Every parent wonders, am I doing things right? Or am I failing miserably? Don’t worry pet parents, it’s absolutely normal for you to have those feelings. After all, we speak a different language than our fur kids. They can hint about what they need, but we can’t always decipher what they’re trying to tell us.
When considering becoming a pet parent, everyone knows dogs need food and a veterinarian. If you’re new to pet parenting, you might not know about the other things dogs need to thrive. Fortunately, these things are easy for us to provide. Plus, they’ll help us learn more about our dogs and help our dogs be happy and well-rounded.
Whether you’re an experienced pet parent or a brand new one, there’s always something new to learn. Keep reading to learn more about what your dog actually needs from you, so you can help them keep living their best canine life.
What Your Dog Needs To Live Their Best Life
Exercise- Exercise is vital to the health and well-being of your dog. Your dog needs regular exercise to help keep her muscles strong and her joints healthy. Regular exercise will help your dog stay fit as she ages and maintain her overall quality of life.
There’s more to it than just physical fitness. Exercise can help to prevent behavioral issues. It reduces stress and anxiety levels. And exercising together helps you strengthen your bond with your dog. Just allowing your dog to run in the yard isn’t enough. Structured exercises like walks or a game you play together are what dogs need to get the full benefits of good exercise.
Senior dogs or dogs with joint dysfunction still need exercise. You will just need to adapt to your dog’s new needs. Light walks and swimming are good low-impact activities for dogs with joint pain. If you don’t have access to a pool, ask your vet if they offer water rehabilitation or know of anyone that does.
Mental Activity- Strong mind, strong body. Your dog needs mental activity just as much as physical activity. Especially if your dog is a working breed, she needs to feel a sense of accomplishment. Since your dog can’t sit down with a crossword puzzle, what can she do?
Puzzle toys like a Kong where they have to work to get a treat are a good place to start. They’re also great for keeping your dog occupied while you’re not home. You can find directions online for how to make your own puzzle toys at home.
A sniff walk will meet your dog’s need for physical and mental exercise. Find a place to walk that’s different from your usual route. When your dog wants to sniff, instead of redirecting, let them sniff away. They’ll enjoy all the new smells and exercise an important part of their brain.
You can even set up a doggy treasure hunt where your dog has to sniff out a treat. Hide and seek is a fun game to play with your dog. Hide in another room and call for your dog, and have her look for you. Even just running through some positive reinforcement training exercises will get her brain working.
P.S. Be sure to check out our handy guide on unique things you can do with your dog. There are some great mental and physical activities that your dog will love!
A Space of Her Own- Of course, your dog wants to be with you most of the time. Sometimes though, even the clingiest dog just needs a minute alone. It doesn't need to be a large space; dogs actually feel very comfortable in a small space like a den. If you crate trained, your dog's crate could be the place they go for some “me time”. It could be a soft dog bed under a coffee table, or even just off to the side. Your dog will be much more relaxed knowing that they have a place that’s just theirs.
Training- Training is a very important part of the human-animal bond. It sets expectations and helps us live together more comfortably. Dogs don’t understand right away what humans expect from them. They need us to show them and for us to be consistent so they can be comfortable with their place in the family. A well-trained dog is a happy dog because the dog and their person have established boundaries and have learned how to communicate with each other.
Always use positive reinforcement training to help your dog learn. Positive reinforcement builds trust and does not rely on punishments that can break that trust and make training more difficult.
P.S. Dog Friendly Living offers virtual positive reinforcement training to help you build the strongest bond with your dog.
Love and Attention- Dogs should never just be tied to a dog house and forgotten. By bringing them into our homes, we have made them part of our family. Social interaction is an essential need of dogs. Humans and dogs are social animals, which may be why we’ve grown side by side for thousands of years. Dogs get lonely when they’re not with their family or if they are not getting enough attention, and this can certainly affect their mental state.
Make sure your dog is getting healthy interaction with you in the form of playtime and head rubs. They’ll love every minute they get to spend with you, and it will help make them a happier, more secure dog.
Whether you’re new to pet parenting or have had your fair share of pups in your life, it’s always good to get a little reminder. Our dogs are living, loving beings, and we certainly want to make sure they’re living their best, happiest lives. We suggest using this list as a starting point and as a little checklist. Are you providing your dog with everything they need? Are there areas where you could improve? That’s totally okay! We’re all busy humans. But now is the perfect time to make a few adjustments!