Raising a happy and healthy pooch is more than just diet and exercise. Though they don't experience complex emotions as we do, our canines still feel joy, fear, anger and love. They also, like us, get sick.
So we must take care of their emotional and physical well-being with a holistic approach to their needs.
The job of raising a happy, healthy dog should happen as soon as possible. Ideally, when they're still a puppy. But with more and more people adopting, this is not always a practical option. Especially since welcoming these canines into your home can come with challenges for both dog and carer.
But that's not to say those rescue pups aren't worth the effort because they are. And here we'll let you in on the 7 best ways to raise your dog to be happy and healthy, regardless of age, breed or back story.
All dogs are inherently social animals, and human interaction is definitely their bliss. But mental stimulation is also key to their contentment. So make sure you challenge your dog.
Give them toys and dog-appropriate puzzles to do (we're talking, finding a treat and not solving the Rubik's cube type stuff).
Try massaging your puppy. As silly as it sounds, they get aches and pains just like we do. And it's also a fantastic bonding experience for you and your pooch. It’s particularly good for older dogs who may get sore after a run.
Playing with and massaging your dog is beneficial for you both. Companionship and physical contact are essential elements of good emotional health. It can also help relieve anxiety and stress, as well as improving your dog's general body function.
But massaging dogs isn't quite the same as humans, so talk to your vet about some basic techniques.
Making socialisation a priority when it comes to the wellness of your dog is crucial. Basically, you're protecting both your puppy and any dogs it may come into contact with.
A poorly socialised dog will be anxious about new things. And this will often present as aggression towards humans and other canines.
Additionally, a vet must be allowed to complete a regular examination of your dog. Unsocialised dogs can be challenging to a vet, and the result will be a poor health check.
Positive reinforcement is reward for good behaviour. Rather than punishing your pup for being naughty.
Rewarding a dog with food treats, playtime or positive attention is an excellent training method. It's also fun for you and your furry friend.
With positive reinforcement, you encourage your dog to do what you want it to, not punish them for what you don't want. This can be a challenge with dogs already out of the puppy stage, and you may need to seek professional help, just to get you started.
Ideally, the reinforcement comes after the excellent behaviour; otherwise, it becomes a bribe. While treats form the foundation of this type of training, at some point, they become mostly unnecessary.
Dogs taught with punishment can become aggressive and anxious, and that's not the ideal situation when we've committed to keeping these animals safe and happy.
Consistent positive reinforcement means a happier, more confident pooch. You'll find your dog is eager to please and easy to train. And of course, it's more fun for both you and your dog.
Rules, boundaries and basic commands are all critical for the overall health of your dog. Positive reinforcement helps maintain emotional health and well-being of your dog but also keeps you both safe and is an excellent opportunity to spend time outdoors.
Health and nutrition
Annual vaccinations and basic health checks are crucial. But so is the need for you to be vigilant. Anything unusual such as coughs, skin problems, ear health and general fatigue should be brought to the attention of your vet.
Make sure your dog has proper nutrition too but stay away from fads and focus more on being label aware. Do some basic research or ask your vet what your dog needs to keep him healthy.
You don't have to follow things like a grain-free diet, but do provide quality food to your pup. As with human food, the shorter the list of ingredients and the more words you recognise, the better. And home-cooked is fine if you're confident that you understand the nutritional needs of your dog.
Your dog's diet should maintain his energy and good physical health. So, make sure food is nutritional and suitable for their needs.
Fresh air and exercise
Generally, exercise should involve running and playing outdoors. If your options are limited by urban sprawl, do a little research. Dog lovers are everywhere, and so are parks with off-lead areas. Even in the city. You'll likely find that the same group of people frequent the same parks. This is an excellent opportunity for both you and your pup to benefit from regular, familiar social interactions.
Dogs love morning and evening activity. And while this isn't always possible, options such as dog walkers are widely available. Some businesses will match you with a suitable person to help you take care of your pooch.
Best case scenario: whenever possible, make sure your dog isn't alone for longer than a few hours at a time. If you work long hours, consider hiring a sitter or enroll your dog in a doggy daycare.
The bottom line
Taking a holistic approach to the health of your pup means embracing these essential tips for a happy, healthy dog. If you adopt or rescue a pouch, the same rules apply. But you just might need a little more patience and extra encouragement when it comes to bonding, training and socialising your fur baby.
But once you achieve that ultimate human-dog relationship, it will totally be worth the effort. And it’s not just you and your family that benefits but the whole community.