Dogs are tough, but they still need daily attention and care in order to stay healthy and fit. Fit dogs live longer and are better behaved, so making sure your dog is healthy is beneficial to everyone involved. Here’s a quick primer to get you on the right track with caring for your dog.
Get the food right
The good thing about most commercial dog foods—both canned and dry—is that they are engineered to provide the nutrients your dog needs to be healthy. You still need to feed your puppy a food that is tailored to younger dogs, and there is a benefit in feeding older dogs a senior formula. But for the most part, your dog will be fine with most commercial brands (unless they have allergies, at which point wheat-free options may be best).
The part most owners struggle with is not the what; it is the how much. Adult dogs should eat twice a day, and their total consumption in a 24-hour period is based on their weight and activity level. An active 60-pound dog should eat about 4 cups of dog food a day, for example. For a guide on this, check here.
Feed your dog too little, and he could become malnourished. Feed your dog too much, and he could develop obesity which would put strain on his heart, liver, and skeletal structure. It’s vital to get the food right, first and foremost.
Make sure they get a breed-appropriate amount of exercise
For a healthy, happy, and well-behaved dog, you should exercise him daily. How much exercise and how intense it needs to be depends largely on the breed. A large sport breed, for example, needs 60-90 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every single day. Smaller breeds may be able to get by with 60 minutes of yard time. There are very few dog breeds that can meet their needs in less than 45 minutes a day.
There are hundreds of specific dog breeds, but to make it easier, you can divide them into groups like terriers, herding dogs, toy, working, and sporting. Check out this guide on exercise needs based on these groups.
Walking isn’t the only way to exercise your dog. It helps, but some dogs need more. Letting your dog join you on your physical adventures, like running, biking, kayaking, hiking, and swimming, is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Fetch and frisbee are two backyard games that will get the job done. And don’t forget about the dog park. Just remember to walk your pup beforehand so he isn’t too rowdy!
Look out for potential dangers
In the summer and the winter, dogs are just as susceptible to the elements as we are. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog. Take weather-appropriate precautions whenever necessary.
But the main danger that dogs face on a daily basis is what they ingest. Most dogs will eat most anything they can, and they don’t often have the ability to tell what can hurt them. The two major ingestion-based dangers you must protect against are poisons and obstructions. Any household chemical that’s poisonous to you is poisonous to your dog, so keep an eye out. Dogs are also harmed by a variety of foods (chocolate, onions) and dozens of common household plants.
Also, don’t forget about obstructions. Dogs can easily form intestinal blockages when they consume socks, underwear, and other types of cloth and plastic. These can be expensive and potentially fatal.
Beyond food, exercise, and avoiding danger, you should focus on your dog’s mental health as well. Exercise, more than anything else, helps keep your dog happy. But positive attention for good behavior, socialization with other dogs (and humans), and fresh air freedom will also help keep him happy.
Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash