Exercise & care for your adult dog
Keeping fit, having fun
Just like us, dogs need regular exercise to help them stay fit and healthy. At the same time, exercise provides a wonderful opportunity for you to spend more time together, whether it's a quick walk before work, a relaxing stroll after a hard day at the office, or a weekend exploring somewhere new with the whole family.
Exercising your dog also gives kids the chance to play outside and get involved in caring for the family pet, whilst older children love to take responsibility for holding the lead. Nearly all dogs enjoy playing together, but remember to introduce new friends in a neutral place and ensure they're fully vaccinated.
What could be better! You and all your family (… of course including your dog) having the time of your lives - feeling a fitter, healthier and happier family for it! By varying the routine, who plays with the dog and the games you play together, you also help your dog to learn. But we have a few favouirtes that will have you all looking forward to playtime, every time!
Hide and seek
An all-time favourite for you and all the family that your best friend will never tire of! Get someone to hide with a favourite toy or a treat. To start with you can make it easy, letting your dog watch where they hide. Encourage your dog to find the person, who can then hand over the toy or treat as a reward. After a while, you can make the game more difficult. Distract your dog while the other players hide, using different hiding places to keep him on his paws!
Find the treat
You can tell your dog to "stay" and show him a treat or biscuit, which you then clearly put under a cushion or behind a chair. Go back to your dog with the instruction to "seek". After a bit of practice, you can pretend to hide the object in a variety of places around the room – or the house!
Tracking is great fun for all the family, but it does take a bit of training. First of all, put your dog on a long lead or flexi-lead, using a fixed collar. Though never use a choke chain for this, or even to walk your dog, as they are old fashioned and potentially dangerous. Make your dog stay (or get a the kids to help) while you walk along backwards for about 20 meters showing a toy or treat, dragging your feet to maximise the scent trail and holding the reward near the floor to encourage the dog to search along at ground level. Leave the reward at the end of your scent trail and return along the same path. With the request "track", encourage your dog to sniff the ground where you walked until the reward is found. In time, you can all lay longer trails, and try walking in different directions and patterns to help him develop his skills.
Try this once you've successfully taught your dog to track. Next time you’re out, drop a toy without your dog seeing you, but continue walking for a few yards. Then stop and say "look back," encouraging him to retrace the route (most dogs will be able to follow your scent even if they didn't see exactly which way you went) until the toy is found. You can use a long lead at first to help you keep the dog on the right track. After a while, increase the distance and make the object a little more difficult to find. Don't throw it away from where you walked though, as he won't be able to use your scent to find it!
You can teach everyone to play fetch with your dog without even leaving the sofa! Offer him a toy, and as he mouths and sniffs it, say "fetch" and reward with praise or a treat.
Once he learns to touch the toy with his nose whenever you offer it and say "fetch" - offer it again with the request - but without the reward. This will be a bit puzzling, so say the request again straight away and your dog will be even keener to show you how clever he is!
Once you have reached this stage, drop the toy and say "fetch". When your dog starts to pick it up, you can begin to throw the toy slightly further away each time. Only reward your dog when he brings the toy back. Make sure you start and end these games with distinct signals, or your dog might start insisting you play just when you want to watch your favourite TV programme!
As you know prevention is always better than cure, so we suggest you get your friend regularly checked out for any possible signs of illness. A quick check-up is also a great excuse for a hug and a cuddle!
Health check list:
- Body condition – Performing regular body condition checks on your dog is much easier than it sounds! It’s simply a matter of using your eyes and hands. When you run your hands over your dog, you should be able to feel and (depending on breed/coat length) sometimes see their ribs relatively easily, with only a slight covering of fat. Your dog should have a well-defined hourglass waist when viewed from above and the belly should slope upwards from the chest towards the hindlegs. Regular checks can help you notice any gradual weight loss or gains that may occur over time.
- Ears - Your best friend’s ears should always be clean, without any thick waxy discharge, redness, itchiness or odour. However some long-eared breeds would probably benefit from regular ear-cleaning with special ear cleaners - which is likely to be recommended by your vet. If your dog starts to hold his head to one side, rubs one side of his face along the carpet/grass or is always shaking his head, pop down to your vet for a thorough ear examination!
- Eyes – Your family friend’s beautiful, expressive eyes should be bright and clear, with no signs of runniness, redness or soreness. Your dog shouldn’t squint or shy away from light and if you notice him bumping into objects all of a sudden that’s not really like him, we recommend you ask your vet to take a look at him.
- Nose – Next time you give your best friend a hug, take a quick look at his nose. Noses can change from black to pink and back again. There should be no crusting on the surface of a healthy nose, nor should there be any runny or thickened discharges or bleeding. It is also worth noting that a healthy nose doesn’t always have to be very cold or wet!
- Mouth – Teeth should be white/cream with no excess tartar, which looks thick and brown. The gums should be a healthy pink or black and not red, swollen or bleeding.If your dog has bad breath, this could be an indication of bacterial overgrowth or plaque on the teeth/gums, which can lead to tooth decay. So to keep your dog healthy and happy make sure you ask your vet to check your best friend’s teeth every time you visit!
