The following is an excerpt from a presentation given by NYC dog trainer Marc Elias at the 2014 American Cancer Society Bark For Life (which we were super proud to have been a sponsor of :) ) Whether we realize it or not, the choices we humans make are constantly affecting our four-legged children. As a dog trainer and coach, it's my commitment to help people have the best possible relationship with their furry kids, which involve educating them on how their decisions, big or small, are affecting the relationships with their canine companions. In this article I would like to talk to you about general health and wellness tips for your healthiest, happiest canine. Both preventative and reactionary, these are actions you can take to give you and your pooch a calm, satisfied life together.
The most basic consideration is nutrition. Nutrition is a vital element to your dog's general health and wellness, and even his behavior. It's important to put the right fuel in your dog's body to keep him feeling his best, which involves giving him the proper balance in his diet. Dogs like humans need protein, and while many dog food manufacturers use actual meat, the volume or amount in their products is often secondary or even tertiary. To determine how much raw protein your dog is getting, look at the back of the packaging to see the ingredients in his food. If chicken, duck, or another whole meat isn't listed as the first or second ingredient, you may want to consider adding a protein to your dog's regular diet. I like to give my Golden-doodle a tablespoon of cooked turkey meat with her regular feedings. Another benefit of giving your furry child a good diet he loves is that mealtime is one of the best opportunities to train him. If he is excited to eat a delicious meal, he will be even more eager to work with you. For adult animals who are not undergoing housebreaking training you don't necessarily need to feed your dog traditionally from a bowl twice a day. In addition to using pieces of food as treats during walks and training, meal time is also great for desensitizing your pup to his triggers. Well planned feedings can help associate a positive value with the very thing that might make your dog anxious, such as skateboards, luggage, bicycles, and the sound of bus brakes, the subway, or even other dogs. Desensitization involves feeding your dog in the presence of these triggers. With a simple search using Google or YouTube you can find virtually any sound effect to include in your own desensitization training plan.
Another consideration for maintaining a happy life with your furry child is keeping him tired. A worn out pooch is a happy pooch! And if you tire him out physically and mentally, he is much less likely to get into trouble. A goal is to take your dog on at least a 30 minute walk every day. But many dogs need more stimulation, and particularly for those owners with high energy dogs it can be difficult to commit enough time to give them the exercise they need. One way to give your pup an added challenge is to give him a backpack. It may look silly, but the canine backpack is a great option for optimizing your walks and wearing out your pooch. When using the backpack, however, you should check the manufacturer instructions to ensure you don't overweight it. Aren’t sure how much activity your pooch is getting? Consider picking up a FitBark. This great device conveniently clips onto your dog’s collar to track activity. Think Nike FuelBand but for your dog. Exercise is a necessary part to your dog’s overall health and wellness, and it often goes overlooked. The FitBark product is a great tool to know exactly how much exercise your furry child is getting. This mental stimulation is also a crucial part for keeping your dog happy. At home, having a couple basic obedience commands in place is a great way to stimulate your dog's mind. If you're ambitious you can teach your dog even more commands to stimulate him and you, and strengthen your relationship while having fun. When you're not home, dog puzzles and chewing items such as rawhides, bully sticks, and toys stuffed with treats or Kongs (filled with peanut butter of course) are also a great way to give your dog something to do without you. This is especially important for animals with separation anxiety.