Caring for your dog is a labor of love — there really is a lot of work involved! There’s a lot more to it than topping off their food and water dishes and letting them out to do their business. Unfortunately, most dogs don’t come with a manual, so we put together this schedule of essential daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tasks to help you keep your pup happy and healthy.
This suggested schedule is for healthy adult dogs (unless otherwise stated). Puppies, seniors and dogs with medical conditions may have different, more specific care needs. And as always, check in with your vet about what’s best for your dog’s care!
- Food and Water: Plan on giving your dog two smaller feedings instead of providing the day’s food all at once — this helps support their metabolism and supports healthy digestion. And make sure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water too!
- Bathroom Breaks: Did you know that every time they “go” you can get a glimpse at the state of your dog’s health? Watch for any straining, discomfort or unusual behavior, and pay attention to whether anything looks or smells strange when you pick up after them.
- Brush Their Coat: Daily brushing helps keep your dog’s fur shiny and strong, prevents matting and clears away dirt and debris from the day’s adventures. Plus, most dogs love being brushed, so it’s a nice way to spend some quick and easy quality time together.
- Check Teeth and Gums: Take a peek at your pal’s teeth and gums to see if everything looks normal. Teeth should be clean and bright, with no looseness. Healthy gums are pink in most breeds, though some have naturally black or spotted coloring — check your dog’s gums for discoloration, inflammation or bleeding. After checking, reward your dog with a GREENIES™ Dental Treat. They have a great texture for your dog to sink their teeth into, which helps clean their teeth and freshen their breath.
- Check Paws: Any trip outside is more than enough time for a curious paw to find trouble — sometimes dogs can even find it inside, too! Take a look at your pup’s paws each day for broken nails, burrs, cuts or anything else that might need attention.
- Check Ears: Take a moment to check your dog’s ears for ticks or any signs of injury, infection or infestation. And don’t be tempted to insert anything into their ear canal! Be gentle and calming, especially if your dog isn’t a fan of having their ears handled (treats during and after can help).
- Exercise and Play: Dogs want to do stuff — they crave activity for both their mind and body. Walks and playing fetch are great go-tos when it’s nice outside. But indoor-friendly food puzzles or hide and seek with a favorite toy can be just as entertaining. A training session, like working on the "stay" position while surrounded by treats, toys and other triggers, combines exercise for their body and cognitive stimulation for their mind.
- Show the Love: Perhaps the most important thing: Love on your dog! They don’t understand much human language, but they do know what your tone, body language and facial expressions mean. Make sure every day that they know they’re cared for and that they belong.
Weekly/a Few Times a Week
- Brush Teeth: At-home cleaning is a good idea for most dogs. If you can manage three brushings a week to fight plaque buildup, there’s a good chance your dog will have a healthy smile well into their senior years. Your vet can help you find a dog-friendly toothbrush/toothpaste for them and recommend how frequently to use them to clean your pup’s smile. To keep tartar in check between brushings, give your pal a GREENIES™ Dental Treat each day — they're easy to digest and a tasty way to get your dog to do their own dental care.
- Trim Nails: Plan on trimming your dog’s nails weekly or every other week. Overgrown nails are uncomfortable for your dog and more liable to break, so keep at-home pedicures for your pup on the calendar!
- Check Skin and Coat: Look over your dog’s skin and coat carefully for any changes — you can even snap a quick photo to share with your vet if you see something that concerns you. Not every discovery signals trouble, but it’s better to know what’s going down in dog town.
- Clean Their Stuff: Clean your dog’s food and water dishes, and wash your dog’s bed, blanket and favorite toys. Throw out any old bones, chews or tennis balls that have gotten gross. If you cringe picking it up, you don’t really want it in your dog’s mouth anymore!
- Change Up Your Routine: Get a new toy or play a new game. Take your dog someplace they’ve never been. Visit a different dog park or explore an unfamiliar trail. Is the dog-friendly ice cream parlor open? Let’s go!
- Bath Time: Monthly baths are a good idea for washing out the dirt that builds up in your pup’s fur, and won’t remove too much of the natural oils that keep their coat healthy. But if your furry friend rolls in something super smelly? An extra bath might be in order. Choose a shampoo formulated for dogs whenever bath time happens.
- Grooming: Make an appointment with the groomer every month or so. They’ll have your dog looking glamorous, and many groomers will take care of hygiene needs like expressing your dog’s anal glands if necessary.
- Heartworm and Flea/Tick Medication: It’s very important to stick to the schedule for monthly medications that control heartworms, fleas and ticks. And don’t be tempted to skip their meds in the winter months — pests can be active even in cold weather. If you prefer treatment collars with a multi-month lifespan, set an automatic reminder to change it regularly.
- Wellness Exam: Healthy adult dogs should see the vet once a year to evaluate their general physical and cognitive condition. (For puppies, vets recommend scheduling visits every three to four weeks until they’re about four months old; for senior dogs, at least twice a year.) But as always, check with your vet about the right frequency for your particular pooch!
- Blood Work: Routine tests monitor for problems such as early kidney or liver disease and allow your vet to compare results against previous blood panels.
- Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Depending on the medication, these may need to be administered more or less frequently than once a year. Be sure to follow the vet’s recommended care plan to keep your dog all smiles and wags for many happy years to come.
With this suggested schedule, you have the foundation for creating the care plan that's perfect for your dog. Check with your vet to get started on the right paw, and fine-tune as you go along to develop the routine that keeps them healthy and you happy!