Direct Line magazine

Tips on looking after dogs and puppies

Updated on: 18 June 2021

A child hugs a dog.

Is a dog right for you? Or are you barking up the wrong tree?

There’s a reason a dog is called “man’s best friend” – they’re loyal, fun and often overflowing with personality. But as the old saying goes, a dog is for life not just for Christmas - or lockdown for that matter.

The RSPCA have outlined some important considerations and precautions in the wake of a recent spike in doggy demand. If you think you can offer a loving home, lockdown or no lockdown, read on to see if you’re ready for the responsibility…


  • Most foods come in a wet or dry form. Dry foods can be more convenient, but a picky eater may hold out for something that more closely resembles meat.
  • Puppies, adults and senior dogs all have different nutritional needs – choosing the right food for the life stage of your dog is essential.
  • Make sure there’s always access to a fresh bowl of water – even if your dog does seem to prefer drinking from large puddles mid‐walkies!
  • Wondering what’s the right food for your dog? Why not learn how to cook dog‐friendly recipes.


  • Consider the breed before you buy. If you like walking then maybe a larger breed, like a border collie, is for you. However, if you want a dog that demands less exercise (one walk a day) then consider a smaller breed like a bulldog, or a pug.
  • Regular daily exercise is essential for your dog’s mental and physical wellbeing. It helps to prevent weight gain while keeping your dog agile and mobile.
  • Exercise also improves and maintains your dog’s cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone.
  • Ask your vet to advise you on an appropriate exercise regime depending on your dog’s breed, size and age. This is particularly important if your pet has a medical problem.


  • Puppy socialisation should start when they are young – the sooner the better.
  • It helps ‘shape’ their behaviour as they mature.
  • Take the time to socialise with different people, other dogs and experience different environments.
  • Common problems relating to poor early socialisation include fear, anxiety and aggression.

Health risks


  • Lungworm is a dangerous parasite that can prove fatal to dogs, but it can easily be prevented.
  • Dogs get lungworm by ingesting snails or slugs. They can also get infected if they come in contact with contaminated water or toys.
  • To minimise the risk, talk to your vet about treatment and prevention of lungworm.


  • Most dog owners have spotted a tick on their canine at some point – usually after they’ve returned home following a nice walk in some long grass.
  • Ticks are external parasites that latch onto the body of your dog and feed until they are satisfied, before disengaging from the skin and dropping away to start the whole process over again.
  • It's important to learn the right way to remove a tick. If you don’t remove a tick carefully and entirely, you run the risk of leaving part of the tick buried under the skin, which can lead to a whole range of potential infections and complications.

Other risks

  • Vomiting, diarrhoea, fleas, ear infections and other worm parasites such as tapeworm and roundworms can all cause your dog discomfort. Although these are common doggy problems, you should still ask your vet for advice on the correct treatment for your pup.

Dog‐proofing your home and garden

  • It’s important to keep your dog’s environment safe – both in the home and in the garden.
  • Keep small items away from your dog (this goes double for puppies). They love to explore and eat objects such as stones, bones and clothing but these can cause serious intestinal obstructions.
  • Dogs need protection from everyday household items too – they are toxic and can cause serious illness if swallowed. These include household cleaners, human chocolate, grapes, raisins and onions.
  • Keep your garden secure by checking fences for gaps and ensuring gates are always closed.

Dental health

  • Keeping your dog’s teeth clean is as important as brushing your own.
  • Clean their teeth once or twice a week to prevent the risk of infection and dental disease.
  • Certain foods and treats can also help to keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy.  

Find out about the options offered by Direct Line dog insurance.

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