicate with each other and with people, and they learn it from about 6 weeks of age. Don’t make the mistake that a dog that is wagging his tail is happy to see you, and teach children to always be cautious around new dogs as well.”

2. How to crate train your puppy. This is the first question on everyone’s mind the moment they adopt a new pup. Of course, when you bring your puppy home, all you want to do is play with it. However, you’ve gotta go to bed or leave the house at some point, and that means giving your puppy a safe place to stay. “It’s best to start early,” Long advises. “Ideally as soon as you bring your new puppy home.” This kind of training also happens in stages. “If your puppy will grow into a large breed dog, purchase a crate that will accommodate him as he grows. Use boxes to take up the excess space and remove as he gets bigger. Give him a fantastically interesting toy in the crate that he only gets when he’s there, such as a Kong filled with kibble. Consider using some of your clothing as bedding in the crate, as your smell will be comforting to your puppy.”

3. How to register a dog as a service animal. It depends on what you mean. Long explains that “there’s a difference between ‘service animal’ as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a dog allowed in the cabin of a plane as an ’emotional support animal.'” This distinction is pretty important, especially if you really are looking to board an airplane with your pooch. “Service dogs that attend to disabled people are specially trained to perform specific tasks for their owners and are not considered pets. Different airlines have different requirements for emotional support animals, so check with the airline you’re flying for specifics.”

4. How to register a dog with the AKC. “AKC” stands for the American Kennel Club, and registering your pup means it’s totally purebred. “You can do so at akc.org with the papers supplied by your breeder,” Long says. “The only thing that the process requires from you is that you supply a unique name for your puppy. Your breeder should have already done the rest.”

5. How to keep puppy from eating poop. Oh boy, this is a big one. It’s a combination of all the grossest things, and yet puppies will not. Stop. Doing it! Luckily, long has an answer. “The most important thing you can remember as a new puppy owner is that having a puppy is like having a toddler. You wouldn’t leave a toddler alone in the yard, right? The same applies to a puppy. Keep the yard free of poop by picking it up daily (at least). Scold your puppy (“no!”) when you see him showing interest in poop, then distract him with a toy or a treat.”

6. When do puppies get shots? First-time owners, listen up, because this is a really important thing to know. “Puppies need shots at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age,” Long explains. “Some breeders give shots before this but they are not fully protective, as puppies still have antibodies from their mothers at this age which limit the effectiveness of the vaccines.”

7. Why do dogs chew their paws? “Most dogs chew their paws in response to itchiness and irritation in that area,” Long says. “The most common cause of itchy paws is allergies. It makes sense that allergic dogs have reactions to the things that they walk on, such as grasses and other vegetation.”

8. What breed is the “Target” dog? You know, that super-cute dog with the Target logo around its eye. He even has a name, and Long is a big fan. “Go Spuds go! Spuds McKenzie is a bull terrier, a breed known for its fierce loyalty and intelligence.”

9. How to paper train a puppy. Nothing (literally) dampens the mood like your new best friend ruining your carpet, but there are some easy ways around it. “Similarly to training a puppy to go outside, accompany the dog to the area where the paper is,” Long instructs. “Use a trigger word, such as ‘potty,’ and eventually the puppy will associate the act with the word. Reward with lavish praise and treats. If you have to leave the puppy alone for extended periods during training confine it to an area that is completely papered and includes the typical elimination area. As training progresses keep removing the extra paper.”

10. How to stop dogs from biting. Puppies like to get rambunctious, and sometimes they don’t realize that what’s playful for them is painful for us. You’ve got to be strict. “With puppies, grasp the muzzle firmly but without excessive force, get the dog’s attention, and say ‘no!’ in a stern voice,” Long says. “Then distract the puppy immediately with a toy that is appropriate for chewing and biting.”

And there you have it. This is super important information for anyone considering adopting a dog, and also a good refresher for long-time owners who wouldn’t think to double-check. The most important thing is that your dog is loved and happy, and that if it’s not, you take the proper steps to find accurate information to help them.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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