How to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy

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All Dog parents want their dogs to live a long and happy life. Here are some ideas to help you to know how to keep your dog healthy and happy. These suggestions may also help your dog to live longer.

Feed Your Dog a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet filled with the nutrients that are appropriate for your dog’s age and size is critical to his health and well-being. Do your research to find the best dog food for your dog.

Read the Ingredient List on the Back of the Food Bag

Keeping your dog healthy and happy
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

To be certain your dog is being fed quality food, you will need to learn to read the list of ingredients on the back of the bag for dry food and on the can for wet food. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity contained in the food so it is important to see named proteins listed at the top of the list. It is not a simple task to interpret what you are reading as there are conflicting messages on the web about what is a healthy diet for dogs.  Also, there are thousands of different brands and different types of food, such as “grain-free”, “raw”, and “freeze-dried”, as well as “dry” and “wet”.

Dogs usually need a lot of protein in their diet to keep them healthy and energetic. The first ingredient in the list of ingredients should be a named whole protein like beef, duck, or chicken. The second ingredient listed should also be a clearly labeled meat source such as lamb-meal, chicken-meal, or duck-meal. Items such as by-products, and bone meal, that doesn’t name the source should preferably not be listed but if they are they should be towards the bottom of the ingredient list.

Complete and Balanced Diet

The following ingredients must also be included in the ingredient list to meet the “complete and balanced diet requirement.

  • Protein 
  • Carbohydrates
  • Healthy fats
  • Vitamins and minerals

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has strict requirements that ensure that a product is in fact complete and balanced for dogs. Complete and balanced diets must contain the minimum amount of all of the nutrients necessary for dogs. This is also listed in the “guaranteed analysis.” This analysis gives the minimum amount of crude protein and fat, along with the maximum amounts of water and crude fiber. Ideally, look for more than the minimum amounts of protein and fat.

It is also important to avoid foods with certain ingredients listed among the top five or six.  These ingredients include carbohydrates, white flour, artificial colors, and by-products. Be sure to check the list of ingredients for any ingredients your dog is allergic to.

 Also, if there’s an ingredient your dog is sensitive to, it should not be in the first five ingredients.

Individual dogs have different dietary requirements.  For example, puppies have different needs than adult dogs and senior dogs.  Many dog food brands carry age-specific food. Large breed dogs and puppies also have different nutritional needs than small breed dogs and puppies.  Also, active dogs require more calories than sedentary dogs.  

Dogs that eat less live a longer life.  While this doesn’t mean you should starve your dog, it does mean that it is up to you to keep your dog from getting obese.  Obese dogs have more health issues such as joint problems which causes them to be less active which, in turn, causes them to gain weight.  Don’t let this happen to your dog. 

Most dogs are happiest when they are active and playing.

Be Sure Your Dog gets Plenty of Activity

Diet isn’t the only way to keep your dog healthy. Exercise is extremely important in prolonging your dog’s life, it will also help you to stay in shape and live longer.

Our dogs, and us for that matter, receive many benefits from exercise. Exercise lowers stress, increases endorphins, and balances mood and emotions in people and dogs alike. In addition to helping your dog maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass, and keeping her cardiovascular system in shape, exercise will result in a happier, healthier pet.

In addition to daily walks, take your dog to a dog park so she can play with other dogs.  Try taking her to doggy daycare once or twice a week to vary her activities.  Play ball with her as most dogs love to chase a ball and retrieve it back to you.  Most of all they love having you interact with them, this also makes them very happy.  Some dogs prefer to play tug-of-war or retrieve a favorite toy rather than a ball.  That’s fine as long as they are running and having fun that’s all that matters.

Training Your Dog

Training is also very important for dogs.  Even if your dog is older, she can still learn to walk on a leash without pulling, and not to jump on people, or bark at everything in sight.  Socialization is extremely important for your dog.  Once your dog learns how to behave in any place you happen to go, you will be able to take your dog with you when you go to dog-friendly places.  Most dogs love riding in the car with you, especially if you take them to fun places.

Another activity your dog may enjoy is hiking.  This can be part of a family vacation on which you take your dog. Do your research before taking your dog with you on your vacation. Some trails do not allow dogs.  Traveling in an RV or camping is a great way to vacation with your dog as this will give you a lot more freedom to choose a beautiful, secluded campsite.  However, be sure wherever you plan to camp will allow dogs on nearby trails or beaches.

Take Your Dog to a Reputable Veterinarian Regularly

Your dog should have regular physical examinations by a veterinarian at least once per year for puppies and adult dogs and twice per year for senior dogs. Also, unless you are planning to breed your dog, you should get her spayed or neutered, if he is a male.  This is a responsible thing to do for your pet. 

Vaccinate your dog for all of the recommended dog illnesses in your area. Also, your vet may recommend medications to prevent your dog from getting fleas, ticks, and hookworms.  All of these recommended preventative measures will help keep your dog comfortable and in good health.

Another preventative measure you can take for your dog’s health is to brush her teeth regularly.  Your vet will examine your dog’s teeth during the examination and, if a lot of tartar or broken teeth are present, your vet will recommend dental work.  This really is important as bad teeth and gums can result in serious illness, even death.

Don’t Let Your Dog Get Bored

In addition to physical exercise, your dog also needs mental exercise. Bored dogs can be very destructive.  They may also do some nonstop barking.

Try to find toys that she likes but that gives her some challenges mentally.  Most of these toys are puzzle toys that involve your dog locating treats.  There are also food dishes that are games or puzzles that also slow down your dog’s eating which is usually a good thing as some dogs gulp their food which is not really good for digestion.

Another way to stimulate your dog’s mind is by teaching her some new tricks. One really great way to keep your dog active mentally and physically is to start a dog agility course.  Agility will stimulate your dog’s mind as well as provide her with plenty of activity.

Herding dogs will love to learn how to herd sheep
An example of a herding dog is the Border Collie. Border Collies are sheepherders.

Agility is also very enjoyable for your dog because this is something that you and your dog do together so your dog will love it!

If your dog happens to be a herding dog or a herding dog mix, you can also look for sheep and cattle dog training.  This is great exercise and requires a very intelligent dog.  Most sheep and cattle dogs are very bright.

Conclusion

These are just a few suggestions to help you give your dog a happy, fulfilling, quality life.

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