Here’s to a year that is new! With the events of 2020 in the rearview, what resolutions do you have in mind for 2021? Like many, perhaps you’re thinking about taking your health and wellbeing more seriously.
And if you’re like many responsible pet parents, maybe you’ve realized that the health and happiness of your beloved pup is one of the keys to your own mental-emotional wellbeing. Sound about right?
Cool. Let’s talk tips on how to make this year the healthiest doggy new year ever. After all, it’s not all that difficult to make your dog the happiest pup on the block — and making your dog happy can make you healthier, too.
The best news is that done right, these 5 simple healthy dog tips can put your pup on the path to being healthier, happier — and ultimately, with you longer.
Better life, more life
There’s no way around it. Just as with humans, obesity is one of the top health issues in dogs — more than half of dogs in the US are obese. And while pudgy dogs don’t face social stigma like humans do, extra pounds shorten and lower quality of life.
When dogs are overweight, their risk of developing health problems such as diabetes, heart failure, and arthritis goes up. But worse, a landmark lifespan study showed Labradors who were overweight by just 10 to 20% lived a median of 1.8 years shorter than their trim, healthy weight counterparts.
When you consider that the average dog lives 10 to 12 years, adding almost 2 years to a dog’s life by keeping them healthy and fit is a huge deal — and 100% worth it!
Plus, the risks of obesity in dogs don’t stop at the physical. Studies have shown that overweight pets have worse scores in vitality, quality of life, pain, and emotional disturbance.
None of this is what we’d wish for that special canine companion who is a constant source of positivity and love in our sometimes crazy and unpredictable world. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way!
The number one issue to watch out for in the health of your dog is weight. That’s why all 5 of tips on keeping your dog healthy involve making sure your dog stays lean the way nature intended. Without further ado, here are our top 5 tips for getting your pup moving, grooving, and eating healthy!
1.) Feed Your Dog Fresh Whole Foods
Do you think eating a bag of veggie chips is as healthy as eating a serving of real whole vegetables? Of course not. The same is true for your dog.
Think about it: Eating a cup of heavily processed sweet potato and meat that’s been extruded into brown pellets isn’t the same as feeding your dog fresh real sweet potatoes and high quality meats.
Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed, and they are healthier for your dog. All the processing that goes into dry kibble or canned food makes what nutrients are there that much harder for your dog’s body to digest. It also means there’s lots of extra fillers that don’t add to your dog’s nutrition and may even trigger health issues.
When you feed your dog a fresh, whole foods diet, you’ll notice better digestion, more energy, a better coat, and improved weight management. And it’s not as hard as you think to put your dog on a whole foods diet.
Brands like A Pup Above make it extremely easy for your dog to eat nutritionally balanced fresh, whole foods they will love. Each recipe is made with 60% meat and nutrient rich non-GMO vegetables, all gently cooked in a way that creates a delicious, juicy gravy. Try a sampler pack and see how your dog reacts — you’ll soon see these healthy meals are a real treat for your dog to eat.
It’s true that fresh, whole foods are more expensive than processed, packaged foods. While it’s ideal to feed your dog 100% fresh food, feeding one meal of fresh food a day or several meals a week will help. Eliminating even 24 to 50% of the processed food from his or her diet will go a long way to helping your dog stay healthy.
2.) Do at Least One Walk Every Day
Dogs LOVE LOVE LOVE their walks. It’s a time of exercise, yes, but also a time of communing with all of the sights, sounds, smells, other dogs to greet — and the occasional cat or squirrel — that make it an incredibly exciting time for dogs.
So why would a dog parent skip them?
Everyone’s been there. Those days when you come home from a big day at work and decide just this once to cut your dog’s 30 minute walk down to a five-minute backyard potty break.
Most adult dogs require at least 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise daily, depending on the breed. You need to make a plan to give your dog the regular exercise needed for health. After all, it’s a pretty safe bet that you never regretted going on a dog walk once you’d gotten out there. Right?
It’s time to make your one daily walk sacred — and to come up with a plan of action that protects your dog’s health.
