All Things Puppy – Part 4 – Four Basic Needs

If you want to get your puppy off to a great start behaviorally and ensure that she is a relaxed and content dog, it’s important to make sure you’re addressing her 4 basic needs: food, shelter, entertainment, and safety.

Food: Dog food is an incredibly controversial topic. I recommend that you do your own research and reading from sources like veterinary nutritionists who know what dogs should and should not be eating. The best diet for your dog is one that she likes and eats enthusiastically, meets all her nutritional requirements (like the AAFCO standards), results in well formed (easy to pick up!) stool and a nice, shiny coat. We find, behaviorally, that it is also helpful to have a low carbohydrate content. Higher carb content tends to lead to hyperactivity, which tends to lead to other behaviors people aren’t real fond of. Also, work to have set meal times rather than allowing grazing. This helps with sending your dog the right signals about you being the provider of the food and also with housebreaking (keeping the puppy on a schedule).

Shelter: Your dog needs a safe, warm, dry place to sleep with free access to water. Many dogs do well having a crate or pen area to call their own (especially puppies!!). A young dog especially needs structure and supervision in the home. Giving your puppy free reign of the house too early on is a recipe for housebreaking accidents and vet visits for ingestion of things that should be off limits. The same is true in the yard. Structure and supervision are so important!

Entertainment: For dogs, entertainment typically breaks down into 3 things: physical exercise, mental exercise, and chewing. Physical exercise is the obvious one (walking, running, playing). With puppies, be careful not to overdo it on the physical exercise, because they are still growing and can easily get hurt. Seek your veterinarian’s advice for specific amounts that are appropriate for your dog. Mental exercise is anything that will cause your pup to think. There are many great educational / treat-based toys for dogs on the market. Start with ones that are on the easy side and increase the degree of difficulty as your dog demonstrates she can do it. Training activities are also mental exercise. Mental exercise is a great way to tire a dog out – even more so than physical exercise. And make sure your pup has appropriate things to chew on at all times. The more sources of entertainment your pup has, the better.

Safety: Safety for dogs is about being part of a family (or “pack” as they see it). Dogs naturally want to understand the family structure and hierarchy and where they fit in within that structure. They want to know that there is a leader and decision maker in the group. With a leader, they feel safe. I can teach you how to provide this for your pup!

A little kiss from a thankful puppy 🙂

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