Featuring Jen Larson, KPA-CTP & Clara Scott
Concept by Courtney Emken

There are several factors that influence a dog’s total wellness, which includes their health, their exercise level, socialization, mental and sensory stimulation, and more. We explain some important factors to consider to make sure you are maintaining your dog’s overall health and steps to take in order to improve their total wellness.


– Hi, I’m Jen and this is Noodle and this is Clara and we’re here today to talk to you about total wellness for dogs. So Clara, what are some factors that influence a dog’s total wellness?

– So we need to keep in mind their health, their exercise level, socialization, mental and sensory stimulation when we’re thinking about total wellness for dogs.

– And training.

– And training, yeah.

– So one of the most important ways we can keep tabs on our dog’s total wellness is by monitoring their general health. So doing regular vet visits, doing health checks at home where you’re paying attention to your dog’s body. Kind of feeling all the different parts of their body checking for any changes in muscle mass, looking for lumps, checking their range of motion and how flexible they are. It’s really important as dogs age to keep their flexibility at a comfortable level for them. So doing things like stretching, massage, adding joint supplements, things like that. Another thing that you should watch out for with your dog’s health is what they’re gait look like. So as they’re walking or running, is that changing? Are they developing any hip or knee issues? Do they have arthritis? Stuff like that. Food and water intake is important. So, are they eating their normal amount of food? Are they drinking enough water? Sometimes we see excessive water intake in dogs that are stressed or anxious, so paying attention to things like that. So all of those are kind of different factors to keep in mind when you’re thinking about a dog’s general health.

– So another factor in total wellness is making sure your dog is mentally stimulated and that they’re getting a lot of enrichment, and by enrichment, I mean you’re giving them an opportunity to sniff, hunt, dig, chase. So things that they would naturally do, chew, lick. Yeah, things they’d naturally do. And so, you can do this in separate training sessions or you can even do this at mealtime. So you can use scatter feedings. So that just means taking their kibble, putting it in different locations so they have to hunt it out. Or using the puzzle things that they can really chew on, like a Kong or another puzzle feeder. Along with taking them on sensory activities. So you can go on a sniff walk and have them really comfortable in different locations. You could also give them like a designated place to dig, which is really fun. so you can either use a sandbox, or just like a place in your yard if you’re comfortable with that, where you put their favorite toy or something. At first, they may not be super likely to dig there, but make it a game and go take them to that dig spot and dig with them, that’s really enriching to dogs, being able to use those drives. And always remember too, to keep in mind in training. So reinforce all the behaviors you like that your dog does. So if they’re digging in their dig spot, you can reinforce that and really make it fun for them. Any polite behaviors, too, always reinforce that.

– So one of the most important factors that we can use to influence our dog’s total wellness is exercise. And exercise has a huge impact on a dog’s general health. Because the way we exercise our dogs really matters. If you’re doing a lot of sort of intense, repetitive exercise like hardcore games of fetch with your dog, that can be really hard on their bodies over time. So, dogs that play a lot of hardcore fetch, will sometimes end up with torn ACLs. They’re more likely to have arthritis, and joint and knee problems. So what we really recommend is calmer, lower impact forms of exercise where you’re using exercise in combination with behavioral training or mental enrichment or sensory stimulation. So you’re really working your dog’s drives as you’re exercising them. And that’s really the way to wear them out. So a young or middle age dog should be getting about 45 to 60 minutes of exercise, twice a day. Which sounds like a lot, but you can break it up throughout the day. And 20 minutes of that should be aerobic exercise. So, heart thumping where the dog is actually working hard. One thing to keep in mind, is that puppies, so really little dogs, they don’t need that much exercise. And you can actually over exercise a puppy to the point where it’s really hard on them. So with a puppy, you would wanna do pretty gentle exercise, so a nice little sniff walk, just getting ’em used to feeling a leash. You can also do exercise inside, where you’re playing kind of a low key game of fetch, rolling a ball, stuff like that. One of the really big things with puppies, also, is socialization.

– Yeah, definitely, so we wanna make sure that our puppies are really comfortable in their environment because that’s going to follow them through their whole life. And so, making every experience positive, with new people, new places, new things, having ’em eat treats with you or like, toys they really like. Because, not only do we want to expose them to the world, but we wanna do it in a positive way, so making sure they’re comfortable.

– Forming some positive, emotional association.

– Absolutely.

– Right. And that’s really important for adult dogs as well.

– Yeah, throughout their whole life, we should be keeping up their socialization. Just working with them and the environment and using some desensitization encounter conditioning to make them really happy and comfortable.

– With things they’re afraid of or anxious about, absolutely. And we see the development of anxiety and reactivity and stuff like that in dogs that don’t get that continuous socialization throughout adulthood. So we really can’t stress the importance of that enough.