How to Keep Your Dog Happy and Healthy

Woman playing with dog in park

Justingovender_ / Twenty20

If you want your dog to thrive, then you need to learn the best ways to keep him happy and healthy. Dogs with proper health care and appropriate behavior will also make your life more delightful.

Your dog's health and behavior go together and one directly impacts the other. A sick dog might exhibit certain clues of illness or develop behavioral problems, while a healthy dog learns faster and shows positive body language.

Let's explore what you need to know to get your dog on the path to physical and mental wellness.

  • 01 of 06

    A Healthy Dog Starts With You

    Arguably the most important aspect of your dog's well-being is health. An unhealthy dog will not benefit as much from training and they may also develop behavior problems.

    Your veterinarian will play a crucial role in your dog's health, so find one that you trust and will be comfortable with for years. It all begins with puppy vaccinations or the first checkup for your rescue dog, then continues through their annual exams and shots.

    It's also important that you bring healthy habits into your dog's daily life. Good, healthy food, regular exercise, and grooming are all part of bringing a dog into your home. Make good choices from the start and you will avoid many common problems.

  • 02 of 06

    Be Aware of Common Health Problems

    There are many diseases that can afflict your dog. The best way to keep your dog healthy is to educate yourself. Many dogs end up in emergency vet care because of common issues like poisoning, but even non-emergencies are cause for alarm.

    When you bring a dog into your life, it's important that you know the basic signs that your dog's sick. It could be scratching from itchy skin, vomiting from digestive problems, or peeing in the house from a UTI.

    Even if they can't talk, a dog's behavior tells us a lot about their health. While it's important to not overreact, it is important to be aware and know when to take action.

    If you live in an area where they're prevalent, you also need to know how to deal with ticks. It is a reality for dog families every spring and it's best to be vigilant whenever you've been outside.

  • 03 of 06

    A Well-Trained Dog Is a Happy Dog

    A well-trained dog is a happier dog. Mental health and stimulation are just as important as physical health care, so dog obedience must remain a priority.

    Develop a basic training program and learn to teach your dog commands. It's all part of starting your dog off on the right paw!

    House training is going to be at the top of your list for obvious reasons and dogs are smart enough to pick up on it really quick. You will also want to teach your dog self-control so you can act as a cohesive family unit rather than a human-animal battle of wills.

    Training a rescue dog takes work as well. Older dogs adopted from the shelter may have underlying issues from their previous home. It's crucial that you identify those problems and take appropriate action early in your relationship. Be sure to talk to the shelter about the environment they came from so you know where to begin.

  • 04 of 06

    The Essential Training Commands

    Training your dog is easy and fun. Granted, some are more stubborn than others and some breeds are a natural fit for certain commands and tricks, but every dog should know the basics.

    Train your dog to sit, stay, lie down, and come when called. Once she gets the basics and you have formed a good bond, try adding a few cute dog tricks like shaking and playing dead. Fetch is also a great way to bond, train, and get exercise.

    With a little practice and patience, you can transform your dog from class clown to star pupil.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Dogs Also Need to Be Socialized

    Socialization means training your dog or puppy to accept new people, animals, and places. Socialization results in a happier, more well-behaved dog. Plus, it prevents behavior problems from developing.

    Dogs, unlike cats, are very social animals and they thrive on being around others and going places. You can take them to the dog park or take them along as you visit family and friends who also have dogs. Invite doggie friends over so your pooch gets used to sharing his territory as well.

    Keep in mind that some adult dogs may need extra socialization, particularly if you recently adopted them.

    It's also very important that everyone teach their dogs to be around children. Even if you don't have your own kids, you may encounter them at the park and your dog needs to know how to react. Sometimes these little humans can scare dogs or do unexpected things that can lead to a nip or bite. That's not good for anyone involved.

  • 06 of 06

    Correcting Behavior Problems

    Despite the way many of us treat them, dogs are not humans. In fact, thinking of dogs as people has led to misinterpretations of their actions. 

    The best way to avoid or correct dog behavior problems is to learn why they occur and what they mean. Plus, you can better communicate with your dog if you can ​interpret his body language.

    The human-canine bond can be great, but that doesn't mean that you do not need to discipline them or ignore bad behaviors. You certainly don't want to raise one of 'those dogs' that no one wants to be around. 

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.