Think about when you have the hardest time motivating yourself to go for a walk. Maybe it’s during the week when you are working hard. Maybe it’s on Sunday when you are feeling lazy. Whatever it is, write it down and ideate.
Can you get up early 3 days a week to get the walk in before work? Can you put the walk on your work calendar, so that no one schedules meetings for you during that time? Can you meet your dog at home for a lunch walk? Is there a take out place nearby you can walk with your dog to pick up dinner once a week? Get creative and make it fun for both of you.
Do whatever you can to make your dog walks a daily habit for you and ensure that both of you get a little extra activity in your day. And if you can’t do the walks every day yourself, make sure your dog gets their essential walk time by investing in a dog walker. Walking apps like Wag and Rover have made it incredibly easy to find someone to walk your pup when you can’t.
3.) Make Playtime Part of Your Routine
Another way to benefit your dog both physically and emotionally is to make sure they get playtime with other dogs. To keep your dog active, arranging playdates is a great way to both socialize and have your pup get in some exercise outside of the typical walk routine.
A well-matched play pal is typically close in age and size so that one dog can’t get accidentally overwhelmed by the other’s bulk or energy level. You can even look for breed specific playdate groups so you know the dogs will be roughly the same size and temperament as your dog. Find a neutral place to play that doesn’t “belong” to either dog to prevent territory issues.
Check for dog-friendly parks near you, or tap into neighborhood news sources to learn about local dog resources. Websites like meetup.com make it easy to find dog playdate groups. Reach out and find playmates for your dog — you might make a new friend or two, as well.
4.) Track Your Dog’s Activity Just like Your Own
When it comes to your own exercise goals, one thing that can really motivate is seeing your accomplishments add up. The same goes for your activity goals for your dog.
Keep your pet on track with one of the really cool dog pedometers on the market that help you gauge and monitor your dog’s daily activity. FitBark and Whistle are two examples that attach to your dog’s collar and pair with a smartphone app. Similar to a FitBit, you can track your dog’s activity to easily see if they are getting the exercise they need.
In fact, the FiItBark will even sync up to your FitBit, Apple HealthKit, or Google Fit device. A daily graph shows how both pet and pet parent are reaching goals. This way you and your pup can track getting healthier together for the new year!
5.) Give the Gift of Puzzle Toys
Dogs may be the greatest example of the mind-body connection, ever. Your dog is a physical and mental being — but unlike you, your dog only has physical outlets for their emotional energies. A dog that isn’t getting enough activity isn’t getting enough mental stimulation either, and bored dogs are unhappy dogs.
That’s why for your dog, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise and a healthy diet. Contrary to the popular adage, dogs do like to learn new tricks, and need an outlet for their minds - and if they aren’t provided an appropriate resource, they will come up with their own. Think digging, excessive barking, mildly aggressive behavior, howling, or chewing on items like shoes and furniture — or even themselves, which can lead to injury and infection.
Studies have even linked boredom to anxiety and depression in animals, so it’s important to keep your dog stimulated. One way to keep your dog occupied is the use of food stuffable toys like Kongs and puzzle toys. These can keep your dog busy for hours with the right treats put inside them.
Tasty and healthy foods to include in these toys are goats milk, canned pumpkin (not the pie kind!), and bone broth (low sodium and garlic/onion free). You can put these into a Kong then freeze the Kong or get a silicone mold ice tray to freeze the food into treats that you then place into puzzle toys.
Steps to a healthier and happier year
So there you have it, our 5 tips for the healthiest doggy new year ever. Just keep in mind that when it comes to your pets, you’re in charge. Their health is within the control of the responsible pet owner, so it’s up to you to make sure they get the exercise and food they need, not just survive but to thrive.
You are your dog’s number one health advocate. Luckily for you, your dog can’t pop into the grocery store for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s after a stressful day, or choose a drive-through cheeseburger instead of making a healthy dinner.
Instead, your dog regularly looks to you for good care. And there are many healthy foods and activities that your dog will genuinely enjoy. Making a New Year’s resolution for your dog doesn’t have to be a hassle. Instead, it can be incredibly fun and rewarding for both of you.