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10 Simple Ways to Have a Happy, Healthy Dog

Updated on March 31, 2012

I. Choose the Right Breed

Dogs are like people. They all have different personalities. Some are laid back and quiet and easy to spend time with. Others are studies in perpetual motion! There are a lot of things that come together to make the difference in behavior from one dog to another. Two important factors are heritage and training.

The only thing you can do about heritage is pick a dog breed that is suitable to your personality, lifestyle and needs. Before you get a dog, you should take some time online and with books figuring out what kind of dog will really suit you and your family best. Visit your local shelter often to get an idea of what types of dogs appeal to you and suit you best.

Working Dogs Like to be Useful!

Title: Jax on Sheep Attribution License - Photographer:  agiledogs
Title: Jax on Sheep Attribution License - Photographer: agiledogs

II. Only Choose a Working Dog if You Have a Job for It!

Lots of people make the mistake of getting a dog because they saw one like it in a movie or on TV. Don’t do this! Remember that dogs in show business are high-energy and smart. They have to be to learn to do all the things they do and to actually go to a job every day. You do not want a dog that needs a job as a house pet.

This goes for heelers, terriers and pointers, too. These 3 breeds are high energy and specifically bred to herd sheep, kill rats and mice, and hunt birds (respectively).

If you don’t have a job for this type of dog, don‘t get this type of dog!

No one will be happy!

III. Choose a Reasonably Healthy, Well-Adjusted Dog

Once you have decided on a type of dog, be sure to look for a healthy dog, and be sure to look for it at your local shelter or rescue. Don’t support the puppy mill industry by purchasing a dog from a store or even from a breeder. Pet overpopulation is a big problem and thousands upon thousands of nice dogs and cats are put to death every year for want of a home.

Avoid a getting dog with obvious injuries or lameness unless you know how to care for the condition and are willing and able to do so. Look for bright eyes, reasonably clean ears, and a moist, cool nose. Be sure the coat and skin are in reasonably good shape.

Look for a steady energy level. You want a dog that is alert and attentive without being excessively energetic. When choosing a dog at a shelter, it may be difficult to distinguish hyperactivity from sheer excitement at having some attention.Take your time. Spend time with the dogs you are interested in. Give them time to calm down a bit before you make your choice.

IV. You Are What You Eat Applies to Dogs, Too!

If you feed your dog correctly, you will not have high vet bills. Don’t feed some cheapie knock-off brand. Feed your dog the right amount of an established brand of dry dog food. This doesn’t have to be an expensive designer brand. A tried and true brand like Purina Dog Chow, fed consistently is a good choice.

Canned dog food is optional and should only be given in small amounts, if at all, because it can cause tooth decay. Occasional dry treats such as Milk Bones and dental chews will help keep your dog entertained and cut down on plaque on his teeth.

Even very nice dog houses should be set under shelter and shade!

V. House Your Dog Properly

We have dogs primarily because they are constant and loyal friends and companions. If you plan to chain your dog up in the back yard with a wooden or plastic house and a bucket of water and take some food out there once a day, don’t get a dog.

Even if you have your dog for security reasons, he will be better at defending you and your loved ones if he is happy, healthy, and devoted to you. If you don’t plan on treating your dog as a friend and companion, don’t get one.

To be comfortable, your dog needs good food, clean water, a comfortable bed and solid shelter from the elements. If you do not plan on letting your dog in your house (you should think twice about getting a dog) at least provide a solid outbuilding, enclosed porch, or garage to give good shelter from rain, wind, sleet, snow and the sun.

A Good Dog Bed Doesn't Have to be Elaborate!

IV. Invest in the Right Equipment

Be sure your dog has good, heavy dishes that cannot be tipped over. This is especially true of water. Plenty of fresh, clean water should always be available to your dog. The only exception would be during crating, and then only for relatively short periods of time.

Provide a comfortable bed that is big enough for your dog. He should be able to lie down comfortably with no body part hanging over the edges. When you give your dog a comfortable, warm place to sleep, you extend his life and protect him from problems such as arthritis.

Invest in Sturdy Toys for Big Dogs!

and Soft Toys for Little Dogs!

VII. Keep Your Dog Active & Occupied!

Give your dog good toys to play with. Do not give him shoes or other household items because this will teach him to chew shoes and household items. Invest in strong, high-quality dog toys such as Kongs and Nylabones for big, tough dogs. These toys will withstand the most enthusiastic chewers.

Little dogs may like stuffed toys or other soft toys and may not tear them up. Try a few different things with your little dog to find out exactly what suits him best.

Remember to get interactive toys like balls and Frisbees, too. Don’t get tug-of-war toys. Playing tug-of-war with your dog encourages dominance issues. Your dog needs to simply accept that you are in charge!

Invest in Good Grooming Tools

VIII. Cleanliness is Next to Dogly-ness

Since your dog will be your friend and companion, you will want him to be nice and clean! The amount you bathe your dog will vary depending upon the dog. Some little dogs that get a lot of handling, sit on laps, sleep in bed with their person and so on, need to be bathed once a week and brushed every day.

Some big, smooth coated dogs are fine to be wiped down with a damp wash cloth once a week and never brushed. On the other hand, some short haired, oily dogs (such as Bassett Hounds) need a thorough bath at least once a month to keep down odors.

Most dogs can be bathed effectively with baby shampoo and (if needed) rinsed with a detangler intended for babies. Some dogs that tend to have skin problems (such as Bassett Hounds or Cocker Spaniels) may need special, medicated shampoos and conditioners.

