dog care guide

Adult dogs have grown out of the puppy stages and have matured to their full size.  Caring for an adult dog has challenges, the best approach is to take great care of your dog and prevent ailments later in life.

Food and Water

Should I feed my adult dog dry food?

Dry food is less expensive, easier to store, and less messy.  Some dogs will limit their intake when you leave the food out at all times or you can control their calorie intake by feeding a high or low calorie food.  Unfortunately, most dogs will overeat if you have dry food always available.


Should I feed my adult dog canned food?

Canned wet food and soft moist pouches contain a lot of water, which makes them  more expensive and also subject to spoiling if the dog doesn't eat it all in one meal.  However, dogs seem to love it and once you start feeding it, your dog may insist on canned food after that!  You must decide which type of food is most convenient for you.

Does my dog need a diet labeled for adult dogs?

Growing dogs can continue to eat a puppy food until they are done growing.  If you are not sure when to switch to an adult food, you can consult with your veterinarian.  It is definitely time to switch if your dog starts going over his ideal weight.  

How much do I feed?

Your vet can tell you how much your dog weighs, and if she needs to gain or lose.  Look at the recommendations on the food bag or can and feed for what your dog should weigh and not necessarily what she actually weighs to keep her weight ideal .

  • Petmate Pet Cafe Feeder
    • this free feeder will provide food at all times for several days
  • Esky Electronic Portion Control Automatic Feeder
    • automatic feeders can be programmed to dispense just the right amount of food for dogs who tend to overeat, and you don't need to be home
  • Wonder Bowl Selective Feeder
    • This selective feeder keeps other pets out of your dog's food so it is perfect for dogs on a special diet for medical reasons.

How much water should my dog drink?

Fresh, clean water should be available to your dog at all times.  Dogs on wet food may drink less water compared to a dog on dry. Drinking more than one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day may be a sign of a health issue and warrants a visit to the vet.

  • Pet Safe Drinkwell Original Pet Fountain, or Aspen Pet Products Deluxe Fresh Flow pet fountain
    • fountains may encourage your dog to drink more water.
  • Bergan Elite Gourmet Waterer 3 gallon
    • large water containers will ensure that your dog never runs out  

What treats are best for my dog?

Treats should be tailored to your individual dog's needs, and taste buds! Remember, though, that treats contribute to your dog's overall caloric intake, so should be given in moderation.

  • Canine Greenies Dental Treats
    • Will help keep her mouth fresh
  • Wellness Wellbites Soft Natural salmon
    • Great for dry hair coats and dandruff
  • Smokehouse 100 percent natural duck and sweet potato
    • Ideal for dogs with food allergies

Are human foods safe for my dog?

Dogs are omnivorous like humans, but you should still avoid feeding them human food exclusively, unless you follow receipes made for senior dogs.  Small amounts of healthy human food is safe, but avoid foods that we humans know are not good for us, such as foods high in sodium, fat, calories, artificial ingredients, spices and red meat.   Dairy products ideally should be lactose free for better digestion. Be sure you know what foods are not safe, like chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, macadamia nuts,  garlic, yeast dough, coffee, salt and xylitol.

Where should I place the food and water?

Place the food and water bowls away from high traffic areas and on an easy to clean surface since dogs are messy eaters in general. 

  • Outward Hound 51005 Fun Feeder Slow Feed Interactive Bloat Stop Dog Bowl
    • makes large dogs eat slower and reduces risk of bloat
  • Petfusion Pet Food mat
    • Keeps the floor clean

What human food is ok to feed?

A begging dog is hard to resist, however, avoid feeding from the dinner table unless you want a demanding dog. If you wish to give him a treat, do so after you are away from the table. Many human foods can be dangerous for a dog however there are some that are safe and tasty treats. Not all dogs can tolerate even safe foods as their bodies react in different ways. Add new foods in small amounts, one at a time and discontinue if your dog gets an upset tummy. Human food should never be the main staple in your dog’s diet.

  • Peanut butter
    • Peanut butter is high in protein but also pretty high in fat. It is best given as a treat or to hide pills. If your pup gets sick, giving any prescribed medication in peanut butter is an easy way to ensure he will get it down. Try using peanut butter in a Kong or sterilized bone as a binder for treats or food to provide hours of sticky and hard-to-get distraction and fun!
  • Carrots
    • Carrots are crunchy, packed with vitamins and low in calories. They are relatively high in sugar so only give in small amounts. Too much of anything can cause an upset stomach.
  • Green Beans
    • Green beans are low calorie and a good source of fiber. They can be added to their diet as a filler if your puppy gets a little pudgy when older and you need to reduce the amount of food he is eating. Both canned and fresh are fine, however avoid canned beans that have added salt.
  • Chicken
    • Chicken is low in fat, high protein and easily digested. Be sure to remove any skin that may have seasonings as some can be toxic or cause an upset stomach. Make sure there are no bones that can cause obstructions or internal bleeding.

