Raising a healthy dog: Mind, Body, Spirit
What is a healthy dog?
When you think of a healthy dog, what comes to your mind? Is it the 6 month old puppy running through the park? Or maybe, it’s the dog with the shiny coat who receives top quality food and annual vet visits? Both of these examples depict a physically healthy dog, but, at The Peaceful Dog, we believe that having truly healthy and well-rounded dog requires much more than basic exercise and nutrition.
We help our clients create an environment that enriches the ‘Whole Dog.’ The three cornerstones of our Whole Dog Philosophy are: physical, mental, and emotional health.
Good health is about a connection between the mind, body and spirit. When all three of these are in balance, we have HEALTH. When we have one or two parts missing, we cannot find balance. Whether your dog is an 8 week old puppy or an aging adult, ensuring that you meet all his physical, mental, and emotional needs is very important.
So, how do you know if your dog is healthy? While our dogs cannot speak a verbal language, they can communicate to us through their behavior and their body language. By carefully observing your dog’s actions and body movements, you can gain great insight into the overall health and fulfillment of your dog.
Lets take a deeper look into the Whole Dog:
Veterinary care: It is important for dogs to receive annual veterinary care when they are puppies and young adults. As they age and transition into their senior years (this process starts anywhere from 5-7 years old depending on the breed), it is best to bring them to the vet twice a year. They should have a basic check-up and blood work run to ensure that they are healthy and not developing any medical issues. In addition to regular wellness visits, it is important to bring your dog to the vet when they display unusual symptoms such as a cough, chronic itching of the ears, lethargy, or favoritism of a body part such as their hips, elbows or back. Watch your dog. If something seems off, give the vet a call. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Nutrition: The key to proper nutrition is being well informed, reading labels, and doing basic research. As you endeavor to better understand what your dog’s body needs and how they function, it is important that you don’t rely on any one person’s opinion. Visit a variety of resources online, speak with vet, and ask a local dog trainer. There are some vets that recommend never feeding “people” food to dogs, while others transcribe to a healthy home cooked diet of all human grade ingredients. Some people say you can buy any old brand of food at the market, while others suggest a grain free premium food.
At The Peaceful Dog we believe in feeding dogs like any another member of the family. This means healthy high quality dog food (where the ingredient list is short and you can pronounce all the words!) or a home cooked diet under the guidance of a veterinarian. Just as the quality of food that you ingest will directly impact your overall health, wellbeing and longevity, so too will the quality of food that your dog ingests impact his or her quality of life. Just remember, before the dog food industry started booming, dogs were fed healthy people food (more blog articles on this topic to come!).
Physical Exercise: Your dog needs exercise every day for both physical and mental health. Exercise is more than just a 5 minute walk around the block; it should involve running and panting! When you live in an urban environment such as New York City, your exercise options are much more limited. But that just means we have to get creative!
Dogs are most active in the morning and evening, so it is best to try to exercise them during these peak hours of energy. At the Peaceful Dog some of our favorite exercise methods include:
- Take your dog for a run with you
- Train your dog to have off leash freedom in public parks (but watch out for tickets!)
- Bring your dog to the park and put them on a 50-foot-long line to chase a ball and play with you
- Fetch in the hallway of your apartment/building (be nice to your neighbors!)
- Have a play date or host a supervised dog play group in a local park or day care
It’s really pretty simple: Your dog cannot sit on the sofa for 8-10 hours a day while you are at work. If you work long hours, please consider alternative options such as a dog walker (Throw Me A Bone NYC ), pet sitters, or even a dog runner! Also remember that not all pet care professionals are created equal! We understand that there are a lot of options out there, so if you are looking for qualified, professional, and loving pet walkers/sitters/runners in your neighborhood please feel free to reach out to us!
Mental Exercise: Dogs are brilliant, social animals that need interaction with people and other animals to remain happy. All dogs, from the 3 pound Chihuahua to the 100 pound Great Dane, like to work and want a challenge. Mental stimulation is the key to a happy and healthy animal.
Some of the easiest ways challenge your dog include: feeding your dog through food projects (Link to The Peaceful Dog article on Food Projects), providing toys and puzzles that make your dog problem-solve, and practicing manners training. Meal time is training time!
Massage: Massage can be both healing and relaxing. Dogs, just like people, can get aches and pains. That two hour romp in the park may have been a blast, but it could leave a senior or out-of-shape dog a little sore the next day. Learning how to gently massage your dog on their neck, shoulders and hips can be a great activity for bonding and relaxation. The best tips for getting started are:
- When you are cuddled on the sofa or resting in bed, try massaging different parts of your dog’s body to see if there are any areas that cause them discomfort or make their body relax.
- Make gentle circular motions on your dog’s neck, shoulder and hip muscles.
- Try starting at the top of the body and work your way down.
- You can use a natural oil such as lavender to help relax your dog.
Play: When you think about moments in your life that you are smiling and happy, they are most often a result of having fun! Playing with your dog is emotionally beneficial for the both of you! Relationships that are based on fun, play and smiles will last a lifetime. In a dogs world “play” includes: fetch, chase, tug, chasing you, maybe some light wrestling if that doesn’t cause your dog to get over-stimulated, and training.
Awareness: When you decide to do something with your dog BE IN THE MOMENT. Do not use your phone or check emails. If you go for a walk, try talking to your dog. If you go to the park, play fetch or hide-and-seek. Be your dog’s friend. Get him to smile at you.
Putting it all together
When you begin to consider your dog’s mental, physical and spiritual health, you will find that you not only have a more peaceful dog, but also a stronger relationship with your dog.