Homes should be dog-proofed. Crates, beds, bowls, grooming supplies, toys, leashes, collars and ID tags are all necessities. All dogs need companionship and exercise and should not be left alone for long stretches.
There are plenty of fun things in which mixed breeds can participate. The Canine Good Citizen program rewards well-behaved dogs of any background. A properly socialized and easygoing mix will make a great therapy dog. Various organizations allow mixes to compete in sports like agility, carting, dock jumping, flyball and obedience. Once a mixed breed's talents and preferences are discovered, the sky's the limit!
Exercise is essential for a dog's health. Underexercised dogs will often channel their excess energy into destructive behaviors. Determine your dog's energy level, and tailor his exercise program to it. For some dogs, a walk around the block twice a day will suffice; for others, a few hours of intense running and playing are needed.
All dogs need a balanced, high-quality diet. Food should be age and size appropriate, and most dogs do best when fed twice a day on a schedule.
Use positive, reward-based training with a mixed-breed dog. When training is a fun, bonding experience, both the owner and dog win. All dogs should be housetrained and learn basic manners to become happy and healthy members of the family.
Proper socialization is necessary for any dog to get along well with children. Children must also be taught the correct way to handle a dog. Breed characteristics can have a lot to do with whether a dog is good with other animals. Terriers and sighthounds, for example, can have high prey drives that make them incompatible with small pets. Reputable shelters and rescues temperament test dogs and will help match the right dog with the appropriate home environment.
The theory that mixed breeds have "hybrid vigor," meaning they are healthier than purebreds, has not been proven. Dogs should have a yearly vet checkup. Also, spaying and neutering has huge health benefits, including decreasing the likelihood of certain types of cancer.
Grooming depends on a mix's coat type. For short coats, a quick brushing twice a week is sufficient. Long coats require daily brushing to prevent mats. Curly coats need clipping, and owners often use a professional groomer. Wirehaired coats need to be brushed once a week with a slicker brush. All dogs should have their nails clipped often to keep them short. Attention must also be paid to dental care, and daily teeth brushings are recommended.
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