Food and water is all that an animal needs, right?
Oh, if only it were that simple.
Many people make the mistake of going way off balance in one direction or the other when it comes to their animal’s care. What this means is that some think that since dogs are just dogs, they can be treated as if they were animals in the wild. They’re given some food and water and that’s it. On the other hand, some people go in the opposite direction and purchase every little luxury items for their pooch, many of which are just wasted on the animal that has no idea and no need for it.
To properly take care of your pet you need to understand their very basic needs when it comes to their physical care. Any items you care to purchase for them after that – gourmet dog food, silk sheets for the doggy bed, etc. – is your own personal decision.
People may not think much of their brand or type of dog food, reasoning that in the wild dogs ate anything and everything. But if you do give it some thought and try to understand your dog’s nutritional and physical needs you’re better able to make an informed decision about what to look for when it comes to dog food, treats, and so on.
Their age and condition.
Dogs are like people in that their nutritional needs change according to their age and their physical condition. Those that are older and more inactive need far fewer calories, whereas younger ones and more active (people and dogs!) need more calories to sustain themselves in a healthy way. This would be appropriate also for those that are considered hard working dogs, such as those on a farm or that have a busy working day for whatever reason.
Getting complete dog food.
There are many brands of dog foods available today that have vitamin supplements added right in; if you choose one of these brands you’re not going to need additional vitamins or other drops and supplements.
Some wonder if organic dog food is worth the investment and this is a personal decision. While there may be some health benefits to buying organic, typically regular dog foods are not harmful to your dog’s health and organic may simply be an unnecessary item for your pet.
Dog’s nutritional needs.
In nature dogs eat mostly meat with some vegetation, mostly when they need to settle their stomachs.
When shopping for dog food, look at the list of ingredients. The first ingredient should be meat of some sort.
As with food you would buy for your family, you want few fillers and more natural items such as corn, wheat, and so on. You will always have some ingredients added to the mix but the fillers and other byproducts should be at the end of the list of ingredients
Table scraps and other treats.
One of the problems with feeding your dog table scraps and other treats is that these are usually very calorie dense and can lead to a normal dog’s obesity or weight problems.
If you make it a habit of feeding your dog table scraps or treats these should make up no more than 10% of her diet, and preferably even less. Treats should be reserved for when you’re training your dog or for very special occasions and should not be had on any type of regular basis.
When a dog is overweight then table scraps and treats should be eliminated altogether or at least reduced enough so that her weight can reach the normal level. As with humans, excess body weight can cause a lot of health problems for dogs, including arthritis, heart and lung problems, and compromising of the immune system.
How often they eat.
Typically dogs can regulate their own schedule of eating so if you have food out all day they will simply eat when they are hungry, and this is usually twice a day. Of course you don’t want food to go to waste so any food leftover at the end of the day should be thrown away. You can of course simply fill their dish once in the morning and then again during the day to make sure you waste less, but food should be readily available to them; there’s really no need to watch their portions of regular food.
Of course Chihuahuas are going to need less food than German Shepherds and those smaller indoor dogs less than the ones that are outside running around all day. Be aware of how much you’re giving them and if the bowl is consistently empty you may need to up the portions.
Fresh water should be available to dogs at all times. It also needs to be at room temperature and kept away from very dusty or dirty environments, such as next to the clothes dryer or a furnace vent.
It is also absolutely imperative that a dog’s water dish be emptied and thoroughly cleaned every single day. Failure to do so will allow mold to build up around the edge of the dish and on top of the water as well.
Even when in the wild dogs find a warm and comfortable place to sleep and enjoy sunshine and a soft spot to curl up in.
Smaller and more delicate dogs also need some consideration when it comes to their living conditions as they are typically more sensitive to cold and such elements.
All dogs should have their own sleeping bed regardless of breed or size. Curling up on the floor is no more comfortable for them then it is for you. If you don’t have a regular doggy bed or cushion for them, use an old thick blanket that you can fold up or scrunch up for them. This is especially important in winter months when the floor gets very cold.
Smaller dogs with smaller legs need to have some consideration if you allow them up on the couch or bed. Dog’s legs are strong but not unbreakable and a small dog putting all the pressure on the hind legs to get up to these higher surfaces can cause stress fractures and joint damage.
DURING YOUR ABSENCE
Believe it or not, some of the worst abuse of animals occurs when their owners aren’t even home. Unfortunately some who work during the day leave their dog unattended in the home or the yard, or worse yet lock them in kennels or cages until they come home.
Kennels and cages should be used for dogs only if and when you are traveling or in case of emergencies. Locking a dog in a cage for hours is just like putting a person in a jail cell. This isn’t something that should be done on a regular basis for no good reason.
Leaving your dog unattended can be acceptable in certain circumstances; they need access to food, water, and their bathroom area and need the freedom to move around as well. If you have a home with a fenced-in backyard and a doggie door they can get in and out of then you may be able to leave them.
If you must leave your dog at home inside, hire a dog walker or someone else to take them out for a long stretch of time so they can use the bathroom and stretch their legs. Dogs are not meant to be cooped up all day.
EXERCISING YOUR DOG
Humans and dogs alike need regular exercise in order for them to be healthy; this is not just a matter of keeping one’s weight under control, but regular exercise helps dogs in these specific ways as well:
A human can sit still and read a book, watch television, or engage in conversation to keep themselves occupied but dogs are not like this. They need to be physically occupied in order to keep boredom at bay.
Dog care experts will tell you that boredom in a dog is not just an annoyance, but rather it’s something they fight the same way a restless child will – by acting out and sometimes destructively so. Anyone that has left their dog unattended inside the home all day may realize how this happens – virtually everything and anything is completely torn up, from newspapers to furniture to drapes and carpeting.
Just like humans, dogs need exercise every single day; unfortunately many owners assume that because they visit the gym just a couple of times per week then they only need to exercise their dog only a few times per week.
If you cannot get out and walk your dog every day, it’s time to find a kid from the neighborhood or hire a professional dog walker that can get this done for you. Dog’s exercise doesn’t need to necessarily be at a fancy dog park or such, just some jaunts around the block for an hour or so is a good idea.
The body’s development.
We often think of exercise as just keeping obesity at bay but in reality the benefits are endless, both for humans and dogs. Regular exercise helps to increase blood circulation and this helps to feed muscles and organs. It also works the heart and lungs, making them stronger and healthier.
Exercise also regulates the amount of sugar in the blood, helping the body fight off diabetes and other sugar problems. As a matter of fact, there are many ways that regular exercise helps with the body’s health overall.
Socializes the dog.
The more time a dog spends with other dogs, the better it will behave around them and around humans. They learn what behavior is threatening and what isn’t and how to interact appropriately. If they spend more time with other humans they will realize that few of them are dangerous to themselves, their owners, and so on.
Dogs need to learn how to interact with other dogs as well, so exercising them at dog parks or having them walked by a dog walker with other dogs is also a good idea.
TIP FROM THE EXPERTS: Remember that dogs love to explore the world around them through scent, so when out walking or exercising with them, allow them some room on the leash so that they can explore trees, bushes, and so on. Not letting them explore at least a little bit is like going to the mall and not being allowed to look through store windows or go inside any; what’s the point of that? A dog should be allowed to exercise not just for the physical activity but for the mental stimulation she gets through this exploration.