Man’s best friend will treat you with all the unconditional love in the world, but there’s absolutely no reason for it to be a one-way street.
If you’ve been meaning to get a dog for a while, you’ve probably already realised that adding a cute furball to the family is not unlike having a baby.
Whether you’ve already started ticking things off a list or have no idea what to do, here’s a rough guide of essentials to help get you started.
1. Get familiar with microchipping
Following a 2011 legal notice, all dogs in the Maltese Islands have to be microchipped and registered.
The microchipping unit monitors the issuing of pet passports to private veterinarians and clinics, and it’s also responsible for the transfer of the dogs when these change owner.
Check out more information on microchipping and any additional forms right here.
2. Read up on vaccinations and get ready to immunise your new best friend
Many vets will usually recommend vaccinating puppies at seven to eight weeks of age. They’ll also tell you to make sure your puppy has settled down in its new home for at least five days or so before getting this first vaccination.
An additional vaccine is given about four weeks later, with another booster being given four weeks later. After that, it’s a repetition of that last booster every year.
Of course, you can also get vaccines against rabies, sandfly and kennel cough. A healthy dog is a happy dog, and dozens of animal clinics around the island will help you achieve that.
3. Decide whether you’ll be neutering your dog
You’ll hear people telling you that “mating makes a bitch healthier”, however many professionals dismiss this as nothing but an urban myth.
Neutering prevents life-threatening infections of the uterus, along with cancers of the testicles and mammary glands among others. There are also issues like unplanned puppies ending up in the wrong hands or behavioural benefits like less sex-related hormones which can be solved with neutering.
4. If you’re adopting, plan a diet transition
Adopting a dog is one of the most selfless and rewarding things you could do, and your furry friend will be forever grateful. But transitioning it to a new, regular diet can be as complicated as it is important.
It’s very likely that you won’t want to feed your dog the exact same diet it receiving when it was homeless or at the shelter (the former for obvious reasons, and the latter because shelters normally opt for lower-quality foods to cope with all the dogs they take care of).
The transition needs to be patient and flexible, and consistency is key. For example, start off by only using 25% of the new food for the first couple of days. After that, go up to 50% for another two days. Consistently increase the percentage of the new food over regular periods of time, but be understanding of the potential difficulty of the transition period.
There are dozens of guides out there, from WikiHows to more professional help. A little bit of research can go a really long way.
5. Get ready for the vet to become your new best friend
You wouldn’t want to ignore or dismiss the health of your loved ones, so your four-legged companion should be no exception.
Every healthy dog should visit the veterinarian at least once a year. If your dog is older, make that two visits per year.
These people have studied their whole lives to understand what dogs want or need, so it’ll do you well to find a vet that you can rely on.
6. Hygiene is just as important as health
It’s not just about vaccinations and vet check-ups.
Be prepared to not only wash your dog, but also brush its teeth.
There are some basic essentials to keep in mind, like using a specifically-designed dog toothbrush and making sure to never use human toothpaste, but for the rest, we recommend a healthy mix of YouTube, Google and your new best friend, the vet.
7. Invest in some comfy sleeping quarters for your new furry friend
You don’t have to buy them a new penthouse, but think about how important Z time is for you, and treat your dog’s bedtime with the same level of care.
From big mattresses and cushions to adorable teepees, think of where your dog is going to want to go when it’s tired of chasing its own tail or is ashamed about that vase it accidentally dropped.
BONUS: Plan dress-up
Dogs don’t really need extra layers to feel warm since their fur is naturally better at keeping the cold at bay than our punily thin skin.
However, if a special occasion is coming up and you’ve found an adorable outfit which will not make your dog feel uncomfortable in any way, then you know you’re going to want to start planning in advance. Just think of all the photo opportunities.