By Dr Alexander Crow.
Dr Alexander Crow is a RCVS licensed Veterinary Surgeon currently practicing at Buttercross Veterinary centre, a small animal accredited veterinary practice in Nottingham, United Kingdom.
He earned his Bachelor of veterinary medicine degree at the Royal Veterinary College London.
Welcoming a new dog into your family can be daunting, especially if you’re a soon to be first time owner.
You’ll want to make sure you are caring for your dog’s basic needs to allow them to have the healthiest and happiest life possible.
As with many things in life, the more time and effort you put into your dog, the more you will get out of them.
It pays to do your research into how best to provide for your new companion.
In this article I will cover the 7 basic requirements a dog needs to live their best life.
Why are your dog’s needs important?
Like ourselves, dogs have basic essential needs that need to be met to survive.
Every dog needs food, water, warmth, and shelter.
However, while this may be enough to keep them alive, these aren’t always enough for them to live a happy and enriched life.
Dog’s can suffer from mental ill-health if they don’t get enough socialisation, stimulation, and exercise.
So, while some needs may be classed as ‘essential’ and others not, it’s important to realise that the bare minimum is not enough and owners should do everything they can to help their pooch thrive.
The backbone of any animals’ health and wellbeing is a balanced diet.
Without proper nutrition a dog won’t have the building blocks they require to grow and thrive.
Choose a brand of food that uses only high quality and natural ingredients.
Many cheap dog foods contain a lot of filler ingredients that provide no nutritional benefit to your dog and therefore are a waste of money.
Make sure the food you choose has a long list of vitamins and minerals on the packaging as well as a good amount of proteins and fats.
Aim for at least 10% protein and 5.5% fats – puppies will need more.
Here is some great information on selecting a diet for your dog.
Of course, your dog must enjoy their food too – a premium diet isn’t of much use if your dog doesn’t want to eat it.
Trial different brands and flavours until you find one that suits them, but don’t switch too soon otherwise you’ll end up with a fussy dog.
Hydration is also vital. Always make sure there is plenty of fresh water available for your dog to drink from a clean bowl.
Physical activity is essential for your dog.
Not only does it help keen them in shape but it provides them with both mental and physical stimulation.
A walk a day keeps the vet away.
Daily walks will allow your dog to burn off extra energy so they don’t become overweight.
It will also keep your dog’s jointswell lubricated and maintain good muscle mass, something which is particularly important for elderly dogs.
Somewhere to sleep and a space of their own
Although dog’s live to be by a humans’ side as a trusted companion, they need their own space at times too.
It’s important that your dog has their own area to sleep and a place that allows them to feel safe.
Some owners will insist on sleeping with their dog, but this can lead to separation anxiety issues; I recommend setting some boundaries between you and your dog.
Spending short periods of time apart will lead to a more independent pooch.
Dogs are social pack animals – they require interaction with others to thrive, whether that be with humans or other dogs.
Particularly important for puppies, allowing your dog to meet other dogs on walks or going to puppy parties are great ways to help them become more social.
This will not only satisfy their natural craving for interaction but it will also help teach them proper doggy etiquette when in public…
…there’s nothing more embarrassing for an owner then a misbehaving dog!
Similarly, when you are at home with your dog, I’d recommend playing with them regularly and providing plenty of stimulating toys.
This will keep them occupied, enrich their life, and help them to explore their boundaries.
The ability to display natural behaviour
Whilst it can be easy to think of dogs as being just as human as ourselves, it’s easy to forget that they still have a lot of wild instincts within themselves.
Sometimes dogs will just want to do dog things, and it’s important to let them do so (within reason).
Otherwise, a dog will become bored very quickly, particularly if they’re intelligent.
Running, swimming, digging – these are all natural dog behaviours and they shouldn’t be discouraged, as long as your dog isn’t being destructive of course!
A dog that can express itself through these activities will be a happy dog.
Any owner knows that their dog’s hair can get everywhere.
Grooming is essential for your dog’s personal hygiene – a regular washing routine and frequent hair brushing will help keep parasites at bay as well as preventing your dog’s coat from getting tied in knots.
Some owners may choose to have their dog professionally cleaned at the groomers but taking the time to brush your dog’s hair yourself can also be a great bonding experience.
Spending quality time grooming your dog will help build trust between you both.
Regular vet check-ups
A key part of allowing your dog to live a happy and fulfilled life is for them to be free of disease.
Some diseases are easily preventable; it’s crucial to keep your dog up to date with their annual vaccinations.
Other diseases can be picked up early when your vet performs a clinical examination.
Even though your dog may seem healthy now, unfortunately they may not always stay that way.
The sooner your vet detects abnormalities, the better the prognosis.
By following this checklist, allowing your dog to live a happy life has never been simpler!