What human foods should I avoid?

Many human foods are toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. Avoid giving your puppy any of the foods below and call your veterinarian immediately if he happens to accidentally eat or drink any.

  • Alcohol
    • This includes any drinks, disinfectants and cleaning products containing alcohol as well as unbaked bread or yeast dough.
  • Apricots, peaches, plums and cherries
    • Leaves and stems of trees and pits/seeds all contain cyanide.
  • Avocados
    • The fruit, leaves, stems and pit/seed have the highest toxicity levels.
  • Caffeine
    • Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, diet pills and chocolate all can cause toxicity depending on amounts ingested and there is no antidote available.
  • Chocolate
    • Dark and bitter chocolates (ex. bakers) are the most toxic, however milk chocolate is toxic as well.
  • Cinnamon
    • Powered sticks, decorations, essential oils and trees can cause systemic and topical toxic effects.
  • Currants
    • Depending on the type, toxic effects can be seen in any amount and some are small grapes which can cause kidney failure.
  • Decaying meat carcasses, garbage
    • Rotting food scraps and bones are toxic in any amount. Rotting meat can cause Botulism while bones pose a risk for obstruction and internal bleeding.
  • Garlic and onions
    • All types and forms of either can cause life-threatening anemia.   
  • Grapes and raisins
    • Grapes, either fresh, dried (raisins) or juice can cause kidney failure.
  • Hops
    • Hops are used for home brewing and the exact lethal amount is unknown, so all amounts are considered life-threatening
  • Macadamia nuts
    • Avoid giving the nuts or foods containing them.
  • Mushrooms
    • While the majority of mushrooms are not toxic they can be difficult to identify, therefore it is best to avoid them all.
  • Moldy foods
    • Avoid giving any food that has mold on it. Try and keep trash up so your dog does not ingest any potentially toxic leftovers.
  • Nutmeg
    • Nutmeg can be found in many baked goods and all forms can be toxic. When ingested in large amounts, it can cause neurological conditions and death.
  • Rhubarb
    • The leaves are the most toxic part of the plant, however the stems are toxic as well. Severe toxicity can cause low blood calcium levels and kidney failure.
  • Salt
    • Salt is found in many forms including any cooking salts, salt water, paint balls, homemade playdough, de-icers and enemas
  • Starfruit
    • Ingested in large amounts can cause low blood calcium and kidney failure.
  • Sugary or artificially sweetened foods.
    • Sugary sweets can cause hyperactivity. Artificial sweeteners such as Xylitol, the most toxic of this category are found in sugar free gums, candy, foods and medications

Why does my dog eat grass?

No one knows exactly why dogs eat grass, but one theory is that they are lacking something in their diet. Commercial diets are nutritionally complete, but senior dogs will often develop medical issues that might require vitamins or other supplements. You should discuss your dog’s grass eating habits with your veterinarian.

Housetraining/Potty Issues

Can I allow my new dog to run loose outside?

Dogs who go outdoors unprotected can be injured by cars, exposed to toxins, get lost, and attacked by other dogs.  In addition, these dogs are more likely to be infected with intestinal worms, heartworms, bacteria and fungus.  Keep your dog safely secured with a collar or harness and leash.  Make sure the collar is tight enough that it cannot slip over her head.   Also, make sure your dog can be identified by a microchip, ID tag, or collar with name and number.

  • Rivet-On custom engraved dog ID tag
  • Go Tags Custom Embroidered Collars
  • Lucky Pet ID tag bone shape custom engraved dog tags

personalized with your dog's name and phone number, in case she gets lost

Home Again Microchip Implant Kit for Administration by Veterinarian

  • QR Code Pet ID tag Accessory w/Smartphone GPS Tracking
    • combined with online registration to provide retrievable information

Can I allow my adult dog to go out into my fenced yard by herself?

The first time you should definitely go out with her and watch her very carefully  to make sure she has no intention to dig under or climb over the fence.  Watch her through a window for a few days to confirm this.  You should only allow her out unattended if your fence is very secure.   

  • Ideal Pet Products Pet Door with Telescoping Frame
    • allows your dog to go outside whenever he needs to in your absence.   Always lock it at night to keep your dog safely inside 
  • Friendly Pet Products Wireless Dog Fence
  • Perimeter Technologies Wire-Free Wifi Dog Fence
    • technology to reinforce or replace a physical fence

Does my dog need a collar or harness for leash walking?

