Dogs have a way of brightening your day simply by being present. There’s something about a lolling tongue and a wagging tail that makes it impossible to hold on to a sour mood, no matter how much stress you’re under. Our dogs offer unconditional love and faithful companionship, so don’t they deserve the same from us? As a dog owner, your dog’s health and wellbeing is your responsibility – but so is his happiness. Are you giving your dog everything he needs to live his best life?
Providing your pup with a healthy, balanced diet and meeting his needs for daily exercise are some of your most basic responsibilities as a dog owner. Just as your dog goes above and beyond in giving you all the love he has to offer, however, you should go beyond the basics when it comes to supporting your dog’s physical and mental wellbeing. Here are 9 tips to help you keep your dog happy and healthy.
1. Shake up your exercise routine.
Most dogs love going for their daily walk but it never hurts to shake things up from time to time. Introduce some variety into your dog’s exercise routine by taking him for a hike or giving him some off-leash time at a local dog park. If you want to get really creative, set up an obstacle course in your backyard or start training your dog for agility. You might be surprised how quickly many dogs take to dog sports and it will provide an excellent bonding opportunity for the two of you as well.
2. Give your dog a good rub-down.
Dogs can never get their full of attention, especially physical forms of attention like petting. If you want to give your dog a little special treatment, give him a thorough rub-down – everyone loves a massage! Grab a grooming glove and remove loose hair from your dog’s coat while rubbing him down. You can even find pet-friendly massage tools like rollers to really work your dog’s muscles.
3. Make your dog’s treats do double duty.
Treats should only make up about 10% of your dog’s daily diet because they are, well, treats, but there’s no rule that says treats can’t be healthy. Look for meat-based treats to give your dog’s diet a healthy boost of protein. Protein-based treats will also be more appealing to your dog with their meaty aroma and flavor. Try freeze-dried treats or jerky treats to see how your dog likes them.
4. Support your dog’s natural instincts.
Though your dog may be a few thousand years removed from his wild ancestors, he still has natural instincts that need to be respected. If your dog loves to follow a scent, take him on a long walk in an unfamiliar location and let him sniff to his heart’s content. If your dog loves to run, take him to a dog park and let him go wild. He’ll be so tuckered out he’ll be happy to lay on the couch all evening afterward, so it’s a win-win situation!
5. Provide opportunities for mental stimulation.
Physical activity is essential for your dog’s health and wellness, but his brain needs some exercise as well. Mental stimulation can also be beneficial for dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. You may not realize it, but dogs can suffer from anxiety disorders just like humans. Giving your dog a food puzzle or an interactive toy, especially if he gets anxious when you leave the house. The toy could help distract him long enough that he doesn’t exhibit symptoms of anxiety and his brain will get a boost as well.
6. Take your dog’s collar off at night.
You don’t sleep in the clothes you wear during the day, do you? So why should your dog? Your dog’s collar carries his ID tags which are essential for safety, but when he’s inside for the night you should consider taking his collar off. Giving your dog freedom from his collar makes for a more comfortable night of sleep and you won’t miss the jingling that follows him everywhere he goes.
7. Feed your dog the highest-quality diet you can afford.
What’s in your dog’s bowl plays an important role in his overall health and wellness, so don’t skimp when it comes to quality. You don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive dog food on the shelf, but make sure it’s made with high-quality, natural ingredients – especially animal-based protein. Don’t forget about nutritional supplements, either. Fish oil can help improve the condition of your dog’s coat, probiotics support healthy digestion, and CBD can help with stress and anxiety.
8. Keep up with regular grooming and nail trims.
Grooming does more than keep your dog looking tidy – it also promotes healthy skin and coat. Depending on the length and texture of your dog’s coat, he may require daily grooming to control mats and tangles. Even if your dog can go a week or so without grooming, daily brushing is a great way to bond with your dog – plus, it feels nice. While you’re at it, check your dog’s ears to see if they need to be cleaned and don’t forget to trim his nails every 10 to 14 days.
9. Give your dog opportunities for socialization.
You have a close circle of friends you like to spend time with, so doesn’t your dog deserve the same? Make playdates with other dogs or take regular trips to the dog park so your dog has the opportunity to play with his own species. You can also take your dog with you when you run errands or let him tag along to a dog-friendly restaurant as an opportunity for additional socialization.
While mental health resources like online therapy and support groups are readily available for humans, your dog can’t exactly log into a chat room or schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist. As your dog’s caretaker, supporting his mental health is just as much your responsibility as protecting his physical wellness. Giving your dog opportunities to exhibit natural behaviors and providing mental as well as physical stimulation can help him live his best life so the two of you can enjoy each other’s company for as long as possible.