Unconditional love from your four legged furry friend helps you stay happier, calmer and healthier. Naturally you want to improve their wellbeing in return. And maybe you’re wondering where to start?
We had the same thought on our minds at Dogreviews and put together this guide to improve our friends’ wellbeing.
Much of what we would do to improve our own wellbeing applies to our canine family members such as regular exercise, keeping hydrated, good food, mental stimulation and keeping away from unnecessary stress.
1. Regular Exercise
An immediate step we can take to boost welfare of our pooch is to get them moving.
As cliche as it might sound, just like us, our furry friends can benefit a lot from regular exercise.
Keeping them active helps with their digestion, physical and mental health.
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How active is your pooch?
A 2017 PDSA study in the UK showed that 45% of dogs are only getting up 30 minutes exercise a day and 1% are never walked.
The same study showed that 40% of dogs are actually overweight which has multiple negative effects on their welfare that we may not even be aware of.
Dogs are social pack animals and they depend on us to provide them the ground for physical activity. Playing with them or taking them for a walk in the park boosts their wellbeing immensely.
Well then our mission is clear. Get your walking shoes ready and get your pooch moving. It’ll not only benefit her, it’ll also boost your own mental and physical well being.
2. Good Food
Just like a regular exercise routine, nutrition plays an important role in your dog’s wellbeing.
There are many different type of dog foods: wet, dry, meat or vegetarian. Or a mix of different nutrients.
The best diet for your dog will depend on their age and stage of development. This is called life-stage feeding.
Can you share your left-overs and food with your pooch?
In short, not a good idea. But he’s got the cutest begging eyes…can’t take it… Still Nope!
Why sharing left-over food is a bad idea
- Bones can get stuck in their throat. Don’t want to choke them right? Riiight?
- Some yummy human food is in fact poisonous to dogs such as chocolate and grapes.
- It’ll mess their system and can get them overweight.
- Once you get them used to it, prepare to see begging eyes at every meal.
- They can’t process salt the way our bodies do. Too much salt can lead to dehydration and in some extreme cases sodium ion poisoning.
Hydration can keep you young. More importantly it can keep your dog alive as more than half of an adult dog’s body weight is made up of water.
Why is drinking clean water so important?
- It helps cool down their bodies. Since dogs have a thicker coat, it takes them longer to cool down and water helps a great deal.
- Water lubricates joints and makes it easier for them to move around.
- Waste is excreted from the body through urination and bowel movements. Water helps your dog to have a healthy bowel movement habit.
That’s why dehydration can cause serious sickness for your dog. Extra attention needed if your dog is pregnant or nursing as they can get dehydrated more readily.
How to check if my dog is dehydrated?
- Check inside of your dog’s mouth. Dry, sticky gums can be indicators of dehydration or illness.
- If you push on their gums and release your finger, the colour should return to normal within 1 or 2 seconds. This is called capillary refill time. If it takes longer, it might show serious dehydration.
- Dry nose, mouth and sunken eyes can also be warning signs.
- If you pick up a fold of loose skin over the shoulders and release, it should easily return to place. If your dog is dehydrated the skin might stay for a while or return slowly.
If you realize your dog is showing signs of dehydration and exhaustion, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible. They might be needing urgent attention.
It’s a good idea to clean the water bowl daily to prevent bacteria thriving and make sure to refresh your dog’s water regularly.
If you’re out walking your dog, always be sure to carry extra water with you. Especially on hot days.
Just like any dog owner, you’re probably all too familiar with a myriad of reasons that can cause stress to your dog.
Loud noises, large crowds, too many different smells, separation anxiety… The list can go on.
Each of these stress factors can reduce wellbeing and happiness of your dog. Particularly if you adopted a rescue dog from a shelter as they’re generally more susceptible to stress factors.
What are the stress symptoms?
Stress symptoms can materialize in different forms. They can depend on the cause, the breed or circumstances which maybe difficult to foresee.
Some of these symptoms
- Shivering or shaking
- Change in appetite
- Increased barking, howling or whining
- Hiding or cowering body posture
- Lowered tail, pulled back ears
- Excessive panting, itching or scratching
- Upset stomach, diarrhea
- Licking of lip or nose
- Weight loss
If you notice some of these symptoms and suspect your dog might be stressed, you should speak to your vet right away. Your vet can determine the cause of the stress and set a plan for recovery.
Possible treatments to reduce stress could be
- As simple as a daily walk and activity
- Dietary changes
- Changing living arrangements
- In extreme cases medication
- Training with experts in the field
- Supplements as suggested by your vet
Whatever the symptoms are it’s important to address both the cause and the condition itself. Your vet should be able to examine your dog and prepare a plan of action to help your pooch recover.
5. Mental Stimulation
It’s claimed there are countless benefits of being a dog owner such as reduced risk of depression or hypertension.
Whilst our dogs provide us with much love and these benefits, it’s only fair to extend care to their mental welfare.
Regular exercise, games and general training can help your dog keep active and stimulate their mind.
Diverse walks can benefit them because they get to experience new smells, textures and sounds.
Additionally introducing new toys and playing games with them can also contribute to their sense of wellbeing and happiness a great deal. Particularly toys with hidden compartments for food can stimulate them mentally.
Couple of game ideas to stimulate your dog’s mind
Make a game of hide and seek with treats. Hide one of their favourite treats and put obstacles in the way.
It’ll get your dog to problem solve to reach the mouth watering treats. It’ll engage them both mentally and get them to use their sense of smell.
Simulate prey on stick
Tie a soft toy to the end of a stick and play catch with your dog. It can help foster their prey instincts and keeps them physically active.
Also moving the toy slowly will engage their mind instead of overexciting them.
There are many puzzle games designed for dogs. It could be a great way to bond with your dog and get them to exercise their mind.
Just make sure your dog understand the game before you go deep into it.
Teach your dog toy names
When your dog is playing with toys, pick one at a time and try teaching them the name of the toy. Repetition is essential. Only teach one toy name at a time.
Teach your dog to put away his toys
Once you see that your dog can comfortably recognize and remember the names of the toys, maybe you can nudge them a little further mentally and try teaching them to put away the toys into a basket.
Sharing is caring
Why not share with us how you help your pooch below in the comments section and help other dog parents.