What a healthy doggy lifestyle looks like…
When we first meet our furry best friend, we have visions of long walks, beach trips and doggy play dates, and why not? It’s good for your dog, isn’t it? Well, maybe.
Of course, dogs benefit from their relationships with humans – we feed them, give them a good home, toys and even if they don’t love it, a trip to the vet when needed.
Here’s a few tips on how to really create a great life for your dog:
Exercise for the body:
Yep, dog’s love exercise, just pick up a lead and say “Walkies!” if you don’t believe me. But not all dogs are cut out for a big walk, a bush hike or a run with you. Some dogs will do these things even if it compromises their movement afterwards – their brain overrides the body.
Choose activities that are suited to these three things – your dog’s breed, age and overall physical health. These three factors influence your dog’s ability and response (or recovery) to certain exercise. For example, your Border Collie may have the drive to run, jump and bounce around for hours, but if he is a senior or has some medical conditions, it may be better to limit how often or how long time is spent at the dog park or beach.
In short, choose activities that support and promote your dog’s health and fitness – be your dog’s best advocate.
Exercise for the mind:
I’ve recently discovered Nosework. It is a low impact, scent work activity that works the nose of a dog (hence the name!). The benefit of this, is that by using a dog’s natural instinct, in a hide and seek fashion really promotes endorphins, dopamine, and, you know, all those feel-good chemicals.
I particularly love this activity for Chisel, my little Foxie. We can’t go for a regular walk due to his high anxiety, but the setting and process of Nosework really helps him find his zen. It is also excellent for dogs like Marlo who live with injuries and/or general mobility issues who are used to high energy, high focus pursuits. She is calm and satisfied after each class – her brain has worked hard!
To learn more about Nosework from the experts, click here!
Games! Puzzles and games are fantastic ways to stimulate and work a dog’s brain. If you’re using puzzles and games for the first time, start by getting some easy wins before building on the challenge. Increasing the difficulty too early will result in frustration and disengagement – also, always finish on a high, even if it needs to be an easy win.
Snuffle mats are a great tool to use when feeding your dog dry food or treats. They are designed to encourage your dog to sniff out their food from a secured pile of knotted fabric. It’s like a mini-Nosework session!
This is something we all tend to give our dogs when training in obedience or sports, but physical cues are also useful in day-to-day life. We probably give some by accident (how else do they know we are thinking of taking them for a walk?!), but it is worthwhile teaching some non-verbal gestures for these:
- Watch/Look – to get them to look at your face.
- Wait – to ask them to pause before continuing on their way.
- Break/Free – A release from a sit, down, stay.
Really, anything you would ask your dog to do with a verbal cue (even those unintentional ones – I tend to say “Faces!” to encourage my two to sit back from the door as I’m closing their crates for travel – could or even should have a physical or non-verbal cue. Why?
Dog’s mainly communicate using body language with every species they interact with. Yes, they vocalise, but minimally compared to using their posture and expressions. By using physical or non-verbal cues, you are literally speaking your dog’s language…really!
As your dog ages, she needs more information to interpret than she would have in her younger years. Supporting your hearing or vision impaired dog with verbal and intentional physical cues throughout their daily routine will make their lives happier and more comfortable for longer. By using non-verbal cues from an early age means that there is reduced stress or anxiety as your dog ages. They are not learning new tricks in a more quiet, dimming world.
Yes, this may be an obvious one considering who is writing this article. However, it is a valid point. Dogs use their muscles in repetitive and strenuous ways. There is a lot of flexion and extension of the joints and a good massage helps ease out some of the impacts of the day. Again, it also helps our more timid doggos by relieving tension and promoting healing of the mind and body.
Not all massages are created equal. There is a lot of good information available, however I’ve seen and heard some shocking recommendations regarding at-home massage techniques. Get some advice from those in the know to get the most out of your efforts, safely. Better yet, have an appointment with a professional canine massage therapist. I can teach you several helpful tips to support your dog as safely as possible.
This is easy. During the evening, put down your phone, turn off the TV and spend time with your dog. It could be a snuggle on the couch, a quick game of tug-of-war to expend the last of today’s extra energy or some training games, do whatever brings you and your dog closer together.
Whether you feed raw, commercial or a home-cooked diet for your dog, is entirely your choice. The key to good nutrition for your dog is to ensure that it is fresh, balanced, complete and of course, in the correct amounts.
Obesity is an important factor in a dog’s health and wellbeing and influences their quality of life significantly. We all know that the excess weight negatively impacts the joints, resulting in pain, reluctance to move, loss of fitness, mobility, and muscle. To know what an ideal body condition should look like for your dog, click here.
Quality nutrition supports many dogs with their medical conditions. In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight, a good quality, appropriate diet can help manage high blood pressure and liver, kidney or other systemic diseases.
You’ll notice two things in this article. I’ve not mentioned preventatives such as vaccinations (or titre testing), flea, tick, heartworm or grooming. I believe such preventatives are essential, but I also believe they are a discussion to be had with your veterinarian.
The other is that there is one consistent message: Consider your dog’s needs. Every dog is different in build, personality, age and health. Even within one household, you may find that one dog loves and is able to enjoy the beach, another can’t cope mentally or physically. So, I’ll say it again, consider your dog’s needs.
Together we can promote the health, well-being and quality of life for all pets – please share.