Dogs & Right Action - Man or Woman’s Best Friend!
By Vicki Aldridge: Animal & Wildlife Council
For dog lovers we dream of being at one with your dog being your best friend faithfully by your side all day every day. If you are lucky enough to bond with your dog, they will reciprocate your love for them and will happily go everywhere with you and just ‘be’ with you. What greater honour can there be!
For the first few years of a puppy’s life, we have to try to convince the puppy we are better than everyone else and encourage them not to run away. In return we have to honour that commitment by being a better friend to them than everyone else!
Like all gifts there are disciplines required to maintain harmony in the relationship. As a guardian of a dog, it is most important to respect their basic needs, and canine nature. Ultimately, they are a pack animal and most dogs like and even need some form of companionship most of the time, or as much as possible. This gives them security and friendship. Like children they need love, good breed specific food, behaviour guidelines, house rules, particularly in a family environment, and reasonable boundaries.
Years ago, a dog wasn’t just pets they always had a job to do and specific expectations. In recent MOMents most dogs are ‘just pets’. It’s important to ask yourself what have we got our dog for? They need to know what their roles is, so you need to know what are you anticipating your relationship to be like. Many pet dogs get lazy and bored due to lack of stimulation, and can even become destructive, stressed and unwell. This must be carefully considered when choosing the type of dog we welcome into our family.
It is important, however, to remember that they are a dog, and they aren’t human. You really need to set boundaries to maintain safety for yourself and your dog. Dogs are amazingly strong for their size and have a good set of powerful flesh tearing teeth and claws, and can easily inflict severe injuries in a short amount of time if not respected and handled correctly. Even the smallest dog bite can cause a lot of harm if behaviourally challenged.
However, it is most important to understand that our pets are a reflection and extension of us! Similar to children, animals are programmed by their parents/caretakers. So, if our pets are exhibiting behavior that is not in right action, we must implement boundaries and correction, and also reflect on how our energy is effecting them. Whoever develops a relationship with the animal will effect the animal, so all caretakers should be on the same page on how to discipline and hold boundaries for the animal. When adopting a pet that has had previous owners, we must patience in re-training and compassion for the animal.
Dogs, especially, process large amounts of energy for us as they are always in the frequency of unconditional love! We respect our pets, but we do not put them above ourselves or other human beings (this is commonly known as reverence to animal, a large EGO programming).
Dogs need exercise and generally love interacting with us whether we are out walking, playing games, or just hanging out with us. Dogs love human contact, and most dogs like a stroke and even a cuddle, but they need to trust and respect you first. Very few dogs, like most mammals, like patting, and is much more soothing and bonding. It is important to maintain mental, emotional and physical fitness of your pet. Like all exercise it must be fair and reasonable. Above all, like all balance mammals, they need to be seen. Some dogs have a high work or play drive and need to be physically challenged, others just like to hang out.
Dog training and some basic communication is important for basic mutual understanding, building respect and rapport and facilitating respectful boundaries. This can seem arduous at the time but its worth the effort and worth remembering ‘well behaved’ dogs are more pleasant to be around and often welcome in more places. Generally, a little effort can go a long way and it's good to start sooner rather than later. Remember you can teach them bad habits by not teaching them good habits. Basic commands should include being able to walk nicely on lead, come back when called for their safety and safety of others, wait when asked, and learning to stay in one place and switch off when asked, particularly when you are eating. It isn't essential to go into higher levels of training but some dogs thrive on ‘work’ with higher levels of mental stimulation, discipline which usually leads to better bonding.
Like all animal they can all have different personalities therefore different needs. This also varies hugely with different sex, breed type, their breeding (pet or working breed), their work and activity ethic, (and yours!). Working breeds can have the work ethic breed out of them within a couple of generations but they ‘natural’ instinct will be there. This is usually breed specific but it can just be an individual/personality thing.
