The best way to live in harmony with our dogs is to try and meet their needs. All dogs are individuals but some needs are universal. Let’s dive into their general needs and how we as owners can meet them.
Dogs need physical exercise daily. Unfortunately, most of us could never run or walk as far or as fast as our dogs can to fully meet those needs. Instead, try a well rounded approach to exercise. This could include walks, playing fetch, playing tug or getting to play with other dogs. If you have a specific exercise hobby you can have your dog join in on the fun too. For example, hiking rugged terrain, swimming, biking (you on the bike, them running beside), or skijoring.
Don’t forget that their physical needs also include adequate rest (16 hours for adult dogs and 18-20 for puppies) and appropriate nutrition. Give them a safe, quiet place for resting throughout the day and try to feed high quality, balanced meals within your budget.
Dogs also have mental and emotional needs. Mentally, they need to be stimulated to avoid boredom. This can include scent searching, decompression walks, puzzle toys or other types of enrichment. Get great enrichment ideas in our ebook (HERE) and purchase items in our store (HERE).
Identifying our dogs’ emotional needs is a little more difficult. None of us are entirely sure what they are from a scientific standpoint. Research on the subject is ongoing but I suggest catering to your dog’s needs as you see them. Is your dog sensitive and prefers to be near you? Make sure you have adequate cuddle time each day! Is your dog more independent? Give them space to entertain themselves instead of forcing them to always be with you. Are they anxious? Comfort them! We cannot reinforce fear so providing comfort can only strengthen your bond.
Most dogs are social animals, some are not. Recognize which describes your dog and try to give them the experiences best suited to their personality type. Dogs who are social with other dogs need interaction with their buddies in a regular basis. Consider dog daycare or regular meetups with doggy friends. I would avoid dog parks as they are not supervised and can lead to bad experiences for your dog.
Some dogs are very social with people. You might consider training them to become therapy dogs and visiting nursing home, hospitals, or schools. If that’s not what you have in mind then make sure they can meet their human friends on a regular basis.
This category goes a bit with mental stimulation but I think it warrants it’s own section. Dogs are sensory creatures. Their most important sense being smell. Plant an herb garden within their reach so they can smell it. Open the windows to your house or take a car ride with the windows open. They experience the world through smell so stimulating this sense provides endless entertainment.
Make their environment interesting by creating special areas of your yard where they can experience different textures and terrain, like areas that are higher or lower and areas with mulch, stone and grass. If you live in an apartment, try to visit different areas on your walks to keep them interested. Visit streams, lakes or parks with playground equipment that they can climb. If you do a lot of that then take them to an open field on a long line and let them sniff and search instead. The sky is the limit!
Why is it so important to meet our dog’s needs? It strengthens our bond with them. It lets them engage in species appropriate behaviors, which in turns helps limit behavior problems at home. Your dog isn’t a statue, a lawn ornanment or a piece of furniture. They are sentient beings with complex needs. I hope you’ll pick one of these tips and start engaging with your dog today!