3. Address flea, tick, heartworm, and other parasite issues.
With the weather warming up throughout most of the country, insects abound. Ticks can be particularly dangerous because they may cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and other diseases. Prime tick time is April through November in most areas. After outdoor excursions—especially in wooded areas—check your dog for ticks and remove any that are found. You may wish to have your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease. Topical products can be applied, and pills can also be acquired. Heartworm testing should be conducted by your vet. Preventative medication is also a sound investment in your dog's health.
4. Provide a balanced diet.
The variety of dog foods now on the market is staggering, and sometimes confusing. Your choice of food will be a critical factor in your dog's body condition. Do your homework. Select a food that provides optimal nutritional benefits and best fits the dog's age and lifestyle.
Keep track of your retriever's weight. The tried-and-true test in determining if your dog is overweight is to feel its rib cage. You should be able to feel its ribs below the skin's surface without applying too much pressure. Obese dogs can develop health problems. Resist the temptation to give your retriever between-meal snacks.
5. On the mental health side, take time to become your dog's friend, or reinforce that bond.
By all means maintain control, but dogs, like people, need attention. Dogs, being social animals, appreciate compassion. Be consistent in your training and handling. Be advised that physical abuse can trigger aggressive behavior. Hey, this is your hunting partner, treat the dog accordingly. Strong relationships are built over time. And a healthy dog is often a happy dog.
FOWL FACT Did you know puppies have 23 baby teeth and adult dogs have around 42 permanent teeth, depending on the breed? Canine teeth naturally darken with age.