We all know how important it is for us to maintain a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. The same is true for our dogs! Here is a quick-and-dirty guide to what I believe are important key components of a well-balanced lifestyle for your dog to ensure his health and happiness.
- Great Nutrition. Mom was right when she said, “Garbage in, garbage out!” Commercial dog food diets are laden with corn, fillers, meat by-products and all kinds of artificial colors and preservatives that can affect your dog’s health and behavior in a negative way. It’s always important to ensure you read the labels of dog foods and treats, and choose those that list an actual meat as its first ingredient. Each dog is different when it comes to dietary needs; I highly recommend the Whole Dog Journal’s information on how to read labels; here is the link for how to choose a dry food. Raw diets are becoming more popular and I feed my own dogs a mixture of some dry and wet, with a re-hydrated raw. I also stick to buying stuff at independent pet stores that are committed to selling top-quality products, and whose staff are more knowledgeable about their products, as opposed to big chains or grocery stores.
- Regular Vet Care Checkups and Grooming. Annual exams are vital, as are appropriate vaccinations, dental care and responsible spay/neuter. It’s important to never diagnose or treat health conditions on your own, particularly if they persist for more than 24 hours. Proper grooming is also vital to good health; brushing teeth, clipping nails and having a clean, well-brushed coat will help your dog feel his best. Always have 24-hour emergency numbers ready for anything that may happen. Animal Help Now is a great app here in Colorado to help you find the nearest emergency help for your pup if you are away from home or aren’t sure where you can go.
- Proper Early and Lifelong Socialization. It’s important for all dogs to be exposed to everything they can encounter in the real world from when they are very young so they can become used to it and not fear it. We should never FORCE dogs into these situations; they should always go at their own pace and have it be a positive experience so they do not have a negative or fearful experience. Check out this awesome Doggie Drawings.net poster about proper socialization.
- Adequate Exercise. All dogs need exercise and not just physical exercise, but mental exercise! Remember the needs of the individual dog; more active breeds will need more exercise than couch potatoes, and some will find certain activities more fun than others. Your border collie may love to run agility courses, and herding breeds definitely have more to “burn off” than an English bulldog in comparison. Boredom is a big problem for these dogs if they don’t have appropriate outlets for being both physically and mentally stimulated. Remember to address your dog’s need for engagement with regard to both mental and physical exercise. Play is a fun way to also give your pet exercise, and exercise is also important to prevent obesity. The ASCPA has a great guide to exercising your dog here.
- The Ability to Relax. Exercise is definitely important, but we often forget how important it is for our dogs to learn how to relax! Sometimes it can be difficult for dogs to find an “off” switch. Teaching him patience, boundaries and impulse control is very important. Sometimes dogs who are anxious, easily aroused, fearful or reactive can have a particularly hard time learning how to just be chill. I especially love Nan Arthur’s book, Chill Out Fido, and her instructions for teaching how to Relax or Settle on a Mat. Stress is not good for any living being so it’s very important to help your dog learn how to relax and make the right decisions when it comes to life’s stressors; teaching him how to sit and focus on you can be a very valuable skill in this regard as well.
- Basic Manners Training. It’s important for our dogs know how to sit for pets, not bolt from doors or gateways, and to not jump up on grandmother and knock her over! Basic manners training can also help satisfy mental exercise needs, and provide a foundation for communicating with your dog. My Delightful Doggy Finishing School covers all these basics, and I also really enjoy Karen Pryor’s Clicker Training Starter Kits and Pat Miller’s book, The Power of Positive Dog Training, for how to do basic training with your pup.
- A Loving Home Environment. A warm bed. Plenty of fresh water. Shelter from the cold and heat. Sadly, some dogs in today’s world are forced to fend for themselves on the streets and others may be living on chains or in pens outside. Dogs are an important part of our family and provide us with so much unconditional love. It’s important for us to have the same for them, and to remember they require patience, commitment and respect.
I hope these tips and resources can be of help to you in providing the best for your pup. I would love to help you with any additional training or care needs you have for your dog! You can submit an inquiry today to get started.
Owner, Delightful Doggies