Due to their domestication, our dogs have a reduced number of choices compared to their wild counterparts. We, therefore, have to make sensible choices on their behalf. Canine Wellness is the act of practicing healthy choices on behalf of our dogs so they are physically and mentally healthier. They thrive in our modern-day world, not just survive it. Wellness is a balance of physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. It is not about the absence of disease and infirmity. Every dog is an individual and their needs are unique. We can help our dogs create resilient body functions by considering the following:
1. Keep Them Safe – feeling safe is important to our dogs. It is a No 1. Need. When they feel unsafe, their bodies produce adrenaline and cortisol which activates their flight or fight body functions. Long-term exposure to this biochemical cocktail can cause damage to their health. We need to support our dogs to understand new and novel encounters so they choose an ‘orientating’ response, not a stress response. When we make this choice for them we increase their wellness, health and energy levels.
2. Reduce Stress In Their Life – our modern-day world is busy, noisy and full of stressful events. Our dogs do not always understand this world. We can help them by being mindful that they do not perceive the way we do. Reduce their stress levels by providing mental enrichment activities, removing them from stressful situations and promoting calm emotions. Stress causes the body to become inflamed and this depletes energy. When we make appropriate choices to reduce stress we are protecting their nervous system from distress.
3. Choose Suitable Environments – our dogs benefit from being out in nature, so do we! When we choose peaceful environments for our dogs we enrich their life with scent and opportunities to be a dog. Being in nature is a wonderful healing experience. When we provide suitable environments for our dogs we help restore life energy. Exposure to our modern-day world can be overwhelming for our dogs and cause anxiety, arousal and sensory overload. Our dogs are individuals and some will fare better than others in such environments. We can slowly expose them to environmental stressors, gradually desensitising them so they can cope. We can help them at home too. Provide a safe den environment for them. A place that is just theirs. If they are in their place, they have chosen to take some time out., respect their decision and keep your distance.
4. Ensure Enough Sleep & Exercise – our dogs need a surprising amount of sleep to be healthy. We have all had that experience of being grumpy because we are tired. Our dogs are the same. It is vitally important that we provide opportunities for rest. Rest helps the body return to homeostasis after stressful experiences. Our dogs’ bodies carry out essential repair and maintenance during sleep. Our dogs also need to exercise to maintain a healthy muscular-skeletal system. Creating exercise opportunities is also about giving our dogs a sense of freedom. So whenever possible let them decide where they would like to go. We reduce tension and frustration in our dogs when we allow them to choose sometimes too. When we do we help raise their energy levels and spiritual health.
5. Provide a Good Quality, Well-Balanced Diet – just as we need to eat healthy food so do our dogs. Diet forms a significant part of health. We are what we eat! Food fuels our dog’s body and provides nutrients for repair and rebuilding of the cellular structure. All food and drink support or harms our dog’s immune system by increasing or decreasing inflammation. Modern processed food is often low in nutrition and energy. Research your food choices to ensure that all their nutritional needs are met. Water is important for supporting our dogs’ health and wellness. Provide opportunities for your dog to express free will by allowing them to decide what to eat and drink regularly.
6. Encourage Positive Social Interactions – dogs are social animals and enjoy the company of others. Sometimes this is not the case and our dog may dislike another dog, this is their choice. We can respect their choices and not force social interaction. We can respect the space of other dogs too, if they are on a lead we can ensure that our dog does not intrude in their space. We can create our dog a canine address book of friends they enjoy being with. Our dogs need to feel safe so we need to choose suitable playmates and introduce friends slowly. When we do this we help our dogs learn what to expect and their social boundaries.
7. Provide Positive Learning Experiences – not all dogs are socially adept due to genetics, poor socialisation or bad learning experiences and this can cause problems in their behaviour. They may have experienced trauma and have learned that certain ‘triggers’ cause them distress. The brain remembers these events and mediates when they are encountered again to keep us safe. Research shows us that our dogs learn more easily when training is free from pain, discomfort and distress. We must always teach our dogs using positive experiences that increase the likelihood of desired behaviour occurring again.
8. Look Out for Disease & Treat Appropriately – our dogs are incredibly stoic and will often hide feelings of pain and discomfort. We can learn to recognise signs and symptoms that may require vet treatment. Pain can cause our dogs to become aggressive or withdraw from social interaction with us. We must be observant of how they move, their moods, their coat condition and carry out regular husbandry so we can be vigilant in changes to ears, teeth etc. If you suspect there is a problem, contact your vet for advice and gain treatment promptly.
9. Provide Opportunities to Relax – our dogs need periods of relaxation. Too much exposure to stress can impinge emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. It is a valuable life skill for our dogs to be able to calm themselves. When relaxation occurs the parasympathetic nervous system is activated and this counters the effects of stress in the body. Relaxation needs to be part of every dog’s daily routine. Complementary therapies and breathing techniques can help balance our dogs’ energy and reduce stress. Animal Reiki, Crystal Healing, Zoopharmacognosy, Bach Flower Remedies, T-Touch, Galen, Myofascial Massage, Bowen and Acupuncture are among some of the therapies that may benefit your dog. These are provided by practitioners or vets and we can learn some techniques to incorporate into our dogs’ wellness regime.
10. Look After Yourself – it is imperative that we take time to look after ourselves as well as out dogs. Our emotions have a significant impact on our dogs’ emotions. Dogs have this wonderful ability to alleviate our worries. It is important to recognise that our thoughts become our biochemistry. Taking time to exercise, meditate, be mindful, and follow a wellness protocol ourselves means we are best able to look after our dogs.
When we take time to show up for our dogs we create wonderful cooperative relationships with them. Our dogs learn they can trust us to make the right decisions on their behalf.
I offer individually tailored 1-2-1 Canine Coaching Sessions which may be helpful.
Each session is 1-2 hours long and includes a follow-up email report and telephone support.
Sessions start at £45, packages are available for multiple sessions.