Depending on the size of your dog, putting pressure on the trachea with only a collar and a leash, causing the potential to pull, is dangerous and can cause the trachea to collapse. The safest option is to use a harness, no matter what your dog’s weight, size, or leash walking manners are.

How often should I take my adult dog out to eliminate?

Certain medical issues and special diets may cause your dog to need to urinate or defecate more often than normal.  Normal, healthy dogs should go out every 6-8 hours and should be able to hold it overnight. 


Can I train my adult dog to use a litter box, artificial turf or a pee pad indoors?

Adult dogs may have a difficult time adapting to a brand new location for elimination.  It is best to continue to use whatever location the dog is already used to, especially at first.  You may need to consult a canine behaviorist in order to change habits that are long-standing.

  • PoochPad Reusable Potty Pads for Mature Dogs
    • large and extra absorbent
  • PetZoom Pet Park Indoor Pet potty
    • synthetic grass material that looks and feels real
  • lowes large plastic storage containers
    • cut an opening for your small dog to enter and exit . Fill with sand or cat litter 

Exercise and Play

How do I play with my adult dog?

Adult dogs can still play like puppies!  Provide them with a variety of toys for fetching, chasing, and chewing.  Once you figure out what he likes to do, try to schedule at least 2 playtimes each day.  The rest of the time, he may be content to sleep or keep watch over you.

  • KONG pet stix dog toy--for tossing and tugging
  • KONG Classic dog toy--can be filled with peanut butter or treats to encourage interaction
  • Chuckit! Indoor Ball--soft and harmless

How do I get my dog to exercise when I am not home?

Some dogs keep themselves busy, but  your adult dog may sleep all day!   You can hide treats for your dog to search and find. Your dog may play with other pets in the house, but if not, you can encourage play with electronic or treat filled toys.  Having a pet door and a safely fenced yard may encourage your dog to move around more as well.

  • PetSafe Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug Meal Dispensing Toy
    • fill with food to keep him busy
  • Bark Bazaar Squeaky Ball---fill with treats
  • Nina Ottosson's Interactive Dog Toy
    • your dog has to solve a puzzle to get the treats or food
  • iFetch
    • interactive on demand ball launcher lets dogs play fetch without human assistance  (small dogs only)

How often should I take my adult dog for a walk?

It depends on your schedule.  Most adult dogs will enjoy a walk as many times as you can offer!  One good long walk for exercise per day should be the minimum, no matter how busy you are.

  • Comfort Control Dog Walking Harness with padded vest

Safety, control and comfort all wrapped into one

  • Flexi Explore Retractable Belt Dog Leash
    • Allows your dog additional freedom when walking but can also be locked shorter for tighter control
  • Halti Opti Head Collar for Dogs
    • Helps control pulling by an untrained or especially energetic dog


Traveling with Adult Dogs

How do I take my dog in the car?

This depends on what your dog already knows about traveling.  With experience, he may already love riding and will sit on the seat and wear his seat belt like an angel.   If he has never been trained, he may be hyperactive or anxious in a car.  It is best to start this dog out in a crate, where he will feel and be safer! A dog loose in the car is at risk for escape, injury or may cause an accident.


  • EzyDog Seat Belt Restraint for Dogs 
  • Tru-fit Smart Harness Seatbelt Loop 
  •  Kurgo Skybox Dog Booster Seat
    • These are safe and comfortable for pet travel.  Smaller Dogs may do better in a seat belt/booster seat combination

Do dogs get car sick?

Some do!  If this happens, call your veterinarian for car sick medication.  It also helps to start with short trips and then gradually increase them.


Can my dog fly with me?

Adult dogs should avoid flying in the cargo area of a plane, unless it is a special transport company for animals.  Only bring your dog on a flight if he can safely travel with you in the cabin, and he is trained to ride comfortably in a crate.


Can my dog stay in a hotel with me?

If your adult dog is an experienced traveler, he should do very well in a hotel.  Make sure he is well behaved. (if unsure, use a crate!)  Also make sure he gets outside often enough to relieve himself.,,

Many websites provide information for traveling with your pet and hotel availability ,,

These websites provide additional information about health certificates for air travel and international travel requirements.  Your veterinarian can also help you with this.


How often should I give my dog a bath?

This depends on the type of skin and hair your dog has. A good rule is to bathe them when they are dirty or have a body odor. For dogs with oily, allergic, or infected skin, this could be twice a week! Other dogs can go several weeks without a bath. If your adult dog gets very stressed at bathtime, you will need to do some training, or have the bath done by a professional to avoid risk of injury. 

