Is your pup looking a little sluggish recently? Has he been off his food, chewing up stuff or exhibiting other less-than-desirable behaviors?
If so, it might be worth doing a little review to ensure that Fido is kept happy and healthy. Here are some quick tips to ensure a happy, healthy dog.
1. A Tired Dog Is A Healthy Dog
Higher energy dogs tend to have more behavioral problems than couch potatoes. They need to burn off all that excess energy, or they might develop new, maddening hobbies such as barking, biting and chewing.
You’d know your dog’s energy levels best by simply observing them. Are they constantly moving when you are curling up on the couch, or are they happy to snuggle up with you? Are they perfectly content when they run 10 miles a day in the mornings, or do they drag their feet out the door?
One of the telltale signs of an under-exercised dog is weight gain. Age, breed, size and other health factors can also lead to Fido getting a little chubby.
So pick up the leash and go for a run or a hike! If you’re hiking, you can increase the intensity of the activity by having Fido wear a doggy pack and carrying his own stuff like bowls, food and water. Puppies and older dogs with pre-existing conditions such as hip dysplasia shouldn’t be carrying weight, so check with your veterinarian before loading up the pooch.
2. Training Provides Mental Stimulation
Of course, we love cuddling our dogs, but spending quality time can also be activity time.
You can start with light training such as the “sit”, “stay”, “down”, and “stand” commands that are part of the Basic Obedience Course. Then you may want to progress to the fun stuff like “up”, “rollover”, “play dead”, and “shake”, depending on your dog’s response to simple training.
Contrary to some beliefs, dogs LOVE training. Humans and dogs have worked in close partnership for thousands of years in a perfect symbiotic dance. Today, that bond continues to be strengthened by training and work.
Depending on your dog’s age, you might want some fun and games instead of training, especially for younger pups. Playing specific games with your puppy will lay the foundation for more serious training sessions in the future. Watch that waistline and try to reward with only healthy dog treats.
One of the most popular dog breeds is the Labrador Retriever. Part of the sporting group, Retrievers can go crazy with the game “fetch”. If you have a Retriever or a mix of one, chances are your dog will chase a tennis ball or frisbee endlessly, burning off all that energy and simultaneously improving your throwing arm!
Working breeds such as the German Shepherd, Border Collie and Rottweiler require much more mental stimulation. These dogs are the happiest when they are working with us; after all, it is what they are bred to do!
Consider enrolling them in agility or basic obedience classes to increase the difficulty of training and improve their cognitive functions. Local dog trainers and kennel clubs are a great place to start.
3. Food and Nutrition
The quality of the food your dog eats directly impacts its muscle health, development, energy levels and overall well-being. Low-quality food uses more affordable ingredients that might contain cheap fillers like grains.
Premium dog food usually includes high protein, vegetables and fruit for vitamins and omega fatty acids. Grain-free with little to no starch, quality food will be more readily absorbed and provide energy for longer.
An excellent way to see if you are feeding your dog quality food is to look at their poop. More food absorbed and less waste results in smaller, more compact poops, making us owners much happier!
4. Groom Frequently
Whether it’s a trip to the groomer or a DIY job at home, dogs have to be kept in tip-top shape to be able to function optimally. Frequent grooming also makes them used to being handled, and well-conditioned dogs will often lie passively and enjoy the attention.
Nails - Keep them short, just above the quick, which is the blood supply and nerves. It is usually pinkish, and you can see it in light colored nails. With dark nails, look at the center of the nail. A small dark circle indicates the beginning of the quick. Don’t clip into the circle, and clip only tiny bits off at a time.
Ears - Using a gentle ear-cleaning solution, clean at least once a month.
Teeth - Good dental health will preserve your dog’s teeth and minimize bad breath. We all know the term “doggy breath”! Using only toothbrushes and toothpaste designed for dogs, brush their teeth at least three times a week, if not daily, to remove all the plaque and tartar buildup. Giving them bones and chew toys will also help clean their teeth.
Long Coats - Weekly brushing is essential to prevent tangles and matted hair. Consider trimming a long coat slightly if the “crazy-hair syndrome” is getting out of hand.
Short Coats - You can brush single-coated, short-haired dogs every few weeks. Double-coated dogs tend to shed a lot! Frequent brushing removes dead hair and skin and allows the oils from the skin to be distributed into the coat, creating that beautiful, shiny sheen.
5. Yearly Checkups
Some dogs hate vet visits with a vengeance, and some dogs are just happy to go on a car ride with you. Either way, it is an integral part of ensuring your dog has the best care.
Your vet will give crucial vaccination boosters to protect your dog from those nasty canine diseases that can be fatal. A thorough physical exam that includes blood work and urine tests will give the skinny on your dog’s kidney and liver health, highlighting any thyroid or development problems.
At the yearly checkup, it will be helpful for you to bring a stool sample. Yes, it will be tricky, but an analysis of the stool sample can check for worms, parasites or other underlying conditions.
Dogs can’t tell us what they want or what they are going through, and if we miss a few spots, they might pay the price.
It’s up to us to constantly evaluate their environments and activities to ensure the best possible care for our best friends!