As dog owners we want to know we are doing our best to look after our furry companions, but as we scroll endlessly on our phones following accounts, reading articles, and scaring ourselves with the new headlines it can all get very (verrrrry) confusing. So, for a moment let’s go back to the basics and ensure we have the foundations to build the perfect life for your best friend.
1. Comfort and safety, two words every home should offer!
This one is quite a broad topic because comfort and safety can be viewed in many ways. For me, comfort is providing my dog with an appropriate bed to sleep on because sleep is sooo important for our health and wellbeing. It’s the time our body can heal and repair itself setting us up for the day ahead, and the same goes for dogs!
Beds come in and all shapes, sizes, and quality so it’s best to look around and find the right one for your dog. For more information on finding the right bed click here for our blog on beds.
When regarding safety I would say ensuring your home is secure and free of hazards is the way forward. For the unfortunate event that your dog does escape having them microchipped is a necessity and the law, and always make sure it is up to date. Talking of law, it is also mandatory for your dog to wear a collar with a valid tag attached when out on walks. A call tag will include your address, contact details, and your last name (not theirs!).
2. Enrichment is a big golden key to happiness
Imagine being at home, you’ve been for your daily walk and now you have a full day ahead of nothing... sounds nice right? Except you don’t have your phone, TV, book, hobbies - this is just it - day in, day out. I’m thinking you know where I’m heading with this one. Building on mental stimulation prevents boredom, increases cognitive ability and brain function, and encourages natural behaviours so it’s pretty crucial for your dog’s mental health and wellbeing.
Training is the ultimate form of enrichment, it builds a bond between you and your dog, encourages your dog to try new things, and creates a more unified understanding of expectations. On the other hand, other forms of enrichment are a great way to give your dog a sense of independence and encourage problem-solving skills.
Here are some ideas:
Hide and seek, hide rewards, and increase complexity.
Snuffle matts or mazes to scatter treats or meals, encourages natural behaviour.
Slow feeders or gobble stoppers, extends feeding time and decreases risk of bloat/choki ng.
Hide rewards in towels/blankets and roll up.
Use egg carton and place different bits of dog safe food to encourage smelling and selec ting.
Work on training or learning new skills
3. Exercise needs to be appropriate–not everyone is built for marathons
Going for a walk is so much more than the time we spend outside or how many miles we managed to cram in. For our dog’s it’s about the experience - the smells, time spent with us, exploring the environment, and the smells - I repeated that on purpose, let them sniff that blade of grass for what feels like an eternity, they will love you for it. When taking your dog for a walk it is also important to know what is appropriate for their age, size and breed.
For example, puppies under 6 months will need very small walks, and more time learning with enrichment at home. A senior dog will also be pretty set with a nice easy stroll for about 20 mins, followed by a long nap in their favourite spot and a game for them to play later. Exercise should be fluid throughout your dog’s life stages to gain value from them.
In short, a walk full of new things to discover is gold dust for your dog’s wellbeing, and yours!
4. Dogs can’t open cupboards so it’s down to you to manage their weight
Okay, this is always an awkward one but managing your dog’s weight can be difficult and even sneak up on your sometimes. Generally, your dog should fall within the ‘ideal’ category on this scale, but I would urge you to research what is appropriate for your dog as some breeds like a Whippet and a Bulldog are on completely different wavelengths.
Again, nutrition should be fluid depending on your dog’s life stage – what will benefit a puppy will not benefit a senior. With changes in lifestyle come different nutritional demands so it’s important to understand the basics. If your dog is looking overweight, it’s likely all those teeny tiny extras you give throughout the day, because granted it’s more than you realise. If your dog is looking underweight, check to see if you are feeding them enough protein. In either case, if you feel confident you are feeding them correctly, they may require a vet check.
Nutrition is and each dog has needs and boundaries so if you feel a little lost join a group or ask or ask someone you know.
5. Regular health checks because health is, well, important
Carrying out home health checks is the best way to stay in tune with your dog’s health. You will likely pick up on things a lot sooner which then could be dealt with using a simple remedy. You may notice your dog needs grooming, ears may need cleaning, or they may have a sore. Checking and addressing these small issues at home can improve your dog’s wellbeing, prevent bigger issue arising, or catch a concerning condition sooner.
When health checking your dog avoid the moment turning into an integration, with a torch in hand and one eye creepily staring at them. Introduce being handled with strokes and settle them down, they should then grant you with the time needed. Start with a body check including nails and paw pads, and then move over to their ears, eyes, nose, and teeth. It is also important to look for behavioural changes (see below) when checking them over or watching them move about.
6. Simply, keep them free of pain
The most common phrase I hear is ‘they don’t seem like they’re in pain’ unfortunately, this usually means they have been in pain for a long time and the owners have become accustomed to their dog’s subtle signs. Dogs are masters of hiding pain, it’s an instinct most animals carry so spotting the signs can be difficult. However, as owners it is our duty to read up and understand basic canine behaviour for various reasons, and pain is one of them.
Decreased play and activity.
Not going up or down stairs.
Reluctance to move.
Difficulty standing after lying down.
Decreased appetite (mouth pain).
Over-grooming or licking a selected area of the body.
Excessive, laboured panting or drooling.
Lowered head when walking.
If you feel like your dog may be suffering it is always worth a vet visit. Some of you may feel begrudged to find nothing is wrong and you’ll just be left with lighter pockets, but you will have paid for peace of mind and to know your dog is happy – that feeling is priceless.
Hydrotherapy, a place that has wellbeing at its centre
Bringing your dog to Hydrotherapy is an amazing way to benefit their health and wellbeing, and to hit all 6 points made above in one place!
When guided by a Qualified Hydrotherapist you can rest assured your dog is in safe and comforting hands. Using methods such as therapeutic handling and T-touch a Hydrotherapist can encourage your dog to trust and relax into the session. Experiencing this new environment and form of exercise way to introduce enrichment, with an element of training. Each session your dog’s health and wellbeing are observed and recorded, with advice offered to set your mind at ease. Bonus!
When submerged into a body of warm water either in a Hydrotherapy pool or Aquatic Treadmill, hydrostatic pressure starts to increase circulation, which leads to efficient transportation of nutrients. The buoyancy and warmth can relieve pressure and/or pain from your dog’s joints, making it perfect for all life stages and most conditions, whilst water resistance offers the best form of exercise. Perfect for building muscle and managing a healthy weight.
When owning a dog, it’s often thought that the dog needs to find a way to fit into our lives to benefit us, but the answer to your dog's well-being is understanding that it’s not about that at all. It’s about what we offer them, and what we do to benefit their lives.