- Skin & Coat – Stroking and cuddling your dog is a joy for all the family, but what’s beneath that lovely coat? Your dog's skin can be pink or black depending on the pigments common to that breed or the individual genetic history. It should be free of crusting; itching, scaling, black/white spots and infected or hot and inflamed areas. The coat should be thick (depending on breed) and shiny with no broken hairs, bald patches, dandruff or fleas. Regular grooming is important and is for the kids to do !
- Nails - These should be smooth and can either be white or black. Nails that are roughened and flake or break easily may require veterinary attention.
- Digestion – Keep an eye on your dog's appetite and always know what you are feeding and what everyone else in the family may be feeding! If you decide to change his diet, make this a gradual process, normally over the course of 7-10 days. Occasional eating and regurgitation of grass can be normal, but generally speaking your dog should not be no vomiting, showing reluctance to eat or have difficulties when eating. But as with everything,if in doubt, seek veterinary advice.
- Thirst - If your dog suddenly becomes very thirsty or starts drinking more than usual without excessive exercise, it could indicate an underlying medical problem and we would recommend you consult your vet.
- Attitude - Your family friend’s general attitude to life can tell you … a lot! If you notice his head and tail are down and he seems quieter and less playful with all the family than usual, it could mean he’s feeling a little under the weather. Poorly dogs might skulk in corners, dig holes in the garden to lie in or sometimes appear unusually aggressive for no apparent reason. If you're worried at all, ask your vet’s advice.
Nutritional balance – it’s what keeps our family friends at their bright, beautiful and frequently barmy best – keeping up with the rest of the family!!! There are six major groups of nutrients in this balancing act: water, protein, fats/oils, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. (Did you know that a dog actually has to obtain 37 different essential nutrients through food alone?)
Usually, there’s no reason to change your dog’s nutrient balance from the early days of adulthood until he reaches 'senior' status. The age at which he becomes a senior citizen will vary depending on his body-size and breed, but on average this occurs around seven years of age. Ideally, your adult family friend (like you) needs a combination of meat, cereals and vegetables in the correct proportions to have a nutritionally balanced meal.
All good quality complete manufactured dog foods, such as Winalot, are specially formulated to provide the right balance of all the nutrients a dog needs to stay healthy and happy. Whilst its difficult to resist at times, adding human food and scraps to a nutritionally balanced complete food doesn't really do your best friend any favours - and actually upsets this finely-tuned nutritional balance. So remind all the family to resist those pleading eyes from under the dinner table.. he’ll thank you in the long run!!
Like us, the amount of water your special friend needs depends on things like the weather, exercise levels and whether he’s eating wet or dried food. Water is just as important to dogs as it is to us as it regulates the body's internal temperature, transports nutrients and other materials around the body and is involved in almost all the bodily processes. So remind everyone to make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. The proteins you feed to your dog as part of a complete and nutritionally balanced dog food contain all of the essential amino acids he needs. In fact it is the proteins that are responsible for forming healthy muscle, skin and hair, as well as being an key part of your dogs immune system.
Fats are what provides the 'fuel' your dog needs to be able to keep up with family life. Good fats, and essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6, are vital for healthy skin and coat condition and they also provide insulation and protection for the internal organs. Fats also improve the taste of food – so a little bit goes a long way in making sure you dog enjoys his meals!!
Believe it or not dogs are classified as omnivores - and although they don’t have a necessary requirement for carbohydrates in their diet, carbohydrates are an important source of energy for dogs and go a long way to help support overall gut health.
Dogs need these too, although in small amounts through the diet, to help maintain growth, normal vision, a healthy skin and coat, wound healing and normal functioning of the nervous system. In fact vitamins are also involved in practically every chemical reaction leveling a dogs body for the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
As well as vitamins. minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous, are essential for strong, healthy teeth and bones and are important to have in sufficient and balanced proportions through a dogs diet. These minerals are particularly important the health and happiness of growing puppies. Other minerals that are important in a dogs diet are sodium, chloride, magnesium and potassium, as well as zinc, copper and iron.
Moist or 'wet' foods
Like us, our family friends actually prefer their meals fresh! So try to keep open cans, foil trays or pouches covered and refrigerated, for up to, but no longer than, 24 hours. At feeding time make sure the you serve the food is at room temperature because the more he can smell it, the better he can taste it!
Complete dry foods
Whilst they might not seem like it to you, dry kibble foods are actually very popular with dogs as they contain the right balance of nutrients and a crunchy texture to help keep teeth healthy,.They’re more concentrated with nutrients than moist foods, so only small servings are needed. Careful though. it pays to check the pack to make sure you’re buying a ‘complete’ dry food rather than a pack of treats. If you decide, for one reason or another, to change your dogs food either from wet to dry or even changing between different brands, make sure you introduce the new food gradually over a seven to ten day period .. it helps avoid any form of tummy upsets.
What not to feed
I know it feels like you are doing a really nice thing for your dog, if you regularly prepare your dog's meals from table scraps or specially purchased meat, be careful. These meals are often too high in protein and are not rich enough in other important nutrients and minerals, like calcium. This could lead to your dog not getting everything he needs and becoming malnourished. Don’t forget, some common human foods such as chocolate, rhubarb, onions, spinach, beetroot, and grapes are poisonous to dogs!
Supplements are not usually necessary when a healthy dog is being fed a nutritionally complete and balanced manufactured pet food such as Winalot. However, situations such as pregnancy, over or under exercise, or existing medical conditions may mean your dog needs special nutrition. If in doubt, just pop along to your vet!