Some Basic Dog Health Tips

At least once a week, brush your Vallhund thoroughly (and by that I mean all the way down to the skin, all over his body) and massage him all over (not only does this feel nice for both of you, it means you can check for any lumps, bumps, parasites, sore spots or skin problems). Don't forget legs, feet, between the toes, underarms, and tail (or stub!).

When it's time for a bath, don't use human shampoo (you can use very diluted dish soap if you like, or choose a shampoo specifically for dogs-I always dilute shampoos and conditioners by at least half, if not more, they lather and rinse more easily, and it's more economical). Remember if you show and intend to bathe your dog before the show to bathe at least 2-3 days (ideally a week) before the show to allow the oils to come back into the coat and get it back to its proper appearance and texture. A healthy dog eating a good diet should not normally smell bad (unless it's a naturally oily-coated breed like a Lab), most of the time "doggy smell" (that lasts longer than a few minutes after being outside) comes from ear, dental, skin or digestive problems and/or a dog eating a low-quality or unsuitable diet (not every diet is suitable for every dog). If you find you need to bathe your dog more often than every two-three months because of "doggy odor", it's likely that you AND your dog would be better off looking for the actual cause of the smell, rather than just treating the symptom.

Choose a high quality commercial dog food (look for identified meats or meals like "fresh whole chicken" or "lamb meal", not generic meats like "meat meal" or "by-products"), or feed a well-researched and balanced, home-cooked or raw diet (I feed a combination of super-premium kibble, high-quality canned meat and green tripe, and a prepared raw diet). Most Vallhunds love to eat and do a very good job of convincing you that they are starving to death! Don't overfeed.

Regular exercise is a must! Most dogs don't tend to do a very good job of exercising themselves, and it's good for both you AND your Vallhund to get out there and walk or run on a daily basis. In our house we walk twice a day, play Frisbee and tug, and go to agility classes and practice sessions.

I think that regular, fun training sessions can be beneficial in a number of ways. Most obviously they help your Vallhund learn to "speak English", which will help him live well with people (well-trained dogs are a joy to live with). Training also develops and strengthens the bond we have with our dogs. But regular training can also teach you a lot about your dog, and sometimes one of our first indicators that there might be something wrong can be a change in the dog's demeanor or behavior, and you can notice this very easily if you've been working with your Vallhund regularly.

Published in Vol. 1, Issue 1 of "All Bark! The American Swedish Vallhund Society Newsletter"