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10 Tips for Raising Happy, Healthy Dogs so They Live Longer

Happy dogs live longer

What do food, friends, family, and your physician have in common? Together they are partly responsible for helping you stay happy and healthy. Surrounding yourself with loved ones, practicing proper nutrition, and minding your physical health add to your overall well-being. 

Dogs, too, need the love and support of those around them to live their best life. And of course, regular visits to the vet help your dog stay well. Here are a few tips to ensure your dog stays as happy and healthy as possible. 

1. Socialize Your Dogs and Puppies

That’s right, just like when you need to get out to enjoy time with your friends, so does your dog. Socializing with fellow pups offers a host of benefits, including easing anxiety, encouraging good behaviors, promoting fitness, and fostering friendships.

Socializing puppies: It’s best to introduce your dog to people and other dogs when he’s around three to four months old. 

Socialize a nervous dog: However, if your dog is older and hasn’t had exposure to others, socializing him is essential to his health. Use caution as you introduce him to others one at a time, never leave your dog alone with children, and reward good behavior with treats and plenty of praise. 

2. Keep Calm and Avoid Yelling at Your Dog

Honestly, it’s hard to prevent a freakout when your dog shreds your favorite slippers or tears through a bag of garbage, but yelling at your dog could make things worse. Before you raise your voice, know that your dog can read facial expressions and negative commands, so learn to use these to your advantage. 

A recent study in BioRxiv demonstrates, dogs subjected to scary behavior and negative commands were likely to suffer from long-term stress and lower overall cognitive abilities. If your dog is displaying a behavior you don’t like, it’s time to reassess what you could’ve done to help prevent the situation.

Maybe trade your slippers in for a chew toy your dog can enjoy or keep your garbage can closed and locked and take the trash out before your dog can get into it. Remember, before your next blow up, do yourself and your dog a favor, keep calm and carry on.

3. Learn the Language of Dogs

While it’s believed dogs have the mental capacity of a two-and-a-half-year-old, dogs can learn language through repetition. Keep it simple. You know the words: ball, walk, sit, treat, or stay. 

  • It’s playtime — repeat the words you want to associate with it, such as “toy” or “play.” 
  • Exercise time — repeat the word “walk” so your dog recognizes the word when it’s time to go for walks.
  • Sit and stay — when your dog is sitting or staying, say things like “Good sit” or “Good stay” and reward with treats. 

Canines recognize human emotion from your tone and body language, so when you get the chance, be present, and hold a relaxed conversation with your dog. 

4. Feed Your Dog Healthy Treats

Feeding your dog a high-quality diet reinforces his overall health and well-being. So is occasionally giving in to his puppy eyes, and sliding him some table scraps or treats (as long as they make up less than 10% of his diet). 

5. Never Stop Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

Training your dog is a lot more than just teaching him how to follow commands. Learning something new is good for his concentration, flexibility, stamina, and balance; plus, it’s a great way to strengthen the bond between the two of you. Even as he gets older, training can go a long way to keeping your dog active, agile, and alert.

RELATED: Are smaller dogs harder to train?

6. Tame Your Dog’s Jealousy

Yep, just like humans, man’s best friend can appear jealous when their owners pay more attention to another person or pet. While your devoted companion may not go full-tilt green monster, he can display any number of unhealthy jealous-like behaviors such as growling, hissing, or worse getting into a fight with another pet.  

There are a few things you can do to address jealousy and help your dog maintain his coolness and mental wellness. For pet parents with more than one dog, avoid giving too much attention to one pet over another, and separate toys and mealtimes if needed. Be sure to give recognition and praise when your dog behaves well. 

7. Keep Your Dog Happy When Home Alone

Leaving your dog home alone while you’re at work — especially when they may be used to having you around for long periods of time — can stress your dog. Yet, you have no choice, right? You have to work! 

Dogs have a sense of time and can suffer from separation anxiety when their owners leave. While you may think your dog is calm and collected in his crate or on the couch while you’re at work, he may, in fact, be stressing out and feeling lonely. 

To help prevent health-related issues from this daily dose of solitude, try to return home consistently at the same time (or as close as possible). If you aren’t able to get back around the same time, ask someone to check in on your dog and spend a few minutes with him.

You might enlist the help of a neighbor you trust, or look into one of the many dog-walking services. Make sure you choose a service that does full background checks on their walkers.

8. Your Scent May Calm Your Dog

One trick that might help your dog’s anxiety while you’re gone or during other stressful events like thunderstorms or fireworks, involves leaving a piece of your clothing or something that smells like you with your dog. Your scent alone can help ease your dog’s fears. 

9. Take Your Dog for Scent Walks 

Keep your dog happy AND fit by taking them on regular “scent walks.”

Dog sniffing is normal behavior. They rely on their sense of smell to understand their environment. Whether it’s to sniff out a new walking trail or fellow canine, a dog’s nose knows. With hundreds of millions of scent receptors in their noses, a dog is wired for smell; it’s their way of gathering relevant information about their surroundings. Be sure to let your dog sniff for mental stimulation and so he can stay on top of what’s going on in his world.

While walks for exercise are important, so are scent walks, which exercise their sense of smell and allows their brains to analyze their findings. Dogs are data analysts!  

10. Take a Trip

While keeping up with all vet appointments is crucial to your dog’s health, a trip to the vet makes just about any dog shake and shiver, and may even stress out their owners. To help reduce your dog’s fear of visiting the vet, take him on plenty of car rides that don’t end up with him getting poked and prodded. As always, treats and toys also help. 

These are just a few tips about how to keep your dog healthy and live longer. For more advice on raising happy and health dogs, explore our blog.