Many of us consider our dogs to be our best friends, and our priority as their primary caregivers is to ensure they’re happy, healthy and thrive in life.
But what does a happy and healthy dog actually look like? And what can we, as responsible pet parents, do to ensure that our dogs are fulfilled and enriched every single day?
Just like humans, dogs thrive in environments where they feel safe, where they receive proper nutrition and exercise, engage in stimulating enrichment activities and - of course - receive lots of affection and love.
So, what are the 5 essentials for a happy healthy dog? Keep reading to discover the answer here.
Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. The correct diet will ensure that everything from their teeth and bones to their fur and claws is kept in the best possible condition.
What are a dog’s nutritional needs?
Depending on the size, age, and medical needs of your dog, they will require different nutrition.
Most dog foods will be tailored to the age and size of dogs, giving them all the energy and sustenance they will need proportionate to their physical state. Hydration is of course a top priority, and your dog should always have access to clean water.
It is also important to consider your dog’s level of activity and exercise when it comes to choosing the right food for them, as this will determine their calorie intake.
Weather and changes in temperature can also alter the level of nutrition your dog’s needs, as keeping cool or warm will require greater levels of energy within your dog.
In terms of feeding styles - whether your dog functions best on a timed feeding schedule or whether they are more suited to a flexible feeding schedule - this can be tried and tested at home and should be chosen on the basis of the most appropriate schedule for your individual pup.
An excellent way to ensure your dog receives all the vital nutrients they need on a daily basis is through additional supplements which can be added to their food.
OurWellbeing Essentials Complete 22 is a nutrient blend consisting of 22 natural ingredients, specially formulated to supply your dog with any micronutrients that may be lacking in their daily diet.
Containing essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids and antioxidants, as well as good gut health and being naturally anti-inflammatory, this delicious supplement will help provide the very best nutrition for your canine companion
We all know how much happy dogs love to run and jump and play. Proper exercise is incredibly important to both the physical health and mental stimulation of your dog, and depending on their size and age they will require various levels of movement.
How much exercise does a dog need?
When it comes to exercise, every dog will have their own favourite sport. Whether your dog is a runner, a rambler or a ragged rope tug of war kind of canine, a good level of daily exercise is vital to maintaining their mental and physical health.
Larger breeds such as labradors and huskies may require considerably more daily exercise, whilst smaller breeds like chihuahuas will tire more easily and so will only need a short walk paired with stimulative play to keep them in top condition.
The recommended level of daily exercise for most breeds is 1-2 walks per day for general health and maintenance - but always consult your vet should it become evident your dog has additional health or exercise needs or requirements.
3. Safe and secure
Maintaining a safe environment for your dog is vital for their wellbeing. Dogs thrive within structure and boundaries, as these rules of living help them to feel safe and to know that they have a regular routine.
How to keep your dog safe at home and outside
There are different ways in which you can keep your dog safe, both at home and out in the world:
- Implement a daily routine. Dogs respond well to structure and routines, as they’re reassured by the knowledge that they’ll receive regular food, exercise and affection
- Ensure all dangerous household products and appliances are kept out of reach of your dog, as this will help to minimise the risk of any accidents or casualties
- Dogs love reassurance, and so creating a comfortable, cosy environment for your dog will instantly put them at ease. Dog beds, blankets, comfort toys and creating designated safe zones around the house are all effective (and easy) ways to make your dog feel safe and secure at home
- The outside world poses different dangers than those within the controlled environment of home, and so it can feel more challenging to keep your dog safe. Knowing the dangers of the outside so you can be aware and keep your dog out of trouble is the best first step
- Keeping your dog on a leash when going outside will minimise the risk of them running off, getting lost or getting into things they shouldn’t
- Ensuring your dog is well trained before taking them outside is essential. You need to know that you will be able to recall your dog, should they be met with danger, and that they will obey every time
Play is one of the most important things to implement into your dog’s routine to keep them happy and healthy. The stimulation they receive from playtime with yourself or other dogs boosts their happy hormones and makes them more sociable, well-rounded animals.
Top enrichment ideas for dogs
There are all sorts of stimulating enrichment activities to keep your dog happy and healthy. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Ball games: Ball games are loved by dogs across the world. From fetch to footie, dogs can’t seem to resist a ball on the move. Throwing a ball for your dog to catch or chase not only gives them a great workout, it always teaches them obedience (waiting for the throw and returning the ball to their owner) as well as stimulating them with active and exciting play.
- Homemade toys: There are all sorts of fun and engaging toys you can make with household items; creating toys with fun pieces to chew and pull on, with varying textures, can be a stimulating and rewarding experience for your dog.
- Treat bowls and lick mats: Fast becoming a favourite amongst pet parents, creating treat bowls or lick mats for your dog - often made with various dog friendly foods, spreads and treats - are a great way to keep your dog occupied and engaged whilst also giving them a tasty treat. If you’d like to combine a puzzle feeder with a lick mat, we’d recommend checking out the Super Feedy 4-in-1 slow feeder.
- Hide and seek: Hiding toys and treats around the house and then releasing your dog to hunt them out can be a great bonding activity for you and your dog. Your dog will learn to be responsive to your calls and encouragement, with the reward of locating their treasure boosting their feelings of success and accomplishment. Wagging tails all round!
The most important relationship a dog will have is with their owner. You are the person they trust most in the world, who leads by example and who makes them feel loved, safe and cared for.
Bonding with your dog right from day one, whether they come home as a puppy or a grown-up rescue, it’s vital to setting the standard for your relationship. The behaviours you expect and implement from the start are what will become the norm for the home environment.
At the end of the day, showing your dog love and affection is one of the best ways to keep them happy and healthy. You are their person, and as long as you are there with open arms and a loving hand then you will never steer far wrong.
The five essential areas to ensuring you have a happy and healthy canine include: wholesome nutrition, physical exercise, a safe and secure home environment, the opportunity to play and their bond with you - their human.
Remember, you’re only human so there may be occasions where you feel like you could be doing more for your dog. The good news is that with continued commitment to their wellbeing, your dog is sure to be well on the way to being a happy and healthy canine.