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Your Dog’s Primal Need to Be Walked

dog crossing the street on leash with human

Walking your dog each day is Canine Care 101. A walk provides your pooch with exercise and, of course, a potty break. But there's another reason why that daily stroll is so important—and it has to do with instinct.

Just as fish need to swim and birds need to fly, dogs need to walk. In the wild, packs of dogs get up in the morning and walk to find food. The pack's Alpha Dog leads the way, and the lower pack mates dutifully follow. For a dog, walking fulfills a migration instinct.

While letting your dog run around the backyard or taking him to the dog park can be good exercise, it isn't a substitute for walking. These activities don't offer the same mental stimulation your dog gets by investigating every smell, sight, and sound when you take him for a stroll. As you and your dog walk, he's gathering information about how his territory has changed since the last time he was on that same route.

Walk for good behavior

A walk is also a great opportunity to practice obedience skills with your dog and reinforce your bond with him. When you encounter another dog or person on your route, you can help him practice social skills. Behaviorists believe dogs that are taken for daily walks are better behaved and are less likely to be destructive, obsessive, or have separation/dominance issues.

A proper dog walk

Believe it or not, there is a right way to walk your dog. Your pooch should either walk beside you or behind you, never in front of you. In other words, you should walk your dog, not the other way around. This may seem trivial, but it means a lot in your dog's world. When you let a dog walk in front of you, you're communicating that he's the one who is in charge of the walk.

How long a walk does your dog need? Twenty minutes is a good amount of time to aim for most dogs—even seniors, if they’re in good health. If your dog is very active, he may need longer, more vigorous walks, perhaps even two or more times a day. Or try slow, short jogs to get your active senior moving. It’ll do both of you good.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall


    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
     

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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