Experts always warn that you should take any major life change one small step at a time. Going from drinking a six pack of Dr. Pepper every day, to completely deleting sugar from your diet is not something you can accomplish in one day. Instead, fitness experts and nutritionists recommend gradually reducing harmful habits, and slowly introducing healthy ones.
The same is true for our pets. You may not realize just how closely tied your dog’s health is to your own. Our furry best friends want to be involved in everything we do, so be sure to include them in your health goals. The following 7 simple and painless alterations to your everyday routine can have some pretty huge benefits for you and your pup.
Go to bed 30 minutes earlier
Adults need a full 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night in order to function at their best. Lack of sleep has been connected to heart disease, anxiety, depression, and several other ailments. If you aren’t rested and feeling perky, your intuitive pup can sense it, and begin to feel your stress. Not to mention, a sleepy, cranky hooman is less likely to engage their dog in a fun activity like fetch or a trip to the park.
Get up 30 minutes earlier
Just an extra half hour in the morning is enough time to fit in a brisk walk with your dog, rather than the usual potty break in the backyard. The fresh morning air is invigorating to help you wake up and start your day on a positive, healthy note. Meanwhile your dog gets a bit of exercise and some quality time with his or her favorite hooman before you head off to work. Fresh air and exercise are great stress relievers for both of you, and can help to reduce separation anxiety for your pup.
Take your play sesh outside
Our dogs love every moment we spend acting silly and joining them in play. Indoor games are great, but getting outside is even better. Aside from the natural benefits of fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun, taking the time to head outside for the purpose of play encourages you to focus on your dog. Those who opt for outdoor play times tend to spend more of that cherished one on one time with their pups. The open spaces will encourage you both to get more exercise, too.
Use that measuring cup
When it comes to feeding time, it’s easy to fall into a habit of dumping the same old noms into the bowl and just guess-timating the proper amount. Just like us, our dogs’ dietary needs change based on activity level and age. Take the time to research a diet that is best suited for your pup’s lifestyle – veterinary staff are a great resource for diet advice. Once you choose the best food for your pup, be sure you are feeding the recommended amount. A few extra kibbles can add up on your dog the way a few extra cupcakes add up on us!
Stop and smell the roses
Dogs explore the world with their noses. In her bestselling book, Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz compares pulling a dog along without letting them sniff their surroundings to blindfolding a child at Disneyland. A walk just isn’t as fun for our pups if they can’t sniff out the pee spot on the neighbor’s mailbox, or hunt down the trail of that pesky squirrel. We all have busy schedules, but take the time every now and then to let your dog lead you on a walk. Better still, find a safe, fenced dog park where they can run free and fill their nostrils to their hearts’ content!
Prioritize that smile
The condition of a dog’s teeth can be a big indicator of overall health. Heavy buildup of plaque and tartar can lead to heart, liver, and kidney disease, not to mention tooth loss, gum disease, and pain. There are several simple ways to make your dog’s oral health upkeep a part of your daily routine. (Note: If their dental health is already a serious issue, a visit to your vet may be necessary to get your dog’s smile healthy again before you begin preventative care at home.)
If you’re ready to start earning complements at your next vet appointment, check out BARK Bright, the dental hygiene system veterinarians are recommending for optimal oral healthcare. Studies show the easy two-step system (consisting of triple-enzyme-powered toothpaste and tasty dental sticks) freshens breath and reduces plaque buildup better than any dental chew or toothpaste alone!
Mark your calendar
Dr. Melissa Beall of IDEXX Laboratories reports that 34% of shelter dogs, and 12% of pet dogs in the U.S. have some form of intestinal parasites, and deadly heartworm disease affects dogs in all 50 states. Many monthly heartworm and flea preventatives contain drugs that also help prevent and control tapeworms, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, and external creepy crawlies like ticks, ear mites and Sarcoptic mange mites (Scabies). Some parasites are transmissible to humans, especially small children. Others can be life threatening and expensive to treat. Just the few seconds a month it takes to give the treatments can prevent a lot of aggravation and grief.
Remember, huge lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. Your pup wants nothing more than to see you happy and healthy. Luckily it’s fun and easy for the two of you to work on getting there together.