Of course, if fleas and ticks are a problem, you will want to use a shampoo that will address this. Consult your vet to find out what the best shampoo for your dog would be.

Obedience Training is the Best Investment!

IX. Dogs are Social Animals

If you don’t take your dog out for regular exercise, you are missing a great opportunity. Having a best friend who likes to be active is a good way to stay active yourself. Be sure to take your dog out for a walk or run on-leash at least once a day.

If you have trouble controlling your dog on-leash, get yourself and your dog into an obedience class. You will enjoy your dog more, and he will enjoy his life more, if he is socialized and well-behaved.

Your Shelter Dog Will Already Be Spayed or Neutered!

X. Have Your Dog Spayed or Neutered!

There is no reason to keep an intact dog. There are far too many unwanted pets in the world today. This is a situation that must be gotten under control, and if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Your dog will be happier and a more satisfying pet if he or she is neutered or spayed. He or she will be less likely to wander and fight and will be easier to house train. You will extend your dog’s life and eliminate the risk of health problems related to reproduction.


Submit a Comment

  • Kathryn L Hill profile image

    Kathryn L Hill 

    6 years ago from LA

    Yep! Thanks for you thoughts and insights.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Texas

    That's great! Sparky is lucky to have you and your daughter to help her live a full life! :)

  • Kathryn L Hill profile image

    Kathryn L Hill 

    6 years ago from LA

    Great Info, easy to read.

    I have just acquired a dog with a few broken hip bones.

    My daughter is a vet tech and helped with the dog when it was brought in after being hit by a car. Since the dog had no collar or chip they had to send it the pound. My daughter woke up in the middle of the night crying over the fact that no one would ever adopt her. The doctors told her the hips would heal without surgery, but that she would have to be kept very quiet for a couple months. After I heard the story I agreed to look after it, so it could live. I plan to find a home for her when those hips finally heal. What I want to let people know is that I have had unusually good luck lately! Even my daughter! (She had to pay $100.00 to get it out of the pound.) So don't be afraid to take on a pet... The pet angels will be there with you!

    PS We named her Sparky, and she really is a spark of life.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Texas

    Thanks for your comment, Sunita! There are lots of doggies waiting to be adopted and loved at your local shelter! :)

  • Sunita-Sharma profile image


    6 years ago from Los Angeles,California,US

    Very informative hub!This hub has brought back my memories with my pets....I had two-Labro and the other one hound breed.Unfortunately,none of them are alive today.I really miss them both.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Texas

    Thanks, Memories: These are all good points, and if you have what it takes to care for a dog with special needs, by all means, you should adopt one. For most people, it is best to go for "pick of the litter" and start out with a dog that is more certain to have success.

    While it is great to feed a designer type dog food if you can afford it, I have found it to be unnecessary. My father fed our mostly outdoor dogs Purina Dog Chow when I was a child, and they lived healthily to the (unheard of in those days) ages of 14, 16 and so on. I feed Purina Dog Chow, to my mostly indoor dogs, who also enjoy flea products and other modern conveniences, and they live happily and healthily into their 20s. I don't think it can get much better than that.

    Purina Dog Chow is a good, affordable, established brand with a proven track record in my book.

    Again, this article is intended for the average person who wants to have fairly assured success with a new pet. There are many people today who simply cannot afford to spend $30 a bag on dog food. That should not stop them from having a pet, and it should not stop a dog from having a home.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I agree with most of what you said. If it were me I would pick the dog who seemed like he or she needed a forever home the most. It is not the dogs fault if they have a physical or behavior problem, they are just as deserving of a good home as any dog is. About the food it is better to feed a high quality diet that contains all natural ingredients. You should avoid food with artificial color or flavoring, meat by-products( you have no idea where it came from, it could be road kill) and you should avoid food with cheap fillers. Giving your dog a cheaper brand of dog food from the supermarket would be the same as you eating nothing but the same junkie cereal everyday. It's cheaper in the long wrong to feed a high quality dog food because your dog will be healthier and you'll have less vet bills.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Texas

    Many thanks! :)

  • toknowinfo profile image


    7 years ago

    Absolutely great hub! This is filled with practical and useful info. Thanks for putting this well thought out article together. Rated way up, useful, and awesome.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Texas

    Glad to be of service! Thanks! :)

  • dearabbysmom profile image


    7 years ago from Indiana

    Thank you for telling people to not get a dog if they are just going to tie it up outside. That seems like such a senseless and lonely life for a dog! And thank you for ending with the directive to spay and neuter. Great hub, up, awesome and useful!

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Texas

    Many thanks! Glad to be of help! :)

  • Cogerson profile image


    7 years ago from Virginia

    A very informative and useful guide.....I enjoyed reading your hub. We have two chocolate labs that are getting up there in age 12 and 8....and they have been awesome dogs....voted up

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Texas

    Jaye - NylaBones are great! They last forever, even with very energetic chewers. I have some that are years old, and my dogs are bully types! These toys come in all sizes, and they are flavored to be especially attractive to dogs.

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 

    7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    Your approach is a very sensible one.

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 

    7 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Very informative hub, Suzanne. It's easy to see that you really care about dogs.

    I brush my dog's teeth, but don't feel as though it's thorough enough because she doesn't like it and resists after a minute or two. I wish I could find some dental chews that I could be sure she wouldn't get choked on. (She once got choked on a chew, and that was one of the scariest experiences of my life!) Do you have any recommendations? She's a mini Schnauzer that is not so "mini", weighing 23.4 lbs. She's not obese, but is just a larger mini, like her mother, not one of the "toy" variety. Jaye


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