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The changing needs of a dog – from an active puppy to a calm senior

By 31 March 2023No Comments

Are you sure you know enough about your pet’s needs? Would you win the title of the owner of the year? Maybe this article will show you the areas that are worth exploring to make the joint adventure in the dog-human pack the best possible.

What needs do dogs have?

A puppy learns everything, it can be hyperactive and make a lot of noise. A senior begins to tone down and definitely sleeps more. Some things are obvious to us and similar to people. Let’s analyze what changes in critical moments of a pet’s life. After all, we want to provide our pet with the best possible conditions wagging its tail with happiness.

The obligation to meet the needs rests with us throughout the dog’s life, if we want to live in harmony with it and have a healthy, happy companion by its side. Ignoring or skipping a dog’s needs can lead to many problems, not only health but also behavioural ones.

When deciding to live with a quadruped, remember that not only a puppy has greater needs. Of course, every dog is different, but we can distinguish at least eight basic needs that apply to every dog. Regardless of its size, race, character or gender. We divide them into inflexible and flexible.

Basic needs of every dog

Inflexible, or non-negotiable, are those that must be implemented daily for the dog’s body to function properly. Failure to meet them can in extreme cases lead to death. Inflexible needs include:

  • a sense of security,
  • nutrition,
  • sleep,
  • care.

Flexible needs are those that are necessary to keep your dog comfortable and well. Short-term failure to implement them will not cause serious health disorders. We include:

  • activity,
  • mental stimulation,
  • fun,
  • reproduction.

There are also needs that many owners don’t know about, don’t understand or ignore. And this is a big mistake because every dog has psychological needs. They are different from humans and are extremely important to this species. These include:

  • sniffing,
  • biting/chewing,
  • digging,
  • contact with other dogs,
  • searching areas,
  • contact, and time spent with the owner.

The most attention and care from the guardian requires the initial stage of life and advanced maturity of the quadruped. When we are young, many behaviours and habits are just being formed, and our task is to properly adjust the rules prevailing in our herd. As a senior, our common everyday life may change strongly again due to the progressive limitations of the dog’s body. Our life with a dog is and will be a dynamic process. What should you keep in mind at these key stages?

When puppy joins our home

The first months of a dog’s life are a very important time in the life of the whole family. During this time, behaviours are encoded and habits are consolidated. The good news is that the pet shows more plasticity and flexibility during this period, and therefore is most susceptible to learning or training.

A puppy needs a lot of care. So let’s do everything to ensure that it feels safe with us. A youngster needs more of everything – more sleep, patience and attention. Its gums are itchy, developing the need to chew on everything that enters its mouth. You can prepare for this by offering your puppy various types of chews so that it will not destroy objects at your house. You have to think for the toddler and remember to choose safe materials so that it does not get hurt.

The changing needs of a dog - from an active puppy to a calm senior

During this period, you should also remember about specialized food for babies, which contains substances that help the immune system and the dynamically growing body develop properly and healthily. And apart from movement, you should remember to provide your baby with a comfortable rest. An adult dog needs 14 to 18 hours of sleep a day, and a puppy even more. This is also the time when it is worth enabling the dog to have frequent contact with other people, children, dogs and other animals, and give the dog a chance to explore new places. It’s best to take it with you wherever you can. Thanks to this, we increase the likelihood that we will have a brave and self-confident dog by our side.

Puppies need to be taken outside several times a day to meet their physiological needs. The more often we take our little one out, the lower the probability of “accidents”. It is also the time to teach the toddler good manners. Our main duty in raising a puppy is to introduce it to our human world, the so-called socialization. We must familiarize it with the environment in which it will live.

However, remember not to overdo it and introduce it to the novelties in stages, because the excess of stimuli can overwhelm and stress it. It’s a process, but only well-conducted socialization will allow your puppy to live a normal, conflict-free life in human society.

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Initially, the puppy communicates with us using sounds, but it is also worth observing its behaviour. The position of the tail and ears is like our facial expressions. For example, when the ears are placed backwards, it means that the dog is afraid or feels insecure, and a tucked tail has a similar meaning. By biting, whining and general anxiety, puppies reveal that they need something, so let’s not ignore these behaviours. We should constantly observe the puppy, this will allow us to understand the signals it sends. Thanks to this, we will recognize the current needs faster and avoid many problems that may arise if we do not meet the needs of the dog toddler on time.

Let’s remember that a tired dog, just like a small child, can be moody, and thus can cause mischief. If you suspect that it is tired, do not correct the behaviour, but let it rest.

A senior citizen at home

When a dog is a senior, its behaviour or nutritional needs change, but its attachment to the owner certainly does not weaken. Undoubtedly, however, this time may be more demanding for us than in previous years. When does a dog become a senior? It depends on the breed, theoretically larger breeds age faster, but the conventional limit universal for all dogs is 8 years. Our pet is then around 55-60 years old, and we can begin to clearly see the first changes in its appearance and behaviour. What are they?

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Obesity problems

With age, energy demand decreases, and metabolism slows down. How to know it? Our dog may start to gain weight. The role of a caring caregiver is to adjust the diet to the decreasing physical activity and digestive capacity. Even if the dog’s appetite has not decreased, it is worth correcting the portion. Obesity is dangerous, it can significantly worsen a pet’s life and even shorten its life. Seniors are recommended to give food dedicated to this age, with reduced fat content, which is also a source of quality protein. Mono-protein foods from easily digestible sources of meat, such as turkey or fish, will be highly digestible.

Vision and hearing problems

Do you notice that your dog has trouble localizing sounds or facing the wrong direction? Be alert to be able to react quickly, because sometimes veterinary help can improve the condition. Hearing loss makes it difficult for us to communicate with the pet. Hearing loss is very common among ageing dogs. Remember that senior dogs need more frequent visits to the vet. The doctor can detect the problem at an early stage and it may turn out that they will remove it with surgery. However, if the loss of hearing is related only to age, treat it as a clear signal to change the pet’s diet.

If you notice that your dog is clumsy or stops wanting to move, it may be a sign that it is starting to lose its eyesight. It is then necessary to take special care of its comfort, facilitating access to food and drink. Your attitude is extremely important to your dog. The dog can read the emotions of its owner, so it is worth being patient and understanding and accepting the quadruped who suddenly reluctantly uses the stairs or knocks over the water bowl again.

Movement, immunity and skin issues

Age spares no one, no matter the species. Dogs also experience progressive muscle and joint pain, which can effectively discourage them from long walks or even leaving a comfortable bed. This is the time when it is worth giving food enriched with ingredients that strengthen the joints. However, if you see that the pain makes it difficult to enjoy everyday activities, a good vet should remedy it by prescribing the right medications or supplements.

Does your dog scratch or bite more often? Take it to the vet as soon as possible, as it may be infected. In a mature dog, sporadic changes in the skin or coat may also begin to appear. Just accept that as your dog ages, its immunity declines and they are more susceptible to illness.

The changing needs of a dog - from an active puppy to a calm senior

The greater the comfort, the bigger the satisfaction

How can you make the reality of your dog more pleasant? With age, a properly selected, “healthy” bed is more and more important for the dog. Not only will it increase comfort, but it can actually stop the progression of joint pain. It’s also normal for your previously powerful and energetic dog to find pleasure in lazing around. Older dogs spend more and more time on their beds.

In order for your life together to be easy, it is worth satisfying the dog’s needs every day, but also reacting to those that change. When your bond is strong and satisfying, it will be filled with tail wagging, happy squeaking, and licking at every stage. Satisfied needs make the dog happier. And a happy dog is a happier owner.