Craft the Perfect Dog-Care Routine in 5 Easy Steps
Health and wellness are buzzwords in the dog world, too, which is why we crafted the perfect dog-care routine for your canine companion.
Craft the Perfect Dog Wellness Routine in 5 Easy Steps
Every dog owner knows the basics of pet care. (At least, we hope they do.) Keeping a dog alive is easy enough, but providing them with enough attention and care to ensure that they're both healthy and happy is a more challenging task.
To make the most of the time you spend with your dog, it's helpful to stick with a dog-care routine that works with your schedule. Not sure where to start? Here are five easy things you can fit into your dog's weekly routine that will help improve their wellness.
1. Schedule Bathroom Breaks
Cats have it easy. Once they know where their litter box is, they can relieve themselves whenever the need arises. Dogs rely on their humans to let them do their business. If potty breaks are erratic, taking place whenever mom or dad happens to remember, it can be stressful for dogs.
For puppies and older dogs who haven't been housebroken yet, inconsistent bathroom breaks also make potty training much more confusing.
Tips for Scheduling Potty Breaks
The ideal bathroom break schedule for dogs differs depending on their age and size. For a medium-sized adult dog who's already been potty trained, four times a day is usually sufficient. Small dogs, puppies and older dogs may need more frequent bathroom breaks.
Puppies, for example, should be taken out at least every two hours and immediately after every meal. As a rule of thumb, add up the age of your puppy in months plus one to estimate the number of hours they can wait between bathroom breaks. A 2-month-old puppy should be able to stay in a crate for three hours without having an accident.
For dogs that are already potty trained, it's best to take them out first thing in the morning, after meal times and before bed. The most important part? Be consistent. Dogs like routine, so pick one that works with your schedule and stick to it.
2. Plan Meal Times
Similar to potty breaks, being able to predict when breakfast and dinner will be served offers dogs a sense of stability and security. After all, they need food to survive, and they rely on their owners to provide it.
Some pet parents feed their dogs only once a day, but twice a day is ideal.
How to Make Meal Time More Fun
The best schedule for mealtimes is twice a day, eight to 12 hours apart. It's preferable to feed your dog at least an hour before you need to leave the house to allow enough time for them to go No. 2. At night, an hour or two before their last bathroom break of the day is ideal.
A midday snack is also beneficial and will help your dog to stave off boredom when you're away. Save approximately half of their daily kibble to use in food puzzles during the day and for obedience-training treats when you get home.
Pro tip:Stick with a consistent schedule, even on weekends. It's tempting to sleep in late on Saturdays, but your dog will expect breakfast and a potty break at their usual time, no matter how late you stayed up on Friday. If you figure out how to explain a hangover to a golden retriever, don't be stingy. Tell us how it's done. We're dying to know.
3. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Walks
Potty breaks and walks are not one and the same. Going for a walk isn't just about giving your dog enough time to do their business. Most dogs need more exercise than people anticipate for optimal health. About 30 minutes of exercise is the bare minimum, and large or high-energy breeds need longer walks or more intense exercise.
If you slack off on walks, the repercussions with energetic breeds will be obvious immediately. Without an outlet for their energy, they're more likely to become destructive, excessively vocal or to develop separation anxiety. Older dogs and small dog breeds may not demand long walks, but a sedentary lifestyle predisposes them to weight gain and other conditions that are likely to shorten their lifespan and reduce their quality of life.
Tips for More Rewarding Walks
Walks aren't very enjoyable if you're getting dragged down the street.Train your dog to walk on a leash, and consider collar options that discourage pulling. Bring treats to reward good behavior. Once your dog walks beside you calmly without pulling, consider taking them for jogs, runs or hikes to burn off even more energy.
If your dog is reactive when they see other dogs, consider walking them early in the morning or late at night to reinforce positive walking habits and minimize unpleasant interactions.
4. Add Dog Enrichment Activities
Dogs are a little like toddlers. They don't have much control over their environment or schedule, and if they're not given constructive outlets, they're likely to find less constructive options. Toddlers might draw on the wall, but a bored husky might eat the wall.
Enrichment can come in many forms, so get creative, and keep changing it up to give your dog a challenge.
Easy Ways to Banish Boredom
Enrichment isn't just about exercise. Taking your dog on hikes or runs are wonderful options, but those should just be a couple of many activities you share with your pup. Choose regular times throughout the week to spend time with your dog and keep their life interesting.
Obedience training, agility training, games of fetch and trips to the dog park or an off-leash beach are all excellent options. They provide opportunities for socialization with both people and other dogs, which is excellent for longterm wellness. You can also try to engage all your dog's senses by offering "decompression walks." Just head out on a trail and take your time. Let your dog sniff and explore as much as they want, without rushing them to keep moving. You can also hide treats or toys throughout the yard and challenge your dog to sniff them out.
5. Make Time for a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Dogs don't have to worry about too much screen time at night, but a consistent nighttime routine can help them relax and wind down for the night. It also helps puppies to have fewer accidents and begin sleeping through the night.
Having a consistent routine will help your dog get a good night of sleep, but it'll also help you get one. The more consistent you are, the less likely your dog will be to wake up before the crack of dawn begging to go out.
How to Help Your Dog Unwind
After dinner time, plan some relaxing downtime. Daily grooming is a great option. Gently inspect their paws, trim their nails and clean around their eyes and ears as needed. Then, groom them with a brush designed for their fur type to minimize pulling. Finish off with plenty of petting, or learn how to give your dog a gentle massage. This can relax them, lower blood pressure, reduce aches and pains in older dogs, and help the two of you bond.
Massage and consistent at-home grooming also teach your dog to tolerate being touched in areas the vet or groomer will touch, making for less stressful experiences later on. Follow up by taking them for their last walk of the evening, and then instruct them to go to their bed or crate.