It is important that your dog is fed a good breed specific balanced diet. Dogs are carnivores, so they are designed to primarily eat meat, with some fibre. Like our human diet its best to avoid ultra-processed dog food. The ideal diet is to feed raw food if at all possible (it's not as hard as you think). Most dog food manufacturing is not well controlled. It’s definitely worth avoiding pet foods with grains, gravy made from flour, rice and potatoes as dogs often cannot digest them. They are mainly used as bulking agents and will pass straight through their system and can cause allergic reactions. Even a reputable pet food manufacturer has to cook the meat to be able to store it on a shelf which inevitably affects the nutritional content. Often these nutritional losses then have to be artificially replaced with chemical supplements. The more worrying process is when flavour enhancers and preservatives are also added to increase taste and shelf life.
Raw diets not only avoid artificial additives and preservatives they also keep the dog’s stomach at optimum pH levels to act as the ideal bacterial control, support the immune system and help to maintain good health. Grains are particularly bad at reducing the stomach pH. I understand you can now get dried raw meat which may be a reasonable compromise for travel etc.
If you are able to go down the raw food route you are ideally aiming for a mix of 80% meat 10% bones and 10% offal. It can also be good to include meat on bones (also good for cleaning teeth), rabbit ears with fur (a good wormer and teeth cleaner), eggs including the shell, fish particularly oily fish, cooked fruit and veg. It’s also worth noting that even raw poultry meat, particularly chicken, can be feed on grain which can also affect the stomach acid level and can irritate a sensitive dog’s digestive system. Raw food can be bought frozen in bulk and defrosted as required.
Like our choice of dog food, dog treats should also be as natural as possible. It’s worth noting that not all dogs can cope with dairy/ cheese as well as processed and flavoured human food particularly human sausages which often have too many herbs, spices and salt for dogs to process efficiently. They also cannot tolerate and process human chocolate, grapes, avocados, onion, garlic, raisins, macadamia nuts, sugary food and drinks, caffeine or cooked bones that might splinter. Some puppies and even older dogs like and even need to chew. Things like deer antler, buffalo horns, coffee wood and plated natural rope can be good for this. Natural dog chews can be a bit more expensive but cheaper in the long term to maintain good health, such as dried pigs/cows' ears, intestines, tendons, oesophagus (very high in natural glucosamine), pizzle (I’ll leave you to work out what this us!). Avoiding the processed hide chews is important as they can have often been bleached and stretched and glued. Homemade biscuits with coconut flour or just cooked meat can also be good treat.
I would also highly recommend a homemade bone broth; slow cook some meaty raw bones ideally with lots of cartilage/marrow with garlic, apple cider vinegar with the mother or lemon juice, kelp, broccoli, kale etc every few months for an extra nutrition boost.
It’s also important to manage their skin and fur. Brushing and grooming including clipping or stripping depending on breed and environmental requirements. Keeping nails short enough to be comfortable, cleaning ears if necessary and keeping teeth clean. Another benefit of raw food is eating raw bones can naturally help keep teeth clean.
It is important in most parts of the world to manage pests' burden such as tick and fleas and worms. This will vary on your particular area of the world. I would suggest you avoid chemical tick treatment and wormers as much as possible. Try to find a local natural alternative such as diatomaceous earth. For me, I’m in the UK I use a herbal mix ‘Billy no mates', black cumin seeds and/ or Verm x. In tropical places swimming in the sea/salt water can help tick management but try to prevent them drinking the salt water. It’s worth noting that you must be careful removing ticks by hand to ensure all of it, particularly the head is removed. These days you can get tick teaser to get underneath twist the tick off.
Depending on where in the world vaccinations are can also be a contentious issue. If they 'need' the vaccination find out the longest span they can go in between vaccines to be effective. Titre test if at all possible and if your dog has to have the vaccination, immediately support the immune system with some bone broth and probiotics.
Mostly remember to love and be present for them and they will most often return that tenfold!