When we take responsibility for a pet dog, we need to instill certain habits that help keep the pooch perky. The nice side effect is that some of these activities, such as a nice long walk, can also provide health benefits to owners. In today’s article, we’ll suggest some easy ways that pet (and owner) can maintain a healthy lifestyle and develop the right habits.
A daily walk of 30 to 60 minute duration is a great way to burn some calories, get exercise, breathe fresh air and keep your dog from getting bored. Inactive dogs can become depressed or surly, so a daily walk is as important for your pet’s emotional health as it is for its physical well-being. Signs that your dog isn’t getting enough exercise might include excessive barking and chewing up your slippers. If your current schedule seems too tight, we suggest awakening earlier in the day and taking your dog out first thing. Then you know that it’s done and you can get on with your day — and so can your dog. By the way, there are several good books and videos available that describe the right and wrong way to walk your dog on a leash or harness — it’s important to keep them calm when they encounter other dogs or people, and you have to show you are in control. A little discipline goes a long way, and it actually lets the dog relax instead of constantly maintaining the role of alert protector. Speak to your vet for suggested authors.
Both you and Fido should be receiving regular checkups to catch problems before they get too advanced. Your dog can’t always communicate when it feels unwell, and some breeds may actually hide their symptoms as a defensive mechanism that they would use in the wild to keep from attracting predators. Plan on bringing you dog to the vet every six months or as your veterinarian suggests. Don’t wait until your dog becomes sick to see the vet — it can make a big difference if the vet can catch problems early. Your veterinarian will be able to evaluate the dog’s weight, diet, coat condition, alertness, freedom from parasites and a whole host of other important items.
One important piece of advice: unless you are a veterinarian, it’s unwise and indeed risky to “play doctor” to your pets. A lot of wrong advice is floating around the Internet, but only your vet will know the right treatment for any condition.
Variety Is Fun
A daily walk is great, but it’s even better if you take different routes every day. Just like humans, dogs may get bored doing the exact same thing every day. Perhaps there is a park or lakefront where other dog owners congregate — your dog will enjoy the variety. You can substitute a long game of fetch for one of the daily walks, just for a change. Pace yourself and your dog, especially if it’s older. Dogs can become overly excited by play, and an older dog may exhaust itself.
Training the Pooch
Many dog owners don’t realize that their pets are happier if they know the rules and understand that you are the alpha dog. Many forms of destructive or unwanted behavior stem from anxiety and unnecessary vigilance. Teaching your dog to heel, sit, stay, and not pull on the leash are effective ways to control your pet and increase its safety — you don’t want it running into traffic or eating something that may do harm. As mentioned, plenty of training material exists, and if you don’t feel up to the task, you can always attend a training class or even hire a trainer. When you learn to control your pet, you will gain confidence that your dog will recognize, and both of you will find your relationship more pleasant.
Feeding the Dog
It’s hard not to spoil a beloved dog by overfeeding it or giving it treats that are not good for its health. Depending on its size, breed, metabolism and exercise schedule, your dog requires only a certain number of calories per day. Feed it more than necessary and you’ll have an obese pet that is more vulnerable to all sorts of maladies. Feeding your dog empty calories is also unhealthful. The best course of action is to discuss your dog’s proper diet with your veterinarian, who may recommend or sell specific brands that offer excellent and balanced nutrition. Many store-bought bargain brands contain (or lack) ingredients, which is not conducive to optimum health. When you collaborate with your vet to determine your dog’s diet, Fido has the best chance for a long, healthy and happy life.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.