1. Plenty of exercise
A stimulated, well-exercised (and tired) dog is a happy dog. It is a well-documented fact that dogs that get regular daily exercise have fewer behavioral problems and are healthier in general. Pick a time of day and commit to going for a walk or head to your local park for a game of fetch. The health benefits both you and your dog will enjoy are endless!
2. Cuddles and attention
This is the easiest and most enjoyable way to let your dog know you love him/her. Don’t hold back! Lavishing your dog with attention is good for the soul and makes them feel truly special.
3. Invest in pet insurance
One of the questions I used to get most often when I worked in veterinary hospitals was “Should I get pet insurance or is it just a waste of money?” To which my response was always the same: “If you’re lucky then yes, pet insurance IS a waste of money because then that means that your pet was healthy”. You get fire insurance hoping it will be a waste of money because you never want to lose everything in a fire and have to make a claim. You get theft insurance for the same reason. Pet insurance is no different. It offers a Plan B and allows you to give your pet the best treatment possible should they need it. But at the end of the day we all hope our pets stay healthy and we hope that we never need to cash in on the insurance policy we are paying into.
4. Don’t skimp on checkups and blood work
With the revision of current vaccine protocols and an economy that keeps dipping lower and lower we are seeing more pet parents forgo their pet’s annual examinations. While it is great that your pet appears healthy and is still eating, drinking and behaving normally the point of the annual checkup is to catch problems before they become noticeable. For instance, did you know that by the time your pet shows signs of kidney disease the kidneys have already suffered a 75% loss of function? Wouldn’t it be better to identify these problems while there is still time to slow down or prevent disease? Whether you choose to have your dog vaccinated annually or not, it remains important to take them in for their annual checkups and routine blood work.
5. Provide rules and boundaries
Dogs, like children, thrive in an environment based on structure. When your dog knows what to expect under different circumstance he/she can more easily predict how to behave appropriately. Praising behaviour one moment and then punishing it the next causes confusion and will ultimately lead to an anxious and unhappy pooch.
6. Watch the scale
Chubby puppies might be adorable but they are not healthy. The more we learn about fat the more we understand that it is not the inert substance we once thought it was. Fat is considered to be part of the endocrine system and the effects it has on hormone secretion and gene expression is profound. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight reduces the chance of them developing life threatening diseases such as diabetes and thyroid problems. Excess weight also puts unnecessary strain on your dog’s joints which can lead to bone and muscle degradation, inflammation and arthritis.
7. Keep him busy
You know what they say: Idle hands are the devil’s playground. What does that mean? It means that a busy dog is less likely to get into trouble! Challenge your dog with a range of toys that stimulate his/her intellect. Toys such as Kongs filled with treats or puzzle games are a great way to keep your dog’s mind active.
8. Give him space
Even the cuddliest of dogs still needs their quiet time. Be respectful of this and create an area in your home that your dog can retreat to in times of excitement or stress. It could be their crate or just a special room in the house.
9. Groom him
Grooming your dog is a wonderful bonding experience for both of you and helps you discover problems with the skin/coat (i.e., lumps and bumps) before they become larger problems.
10. Proper nutrition
What to feed your dog and how often to feed them is the subject of major debate these days. And while there are a number of different opinions on the subject, the bottom line is that there is no one “right” answer. Every dog has his or her own specific nutritional requirements based on age, breed, lifestyle and health status. There are pros and cons to each diet choice – from veterinary diets to home cooked diets to raw food. Regardless of what type of diet you choose be sure that it is balanced and contains the appropriate ratio of nutrients and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. Steer clear of diets that are labeled for “All Life Stages” as these are often formulated to meet the requirements of growing puppies and may contain a high level of protein and calories that may not be appropriate for adult and senior dogs. When trying to determine what to feed your dog your best bet is to seek advice from a professional such as your veterinarian. At the end of the day you need to find a diet that best suits both your and your dog’s lifestyle, needs and budget.