Dog's Basic Needs
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
All dogs are different. Each breed of dog, and even individuals within each breed, has specific quirks, needs, and habits. However, there are several basic needs that are consistent among all dogs. If you are not prepared to cater to these needs, you should take some time to think about whether or not you are ready for a dog.
If you want a happy, balanced dog, you absolutely must make sure he gets the exercise he needs. Your dog should be walked at least twice a day until he is tired. These walks are an excellent way to bond with your dog and assert yourself as a calm, dominant pack leader. If you are not physically able to walk long enough and far enough to wear your dog out, try a backpack. Putting a weighted pack on your dog makes the walk more strenuous, therefore you can walk a shorter distance and your dog will still be working through all that excess energy. Talk to your vet about the proper amount of weight for your dog.
Dogs who are not on a balanced, healthy diet experience lethargy, weakness, coat and skin issues, general poor health, and even behavior issues. Dogs should be fed quality, premium dog food in which one of the main ingredients is meat. Beware of exceptionally inexpensive dog food. With dog food you almost always get what you pay for, and the cheapest ones tend to be mostly fillers.
Positive Social Interactions
As pack animals, dogs crave social interaction. Dogs need plenty of time to bond with their owner. Good, quality time spent together cements your dog’s position in the family pack and helps him feel happy and secure. Dogs also need the opportunity to regularly meet new people and play with other dogs. Spending too much time indoors with only a few people can cause your dog to be weary of humans and other dogs which can lead to behavior issues. The dog park is a great place for your dog to play, socialize, and meet lots of fun new people and dogs.
Your dog loves to learn. The chance to practice problem solving and learn new behaviors stimulates your dog mentally. This helps relieve boredom, stress, and anxiety. It is a misconception that dogs are stupid creatures. Their vast intelligence allows them to understand scores of commands and signals. Every time your dog picks up a new trick, make sure his whole repertoire is solid, then start planning the next behavior you’re going to teach. Also, along with regular training sessions, provide your dog with interactive toys so he can think and work even when you aren’t around to play with him. Stuffable toys that release treats as your dog plays are great for this.
Just because dogs are animals, does not mean they should be forced to try to survive without proper shelter. There was a time when humans, too, did not live in homes with all our creature comforts, but that doesn’t mean it justifies turning your children outside in the yard. If your dog must stay outside, be sure to provide a sturdy, insulated dog house to protect him from the elements, and a constant supply of cool, clean water.
An inconsistent schedule leads to confusion, stress, frustration, anxiety, and even stomach upset in dogs. Dogs should be allowed to be secure in the fact that they will be fed and let out regularly, and not left to wonder when their next meal or chance to go out may be.
Comfort with Independence
Dogs who spend too much time with their owner do not understand how to be alone. This manifests itself in separation anxiety and major behavior issues. Make sure your dog has plenty to do when he is by himself and learn more about coping with separation anxiety.
A dog can go quite some time without food, but on a hot day, even a number of hours without water can lead to dire circumstances. Dogs should have clean water in a clean bowl available at all times.
Some dog’s coats are higher-maintenance than others, but every dog should be brushed from time to time. Brushing gives you a chance to check your dog all over for bumps, scrapes, bugs, and other problems. It is also a great way to bond with your dog. Dogs should also have their teeth brushed, and nails clipped regularly, and should be bathed from time to time.
Discipline and Structure
Dogs who do not feel that you are the alpha dog experience a great amount of stress and anxiety. When you take a strong leadership role, providing discipline and structure, you actually put your dog at ease. Knowing that the position of pack leader has been filled allows your dog to relax and enjoy life without the assumed stress and responsibility of leadership.
One of the best things about having a dog is the unconditional love and devotion they show you each and every day. Dogs need affection, love, and the chance to play with you. They crave your closeness and approval.
Regular Vet Care
Even a perfectly healthy dog should go to the vet at least once a year. Make sure you keep your dog’s vaccines up to date and take him at least once a year for a full once-over.
Collar and ID Tag
Every dog should wear a collar with an ID tag, without exception. It is a dangerous world out there for a lost dog. An ID tag is one way to make it that much more likely that your dog will make it home to you.
Daily walks are completely necessary for a balanced dog, as is leash training. Proper walking teaches your dog his place in the pack, and leash training is another example of a mentally stimulating, bonding experience for you and your dog.