  • Perfect Coat Natural Oatmeal Shampoo--for dogs with allergic or normal skin
  • Duouxo Chlorhexidine PS Shampoo--
    • -for dogs with recurrent skin infections
  • Johnsons Dog Shampoo Coal Tar & Sulfur---
    • for dogs with oily skin
  • Bobbi Panter Natural Moisturizing Dog Shampoo--
    • for dogs with dry skin  

Do I need to brush my dog?

Depending on his hair coat, your dog might need to be brushed to reduce shedding and matting of fur. Use a deshedding tool to get the best results.

  • FURminator

Does my long-haired dog need to be shaved when it is hot outside?

Any dog may need shaving if you are unable to keep his hair from getting matted. Your dog may also have hair, not fur, and therefore have a coat that does not shed or grows rapidly. These dogs will often need to be shaved. Do not have your dog shaved simply because of heat. For some dog breeds, thick fur actually acts as an insulation from the heat. A professional groomer can give you excellent advice about haircuts for different breeds of dogs.

  • Four Paws Magic Coat Love Glove,  Furminator long hair deshedding tool, Safari self cleaning slicker brush
    • Tools to help you remove the loose hair off your dog on a daily basis. Prevents excessive shedding and matting 

Should I trim my adult dog's toenails myself?

All dogs need their nails trimmed regularly, but you will need to be careful the first time you try this on any adult dog. Some dogs have been traumatized by painful nail trims or may not be trained for this at all. Consult with your veterinarian if your dog seems uncomfortable with this issue.

  • JW Pet Company Deluxe Nail Trimmer for Dogs
  • Oster Gentle Paws Premium
    • For trimming or grinding nails at home

Do I need to brush my adult dog's teeth?

Absolutely! Tooth paste made for dogs is usually flavored and safe for dogs to swallow. You can use a finger brush or a regular toothbrush to clean your dog’s teeth. There are also dental chews, sprays, water additives and gels available for your dog. With training, your dog can learn to enjoy this process and will remind you to do this every day!

  • Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste Dog Poultry Flavor
  • Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Dog Dental Spray
  • Arm and Hammer Toothbrush and Finger Toothbrush Set for Dogs
  • Emmy's Best Premium Pet Water Additive

Veterinary Care

What does my vet need to do for my new adult dog before I bring him home?

Your dog should be tested for heartworms, intestinal parasites, checked for fleas and have complete blood work done if the dog does not appear to be healthy.


How often should I take my adult dog to the Vet?

All adult dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. 


Should my adult dog be spayed/neutered?

Absolutely, as long as your dog is healthy enough to undergo the surgery. Failure to spay or neuter your dog can lead to behavioral problems as well as physical problems, including cancer.

Does my adult dog need vaccinations?

Adult Dogs should have a Rabies virus vaccine every three years, starting one year after their puppy series ended, because it is required by law.  A DHPP vaccine protects against 4 other viruses that are contagious between dogs. If your dog is around any other dogs, they should have this vaccine every 3 years as well.   Bordetella (kennel cough) is a highly contagious disease your dog can be exposed to in kennels, pet stores, and grooming facilities, so all dogs should have this vaccine once per year.


What tests does the vet need to run on my adult dog?

Dogs should be blood tested for Heartworms before they are put on Heartworm Prevention and then annually to detect any infection early.  Your dog's stool should be tested for intestinal worms annually as well.  Adult dogs should have blood testing performed anytime they are ill in order to detect health problems early.  If your adult dog is diagnosed with a chronic illness, your vet will set up a schedule to monitor these problems more often than once per year.   


Does my indoor dog need to be on heartworm and flea prevention?

Heartworms come from mosquito bites and all dogs are at risk for exposure when they go outdoors for walks or to eliminate.  If your dog lives at very high altitudes, consistently cold temperatures or exclusively indoors, he may not need preventative.  Some dogs need preventative all year round and others only during the warmer months. Discuss your dog's individual risk with your veterinarian.  Flea populations are variable as well.  Dogs that are high risk for flea infestations should be on preventative all the time; whereas, other dogs may not need it at all until fleas are actually seen on the pet.


What heartworm and/or flea preventative is best for my adult dog?

There are so many different products on the market that it can get very confusing.  Your vet is the best source for a recommendation, based on your dog’s risk and current health status.  Avoid using over the counter (non-prescription) products without first getting your veterinarian's approval, since many of these may not be safe for any dog.      



Does my adult dog need to go to the dentist?

