Your dog is your best friend, your confidante, and your partner in crime. His love and loyalty are unwavering. You have a special connection that is reserved just for a dog and his person. With a friendship this close, you obviously want to do everything in your power to give your dog the best quality of life possible, but most dog parents simply aren’t sure where to start. The good news is that the secret to raising a happy, healthy dog isn’t nearly as complicated as you may think!
In fact, you can improve your dog’s quality of life and set him up for success by focusing on creating positive, healthy daily habits. To help you get started, we have put together a list of 9 simple habits that every dog owner should prioritize. Each of these are chosen for the benefits that they will bring to your dog. Following this list will allow you to help prevent illness, improve your dog’s overall health (both physical and mental), and strengthen the bond that you share.
Are you ready to get started?
9 Habits to Add to Your Routine for a Healthy Dog
Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Diet
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 56% of dogs in the United States are either overweight or obese. Carrying this extra weight can put your pup at risk for many serious health concerns including heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems, and arthritis. If you have an overweight dog in your house, there are steps that you can take to help your dog lose weight. However, we always recommend preventing obesity before it becomes a problem.
One of the best ways that you can prevent unnecessary weight gain is to be mindful of every calorie that your dog eats. This includes not only selecting high-quality dog food and avoiding overfeeding, but also taking the calories associated with your dog’s treats into consideration.
Monitor your dog’s calorie intake throughout the day and adjust their meals to account for the additional intake from treats and goodies. Where possible, trade in high-calorie treats for healthier alternatives like fresh vegetables.
Create Rules and Boundaries (and Stick to Them)
This may sound counterproductive as many people associate rules and boundaries with negative feelings. At first, limiting how much your dog enjoys his daily life in your household may not feel great. The truth is, however, our dogs love to please their owners and thrive in a situation where they have a clear understanding of the rules for good behavior.
Decide on the basic rules in your home like whether your dog is allowed on the furniture or what interactions are considered polite and enforce them without exception. This kind of structure will not only help you to raise a well-behaved dog, but it also helps them feel comfortable with their home environment, reducing stress and anxiety that can be caused by confusion.
Socialization is one of the most important things that you can do for your dog in terms of basic training, and yet it is often overlooked. Socializing your dog means introducing them to different environments and situations in a healthy and gradual way. This allows them to become more comfortable, reducing fear and anxiety in the future. A calm, well-adjusted dog is a healthy dog physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Starting early in your relationship with your dog is best. Take them with you to experience dog-friendly retail stores, neighborhood parks, and walks in new areas. Always watch your dog closely for cues that they may be uncomfortable and allow their reactions to help you to determine how quickly to progress in your socialization efforts.
Make Time for Puppy Snuggles
This may sound like an obvious statement, but it’s one that’s worthy of mention when discussing habits of dog owners that can improve their dog’s life. Your dog craves your affection and attention. Carve out some time in your schedule each day just to love on them. Cuddle, play a game of tug or fetch, or curl up together to watch your favorite movie. Not only will this help to improve your dog’s happiness and emotional well-being, both important factors in raising a healthy dog, but it’s also a great way to develop a closer bond between dog and owner.
Spending some down-time together, snuggling, and being affectionate is also good for your health. According to the National Institutes of Health, studies have shown that interacting with animals can decrease stress, lower blood pressure, reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood. It’s a win/win for everyone!
Brush Those Puppy Teeth
Your dog’s dental hygiene can have a significant impact on his health and well-being. If plaque and tartar are allowed to build up, they can cause tooth decay, periodontal disease, bad breath, and other dental problems. If left to progress badly enough, it can lead to serious health complications. While we can watch for signs of dental problems, such as tooth discoloration or surface damage to the teeth, it’s better to prevent a problem from starting to begin with.
If possible, start introducing a toothbrush to your dog as early as possible and make it a regular part of your routine. It is recommended that you should try to brush your dog’s teeth at least 2 to 3 times each week if they will tolerate it. If your dog refuses to cooperate, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of options. A healthy dog can maintain clean teeth with the assistance of dental chews, dental treats, dental wipes, food additives, or water additives.
Stay Active Together
Focusing on including physical activity in your regular routine is a habit that can simultaneously benefit you and your dog. There are many different activities that you can enjoy together including jogging, running, hiking, skijoring, swimming, or taking part in various dog sports together.
If you’re unsure about which activities both you and your dog will enjoy most, have fun and experiment. When you do discover something that you both love, embrace it. You can follow your passions, prioritize your own health, and help to keep your dog healthy all at the same time.
Create a Daily Routine
As we previously mentioned, dogs thrive off structure and routine. When you create a daily routine and stick with it, your dog will start to learn what to expect from one moment to the next. This is comforting to them as it helps to eliminate the unknown, which can be a cause of stress and anxiety. Establish a routine for your usual daily activities like waking up, walks, playtime, and mealtimes.
You don’t have to follow it exactly to the minute every day, but try to stick relatively close to it to give your time to adjust and avoid throwing their day off – especially in the beginning! As your dog becomes comfortable, you will have more flexibility to deviate from the schedule when needed.
Make Time for Training
Not only does training benefit you and your family by teaching your dog how you want him to behave, but it’s also a great way to improve your dog’s health. Working through learning a new trick provides your dog with much-needed mental stimulation, helping to keep his mind sharp and ward off the mental decline that comes with aging.
Additionally, the time spent together is a great way to build trust and continue to build that important human-animal bond. You can enjoy all these benefits by making it a habit to spend at least 5 minutes training with your dog every day.
Regular Check-ups (at Home and at the Vet Office)
As a loving dog parent, you want to do everything in your power to give your dog a happy, healthy life. One habit that will help to make your dog’s health a top priority is to make health checkups a priority both at home and with your veterinarian.
At home, perform a full-body scan looking for any signs of skin complications, gently touching your dog’s paws, legs, muzzle, and abdomen to check for areas of pain or discomfort. This can easily be done while cuddling together on the couch and watching your favorite show.
For a more detailed exam, you should also get into the habit of scheduling a wellness exam with your veterinarian at least once each year. This will give your veterinarian the opportunity to make sure that everything is okay, and your dog is the picture of good health. If there is something to be concerned about, you can catch it early and address it before it’s allowed to get worse.
These simple habits may not seem like much, at first glance, but by incorporating them into your daily routine you can make sure that your dog is in top condition. Better still, many of these habits encourage you to spend even more time with your canine best friend!
What habits have you introduced into your routine to help raise a healthy dog?
About the Author: Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.