I've been a dog owner my entire life. I now work with dogs for a living. I wasn't always the best dog owner, but at the time I had no idea I wasn't. Inexperience and lack of knowledge played a part in many of the problems I had with past dogs. None were bad, there are no bad dogs only bad owners. We now have so much more information available online to help teach us how to be a better dog owner. When we know better we should do better.
People have always told me that heaven would be, being one of my dogs. I think in the last 7 years of dog ownership, I've really learned what makes for a quality life for my beloved canine. Over my lifetime I've lost a lot of dogs far too early in their lives, it has made me think long and hard how I can make each day count for my current dog, and the one before him, my beloved Petey, who left me suddenly before his 5th birthday.
Their lives are so short and once they are gone there is no making up for what you didn't do for and them while they sat at your side lovingly staring into your face. They give us their everything, the very least we can do for them is to make them happy at least a few times each day.
What is a quality life for a dog? For me it starts with food, I feed raw. Eating food that is good for your body is the most important thing that we can do for ourselves to have a long, happy, healthy life. The food we choose to eat affects every area of our lives. I feel the same way about feeding my dog. I've been a raw feeder for over 7 years now. I've done my research and I will never feed kibble again. How did I manage to raise 4 sons to adulthood without a premade diet? I was responsible enough to grow 4 strong healthy men, I certainally can feed one 85 pound Doberman Pinscher the proper foods to keep him vibrant and healthy. Monty loves his meals. He starts to salivate soon as he knows it's time to eat. He chews his food completely and carefully. No gulping for this boy. I rotate the meats I feed to add variety and to make mealtimes more fun for him. Its fun to watch him eat and enjoy his food.
The next quality life item is exercise. It is non-negotable for me and Monty. Most breeds of Dogs are built to be active. They live to run and play. I run my boy off lead on hiking trails almost every day of the year. Rain, shine, snow, what ever the weather ,you can find us outside hiking together. We go two several different parks on a daily basis. I love to nature watch and he gets to experience new smells. We also play Frisbee multiple times each day. He's very good at it! It gets us both outside m to breath in some fresh air. A few days a week we play fetch in a pond with a floating ring. Presto....a bath!
Training from the get go is a must. A trained dog makes for a happy dog and owner, which in turn makes for a quality life for you both. The day you get your new puppy is the day to start training. Every interaction with your dog is an opportunity to train house manners and basic ob. I'm not into obedience training, I actually dislike it, but I have found that dogs love to work! They enjoy learning new tricks. Just use treats and it's fun for you both. From day one, teach your dog to accept baths, nail clipping, ear cleaning and teeth inspections or cleanings. Use treats and all of these experiences become a fun interaction that your dog will actually look forward to.
Some dogs need toys, others need things to chew on. My last dog, Petey, loved toys, all kinds of toys, so I bought him new ones on a daily basis. He had two laundry baskets full of all kinds of toys. He always had a stuffie in his mouth. New toys were paraded around for a day or two. I don't regret for one minute all the money we spent on toys for him, they added more quality to his very short life. My current boy Monty only likes balls that squeek and his Frisbees. Ocassionally he likes to chew a Bully Stick, so I always have them on hand.
Finally dogs need new experiences several days each week. Trips in the car to the bank, gas station, local pet store, etc. Monty loves going to the bank and gas station as they always have a busiquit for him. I love taking him on vacation. We both love getting out of our daily routine and seeing new places. I plan at least one vacation with Monty in mind, this way I can be completely relaxed as I know that my dog is happy.
As for affection....who doesn't pet their dog????
Here is my boy after a day in his life....one full of quality.....he is giving me the look....it's bedtime!