There seems to be some confusion in the dog-owning public concerning what dogs require to thrive. A certain celebrity dog trainer has been spewing what he thinks dogs need all over America, and since I think his opinion is unbalanced, I thought I would give mine here, and yes, they are in somewhat of an order.
Consistency. Above all, dogs need to know what to expect from their day. They do not enjoy or thrive on surprises, and change stresses them out.
Mental stimulation. Or, “brain exercise,” as I like to call it, is vital to a sound dog. They need to work their minds every day on doggy projects like emptying frozen Kongs or marrow bones, shaping games, and play.
Social interaction. Dogs are highly social and they need to be around people or other dogs that they enjoy being around every single day. I would argue that isolation damages dogs more than almost anything.
Good nutrition. This is so much more important than people think. A lot of behavior problems are nutrition-related. Do not feed your dog a commercial dog food without first reading its review on www.dogfoodanalysis.com and do not listen to what a dog food rep tells you, ever. Familiarize yourself with common dog food ingredients and don’t put anything into your dog’s mouth without reading the label. Having said all that, the best, safest way to feed your dog (in my humble non-veterinarian, I’m just a dog trainer opinion) is a fresh raw or cooked food diet. Whole foods are better than processed foods, and dog food is highly processed. For more information on feeding your dog this way, I recommend Lew Olson’s book.
Physical exercise. How much of this your dog needs will depend on his age and breed, but a good rule of thumb is to give your dog some kind of physical exercise every single day. Patricia McConnell says “whatever amount you can give them without feeling guilty” is probably enough, and I tend to concur.
Anything I missed? Leave me a comment!