Dogs are complex creatures that have simple needs. When you break it down, outside of medical conditions that occur, dogs are happy when the following needs are met: food and drink, shelter, exercise (both physical and mental), care, play and love. So let’s look at each of these items:
• Food and drink: as with humans, dogs need food to get the calories, proteins and fibre to survive. What type of food will depend on the health and constitution of your dog as well as the budget you have for dog food. Dogs’ stomachs are more sensitive to a change in diet than humans so, if you decide to change your dog’s diet, try to ease your dog into the new food by blending initially with the previous food. As for drink, always try to have clean water available for your dog and keep a close eye on the dog bowl to ensure there is an appropriate amount, particularly in the hotter months.
• Shelter: a dog needs a comfortable place to rest during the day and to sleep at night. It is your call whether to allow your dog to sleep on the couch or your bed but either way your dog needs a place where it feels both comfortable and safe. If you keep your dog outside for a large part of the day, make sure your dog is not compromised by extreme weather, either cold or hot.
• Exercise: as with humans, dogs require mental as well as physical exercise. They need the stimulation of having to think and figure out stuff, particularly when it means gaining access to treats! A bored dog can find itself going down a negative path which may result in destructive behaviour or injury to itself. On the physical side, dogs have energy to burn and nothing satisfies them like a run in the park, particularly with friends. Dogs naturally chase each other so, by training them for basic obedience, you will be able to offer them the freedom that the great outdoors can give. The amount of physical exercise will depend on the age, health and breed of the dog as well as the climate in which the dog is being exercised.
• Care: dogs need grooming, whether they shed their coats or are non-shedding breeds. Keep on top of grooming so your dog doesn’t end up with skin issues or its fur becomes so matted it can’t walk or even see. Dogs are clean creatures as you will sometimes hear in the middle of the night when they are licking themselves as you’re trying to get to sleep! However, they cannot reach every part of their body and throw in their enjoyment at rolling in disgusting smells means they need our help to keep clean. Grooming also includes keeping their claws at an appropriate length.
• Play: not only do dogs enjoy being played with, by humans and other creatures, it helps humans bond with their dog. Play will also help burn off some of that puppy energy. Furthermore, play can be combined with training so your dog has fun and learns at the same time.
• Love: dogs give us humans unconditional love. To complete our dog’s happiness, we need to reciprocate. All dogs, whether working breeds or pets, need to feel positive energy from us and, being the sensitive creatures they are, want to feel loved as a member of the “pack”.
Take a minute to look at life through your dog’s eyes. Are you happy with what you see? If not, check the items above and work on smoothing over any rough edges.