Dogs only live for a part of our lives but, to them, we are their entire lives. They rely on us for everything, from their daily physical and mental wellbeing to overall health and safety.
We are richly rewarded with their unending love and devotion, not to mention a companionship that is unrivaled. But sometimes, while dealing with the day-to-day grind, it can become easy to just go through the motions of taking care of our dogs, rather than actively working on making their lives better.
In this article, you will find some simple ways to up your pet parenting game so that your dog has the very best life possible.
Build Your Bond Through Training
Whether you have just adopted a puppy or an adult dog from the shelter, invest in basic obedience training to help your new companion become a well-behaved member of the family. Training the dog to learn basic cues, such as “sit”, “stay”, and “leave it”, can go a long way in having a pleasant experience for both you and your dog.
Continue the training on your own to be consistent. Spending time training can also help puppies expend excess energy, so you will have time for yourself while they nap.
Get in That Daily Walk
When life gets crazy, skipping your dog’s walk may seem like a good idea. But, whether you have a Shih Tzu or a Saint Bernard, your dog needs daily exercise to be physically and mentally healthy. While smaller breeds don’t require as much walking, they still need the enrichment that comes with being out in the fresh air and taking in all the scents.
Bigger breeds need more than one walk (or a longer walk) ranging from 30 minutes to two hours every day for exercise and stimulation. Find out exactly how much exercise your dog needs, based on breed.
If you’ve got a dog that enjoys the company of other canines, take her to the nearest dog park, or a pet-friendly beach, to socialize and run around. Who knows, you may even make some like-minded friends. Both you and your dog could also benefit from hitting the nearest trail together.
Try New Physical Activities Together
If your dog is active and enjoys learning new tricks, agility courses could strengthen her muscles, keep her in shape, and improve her overall quality of life. Any physically fit animal that can focus on the handler is all it takes for a dog to become good at agility. Typically, dogs in the herding groups, such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Australian Cattle Dogs tend to excel at agility training. Going to courses together could also strengthen your bond and make for an activity to which you both look forward.
Not all dogs love water, but those that do tend to really enjoy spending time in it. Did you know that dogs aren’t natural swimmers? They need to be taught how to swim. Sign your pet up for swimming lessons at your local doggie pool and see her come alive with joy taking laps. Here’s a guide to teaching your dog to swim.
Keep Things Interesting With Brain Games
Dogs are smart animals that need mental stimulation to exercise and challenge their brains. During training, a puppy will learn in a short time that sitting down will get her treats; this is just one example of the brilliance of our canine friends. Keep their minds sharp and their days more interesting by introducing brain games or interactive feeders to their routine. Pet parents can start off with easy treat dispensing toys, such as the Kong, and work their way up to harder puzzles that take a longer for the dog to crack.
Appeal to your dog’s natural instincts and their need to hunt/track and retrieve by introducing hide and seek games, such as leaving high value treats hidden behind furniture or in upturned flower pots for them to seek.
Be Attentive and Present
There’s no denying that puppies need a lot of attention. Pet parents tend to spend most of the puppy’s waking time ensuring that they are safe, getting enough love, and keeping them out of trouble. Adult dogs, however, seem perfectly content snoozing away on their bed or couch. While adult or senior dogs may seem self-sufficient outside of mealtime and walks, they still need our attention and love.
If you are working from home, take some time out during the day for some belly rubs and playtime with your pet. When unwinding in front of the TV, put your cell phone or tablet away and cuddle with your dog on the couch. They’ll love the extra attention and you will find some stress relief.
Keep Their Comfort Top of Mind
No matter the life stage of your dog, a comfortable home environment means a place for her to go where she feels safe and cozy – whether it’s a crate or her favorite bed. Dogs are naturally denning animals; they prefer to have a sanctuary that is theirs to feel secure, when they want time out from kids running around or after an outing.
As your pet ages, she may need additional help, especially if she has joint pain or mobility issues, and needs assistance going up and down the stairs. Put down yoga mats or dog-friendly rugs if you have hardwood floors and add ramps over small stairs to make it easier for your senior pet to get around.
Make a Safety Checklist
Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping your dog safe. Making a checklist of things to do and dangerous foods and products can help you protect your dog from potential dangers.
As soon as you get your pup, add an ID tag with your name and contact information to her collar, so she can be easily returned home in the event she goes missing. Take the dog to the clinic to get her microchipped, so she can still be identified in the event the tags/collar go missing. Be sure to update the free online profile for the microchip with your most current information, so you can have access to a 24-hour emergency hotline and anyone looking to help can easily reach you.
Dogs, especially in the puppy stage, are naturally curious and will put their mouth on everything they can find. Keep dangerous foods like chocolate, grapes, onions, and uncooked meat/bones out of reach. Make sure your home and backyard are free of plants that can be toxic to your dog, such as Lily of the Valley, azaleas, peace lilies, and tulips. Additionally, if you have a fenced-in yard, take a look around and close any gaps so your dog cannot get out.
Let Your Pet Be Pampered
Regular grooming, every four to six weeks, can make your dogs look and smell great. It will also prevent their fur/hair from matting, which can cause pain and discomfort. Brushing helps the dog’s skin breathe and reduces grease, which causes skin problems. Nail trimming keeps your dog’s nails at a healthy length, so they can walk in comfort. Long nails put pressure on their legs and feet and may also lead to less traction.
Check your dog’s ears monthly to ensure that they remain healthy; a clean ear looks pink without any odor or discharge. If you notice anything amiss, use a veterinarian-approved cleaner and cotton balls to clean your dog’s ears to avoid possible ear infections and other related issues.
Visit Your Vet Regularly
A healthy dog is a happy dog. Take your pet to the veterinarian for their annual check-up and to get your dog up to date on vaccinations. As the dog gets older, semi-annual visits can help detect and proactively address any potential health issues.
For all the things that come up in between check-ups, consider signing up with a telehealth service provider, so that you can consult with a veterinarian technician or a veterinarian via chat/video. A telehealth appointment can also be crucial in identifying when there is a true emergency versus when you can treat the condition at home. Besides, knowing that medical help is just a chat away, no matter where you are, can keep your anxiety over your pet’s health at bay.
Take a Pet-Friendly Vacation
Just like humans, most dogs love a change in scenery. Taking your dog along with you on a road trip or camping can help relieve any stress or boredom your pet may be experiencing. They also get to smell new scents and make new friends.
Before you hit the road, get the right safety gear for the car, such as a hammock for the backseat and a sturdy harness to hook onto the seatbelt. For small dogs and puppies, a crate will keep them secure in the back. Never let your dog ride freely with their head outside the window, as they can be hit by debris or get sick from breathing in cold air. When crossing state lines, you will need a recent health certificate obtained from the veterinarian that shows your pet’s vaccinations.
You already love your dog, but being the best pet parent you can be means attending to their physical, mental, and emotional needs. It means taking a breath, removing distractions, and focusing fully on your pet. Putting some of the suggestions above into action can help build your bond and make the relationship you have with your dog even stronger.