Your regular veterinarian will let you know when your dog needs a professional teeth cleaning under general anesthesia.  If you are brushing your dog’s teeth every day, you can delay the onset of dental disease.  Severe dental disease left untreated can lead to other health problems, such as heart failure.  Infected teeth need to be removed and healthy teeth cleaned usually on an annual basis once a dog reaches a certain age.  Your vet can refer you to a Veterinary Dental Specialist if you want to save your dog's teeth from extraction, but most dogs have no problem eating even when all of their teeth are gone because they don't need to chew their food for proper digestion.

Should my dog be microchipped?

Yes! Lost pets can be reunited with their pet parents if they are microchipped.  It is a relatively inexpensive, non-painful procedure performed by your veterinarian

Does my dog need pet insurance?

Yes! You never know when there will be a medical crisis that could be very expensive.  Pet insurance is inexpensive but gives you the peace of mind you want about your special pet.

How do I know if my adult dog is sick?

Watch for anything out of the ordinary--you will get to know your dog! Loss of appetite, drinking more water than usual, losing weight, difficulty urinating or defecating, losing hair, and changes in behavior can all be signs if illness.  Take your dog to the veterinarian!

These websites have pet parent information to supplement everything we have here

Preparing for a New Adult Dog

How do I know if my dog is an adult, puppy, or senior?

Many references will say a dog is an adult from 1 to 7 years of age, after that, he is a "senior." However, large and giant breed dogs may not actually stop growing until they are at least 18 months old, and won't reach social maturity until the age of 2.  Talk to your vet about this if you have a large or giant breed dog.       

What should I expect during the ride home?

The first ride in a car might be stressful for your dog depending on his history. If your adult dog has been in a shelter for awhile, it may be difficult for him. If he’s used to car rides, he might enjoy the trip! Take a crate with you and make a nice bed or provide a pile of blankets so he can lay down. Avoid feeding for several hours before the first ride to avoid car sickness.

How should I introduce my new adult dog to my household?

Walk your adult dog around his new home.  Show him his food, water and bedding.   Take him outside and show him where you want him to eliminate and praise him when he does. If he seems very anxious, you may want to confine him to a small area of the house at first.  You can use special "calming" products to help him feel comfortable.    

  • DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone
    • Available in a spray, a diffuser or a collar, this hormone mimics the natural pheromone released by the mother dog 3-5 days after having a litter of puppies, causing a calming and reassuring effect on the dog.

  • Vetri-Science treats
    • Calming treats can be offered in any fearful situation

Should I keep my adult dog in a crate when I am not at home?

Crates are excellent training tools if the dog is not house trained already or is likely to be destructive when left alone.  Some adult dogs are more comfortable in a crate if that is how they were raised from a puppy.  Otherwise, not necessary.

  • Petnation Indoor/Outdoor Pet Home
    • lightweight, durable, foldable, ventilated soft crate

  • Newport Pet Crate End Table
    • attractive enough to keep in the living room

When should my new adult dog meet my other pets ?

Keep all other pets in the house away until the newcomer is comfortable in his area.  Provide as much human interaction as possible!   When the dog appears to be relaxed,  you can gradually allow him to explore the rest of the house and meet other pets, under your direct supervision, until all residents are content with each other. Most adult dogs will adapt very quickly, if they have been around other dogs in the past.

  • Zuke's Jerky Naturals Dog Treats

    • Treats can encourage dogs to be more social with each other.  Have a    "treat party" when the dogs encounter each other, turning a  potentially negative situation into a positive one. 

  • DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone (see above)


Where should my adult dog sleep?

Adult dogs will need to sleep a little more than a puppy. The best place for them to sleep depends on how they were trained and what they are used to, and their personalities. Your dog may like sleeping on the bare floor or in a crate, or prefer a rug or a bed.

Armarkat Pet Bed Mat

Mud River Crate Cushion

for dogs who prefer the floor but like a little cushion

What kind of dog bed should I buy?

There are many different kinds of dog beds.  You may have to use trial and error to see what your dog likes.  Just like people, they all have their preferences. 

AKC Casablanca Round Solid Pet Bed

Coolaroo Elevated Pet Bed

Milliard Premium Orthopedic Memory Foam Dog Bed

K&H Manufacturing Lectro-Soft Heated Bed

Can my dog sleep in bed with me?

Of course!  This is where many dogs want to be.  If you object to this, you will need to provide an alternative place from day one, or your dog may be very difficult to keep off your bed while you are trying to sleep!

Pet Gear Easy Step II Pet Stairs

Miles Kimball 3 step Pet Stairs

Convertable Pet Steps/Ramp

Can help your smaller dogs get up on your bed or into the car.  Non skid step surfaces for safety

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