5 Things You Didn't Know About Your Dog

Country Living's resident country vet, Dr. Robert Sharp, give you a head's up on canine health and behavior queries you might not have already known.

1. You can leave your dog alone -- for a while

Dr. Sharp says: Every dog handles solo time different, and the amount of time left alone truly depends on the pet's age, temperament, and activity level. However, I'd say an acceptable home-alone stretch is three hours for a puppy and six hours for an adult. When you know you'll be away longer, investigate doggie-day care options of ask a friend to come by and take your pet for a walk. And anytime you leave Fido alone for a few hours, provide a fun distraction: Food-dispensing toys and Nylabones will keep him engaged -- and busy paws are happy paws!

Plus: 20+ more dog behavior questions, answered! »

2. Dogs never outgrow their need for vaccination.

Dr. Sharp says; Though it's a common and unfortunate misconception, dogs -- even older dogs -- always need to be protected. To determine which inoculations are appropriate for your dog, talk it over with your vet, keeping three factors in mind: law, location, and lifestyle. Local regulations dictate how often you must vaccinate your pet, regardless of age, against rabies. I strongly encourage annual exams, especially for senior dogs, to ensure your pooch can make the most of his golden years.

Plus: Curious about your cat? Dr. Sharp has tips for your feline friends »

3. Your dog could get hurt chasing his own tail.

Dr. Sharp says: Most puppies will chase anything, including their own waggers. And funny though this canine merry-go-round may seem, it can result in a back injury. To put the brakes on your dog's performance: ignore it completely; or distract him by offering up a ball for play, and then reward him for breaking the cycle. In some cases, a medical issue causes the tailspin, and a visit to the vet is in order. If you notice your pet gnawing or scratching at his hindquarters, a skin ailment, wound, or irritant like fleas could be to blame.

Plus: Have a question you need answered? Drop Dr. Sharp a note »

4. There's a cure for your pup's bad breath!

Dr. Sharp says: The odor could very well be caused by plaque. Most animals need to have this buildup periodically removed by a vey. Once the plaque's eliminated, the odor should dissipate. Keep it at bay -- and prevent gum disease and tooth loss -- by cleaning your dog's teeth daily with a canine toothbrush and paste.

5. Giving him a leftover bone is a bad idea.

Dr. Sharp says: Bones -- raw or uncooked -- are nothing but trouble for several reasons. First, the fat and grease in a bone can, at the very least, cause diarrhea, and, at worst, acute inflammation of the pancreas. Second, the bone itself can be a danger. I've had to do surgery to remove shards from a choking dog's esophagus. Not to mention that bone in the diet is the most common reason for serious canine constipation.

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.