10 Ways to Make Your Dog’s Life the Best it Can Be

Pet parents want the absolute best for their animals, and jump through hoops to ensure their companions are the healthiest, happiest, and good-smelling-est they can be. But providing your dog with the best life doesn’t necessarily mean buying her weight in chew toys or spending a pretty penny on top-shelf kibbles. Here are ten simple things you can do to keep that tail wagging for as long as possible.

1. They are what they eat.

Just like humans, nutrition has a huge impact on the quality and length of life for a dog. Table scraps of fatty, sugary human food can give your pooch indigestion, or worse, induce pancreatitis. Other seemingly harmless people foods can also hurt your pet, such as peanut butter that contains xylitol, or grapes. Ask your veterinarian to help guide you in what foods and treats are best for your unique canine, so you can make sure they’re as pampered on the inside as they are on the outside.

2. Speaking of the outside…

Dogs may like to roll in questionable things from time to time, but keeping them clean and brushed regularly makes them feel more comfortable. Matted hair can tug on their skin, and also makes it easier for parasites to hide. If your dog has long hair, be sure to keep it trimmed out of their eyes. Being able to see can help keep them out of harm’s way. If you bathe them at home, be sure to use products specifically created for canines. Human shampoo can be irritating to a dog’s skin. And be sure to keep their nails trimmed, as they’re more comfortable to move around with, and long dew claws can catch on things and injure your sweet pooch.

3. Pups love pals.

Dogs are pack animals, and love playing with other four-legged friends. Regular doggie playdates with other well-socialized dogs can be extremely enjoyable, and help provide fun exercise.

4. Oral health is critical.

Dogs need dental care too. Just like humans, they are prone to tartar build-up and gum disease if their teeth are neglected. To nip nasty breath, plaque and expensive dental surgery in the bud, it’s recommended that dog owners brush their pet’s teeth every day with a special dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Annual professional teeth cleanings and dental chew treats can also help prevent painful gum disease and tooth decay. Click here for a list of products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Counsel.

5. Yearly checkups are a dog’s best friend (besides you, of course).

All pets should be seen by a vet annually, not just when they are sick or injured. Regular wellness appointments can improve your dog’s lifespan by ensuring they’re receiving their vaccinations on schedule and catching any medical problems before they become a more serious issue, especially as dogs age.

6. A walk a day keeps the doctor away.

Daily exercise is crucial to keep your dog healthy and happy. It can be difficult for many pet parents to find time in their busy schedules to provide daily exercise, but finding an activity you and your dog both enjoy and working it into your daily routine can make it easier to turn into a habit. Walks around the park, playing catch at the park, or tug-of-war in the yard are all fun for your pet. Besides helping keep the weight off, regular exercise provides them with mental stimulation, and helps you stay fit, too.

7. Keep boredom at bay.

Mental stimulation can have big benefits for our clever companions. New sights, smells, tastes and activities help exercise the brain and gratify dogs’ natural curiosity about the world around them. And it turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks—which helps keep them spry.

8. Loosen up a little.

A dog’s collar can be a life saving accessory. But can you imagine what it would be like if you had to sleep in one all night? Besides being less comfortable than sleeping au naturel, the jingling of tags can be less than ideal when your dog is trying to snooze. Consider removing their collar at night time when they’re safe and secure in the house, and be sure to give their neck a good scratch while you’re at it.

9. Love is an action.

Your sweet friend deserves all the rubs, scratches and massages he or she can get. Massages promote relaxation, healing and bonding, and c’mon—they feel amazing.

10. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Just as dogs needs play and exercise, they need to rest too. Make sure they have a comfortable and quiet place to go to when they want to chill out and relax. If they’ve had a activity filled day, try to make sure they’re not overstimulated or pushed beyond their limits. Just like humans, our fur-babies need their beauty rest, too.

Having a dog really is a lot like having a human child. They require attention to their health and wellbeing, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. When you can meet these needs, you help extend their life and make it a happy one. And remember, the one thing you can’t give too much of to a dog is love, so be sure to pile that on in copious amounts.