How to Raise a Dog: Experts & Dog Lovers Weigh In on How

Having a dog means bringing out the different side of you as a human being. The moment you bring a pup at your doorstep, you start turning into a provider, a caregiver, a protector, a listener, a meal planner, and a walker. You ultimately turn into a mom in this picture but with a leash for stroller and a pocket full of kibble.

Becoming the best mom, you can be will make your dog happy and healthy. But if you really want your dog to live out the best life possible, you have to hustle up and be the life coach that your furry friend needs.

Being a life coach is the right mind-set to have when you have your dog’s well-being and quality of life at heart. It simply means knowing when to be firm and when to be fun. When to set boundaries and when to let loose. When to say it’s okay and it’s not okay.

Dogs need someone they can look up to, not only in the physical sense but more on the deeper emotional aspect that they can rely on and emulate. A dog’s little and delicate life rests in your hands. As daunting as it may seem to some, but the truth is, you are everything your pup has. It’s essential for you to put in the work and be responsible.

How to be one and how to raise a happy and healthy pup are real questions a lot of pet owners struggle with. Experts of the dog world, together with pet shops, dog owners, and authors, weigh in and give out their best coaching and caring practices you can quickly start with. They cover a wide range of helpful tips on training, exercising, communicating, and having fun with your lifelong best friend.

Anthony Newman

I’ve found that there are three keys to raising a happy and healthy dog—mentally and emotionally healthy, not just physically:

For truly fulfilling exercise and socializing, staying home won’t cut it. Nor will bonding solely with humans, or even leashed walks. Most dogs benefit vastly—mentally, emotionally, and physically—from daily outdoor off-leash playtime with other dogs. They become calmer, more peaceful, happier, and more obedient. Dog parks are ideal for this. Yes, it requires work, to do safely and therapeutically. And yes, not all dogs can socialize. But most can, when provided the third component of a happy and healthy doggy life.

Leadership isn’t just obedience training (though that’s a helpful part of it). Leadership means leading by example. If you want your dog to be calm and friendly, you must be calm and friendly! It means taking physical control of situations: take your dog for fun, fulfilling, exploratory walks; don’t let them take you for a walk, dragging you down the sidewalk. That trains your dog to run away and fight against you to get what they want. It leads to leash aggression, guarding behavior, and disobedience. Be your dog’s personal trainer, and tour guide through the confusing and often frightening city and human world. Be a rewarding and confident leader. Be strict: they must be calm, peaceful, and obedient. But also be joyfully rewarding: they get all the great things in life that are truly and deeply fulfilling their deepest animal needs, as a result of playing by the human social rules you set and teach.

Sara Ochoa, DVM

There are many ways to keep a pet happy and healthy. Research shows that a healthy dog requires an intricate balance of wellness, including good nutrition, proper hydration, suitable exercise, and good rest. If you provide these things for your dog, they will stay healthy.

A happy dog needs love and attention from its owner. Pets do not require a lot of from their owner, but a little attention and love keep them happy. You do not have to go out and buy expensive toys and treats, most dogs are happy playing with an old sock or snuggling with their owner on the couch while they watch TV.

Katie Ziskind

To raise a healthy dog, you need to have a local vet that you work with regularly. If your dog is sick, you’ll need to have a relationship with your vet so that you can head over that day for an appointment. Also, you’ll need to have a system of purchasing dog food and other supplies regularly. I recommend using an automated delivery system such as repeat delivery from Petco so that you can stay on top of a busy schedule. Also, a healthy dog needs training classes. Therefore, research a local dog trainer and socialize your dog in these classes so that they can learn how to be obedient and friendly. Dog classes can also improve your dog’s happiness and excitement about life. Your dog will need regular exercise to be healthy, so plan for a long walk in the morning and at night. Also, plan to save in a separate bank account specific money for emergencies related to owning your dog, this is one thing many people don’t think about. If your dog has an accident, you could be out $2,000 in one day due to x-rays and vet care. You’ll need to have a special fund to keep your dog healthy.

Carol Bramson

Most people don’t realize the harm we are doing to our pets by feeding them kibble. More than half of dogs and more than 60% of cats are obese. Cancer rates are rising. Lifespans are decreasing. A whole food diet can change the course for pets, putting them on a path to wellness. A whole food diet doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even replacing a fraction of a pet’s diet with whole food can improve their weight and reduce their chances of getting diseases.

David Eagan

There are several factors to optimize a dog’s health and happiness. I will touch on a few here.

The top focus should be health because, without good health, you aren’t going to have a happy dog. Make sure your dog is getting high-quality food, always up to date with vet visits, well groomed for the weather, and taking supplements when appropriate.

For happiness, I always try to make sure my dog knows that I love him. You can’t just say this to them, but you need to show them, and this can be done in several ways. The main way I focus on this is to make sure we spend lots of quality time together—walks, playing, napping, car rides, dog parks. You have to pay attention to your dog’s body language, what makes him really excited and do more of those things.

Dr. Lisa Lippman DVM

Pet care and cleaning tips are especially important now that 70% of pet-less Americans say that concerns over pet messes can prevent them from adopting pets while 58% of pet-owning parents say that cleaning up after pet messes is a stress for them.

Here are tips on how to take the best care of your pets all while keeping your home fresh and clean from their messes.

  1. Bond with your pet
  2. Keep your pet physically and mentally healthy
  3. Best road trip with your pet
  4. Deal with accidents
  5. Create a safe and clean environment for your pet

1. The importance of bonding with your pets
Sometimes, we can’t help but want to cuddle with our pets after a long day at work. It’s often soothing for both us and them. Pets are social creatures and thrive when they’re spending time with us. When you are home from a long day, don’t just fill the food and water bowl and call it a day. It’s important to engage your pet, either by petting them, playing with them, walking them, or simply hanging out on the couch together.
Pet Mess Tip: After all that time on the couch though, you’re bound to notice a smell. Unfortunately, animal hair doesn’t always smell great, and if you like to share your bed and couch with your pets, it’s bound to leave an odor. While it’s recommended to wash your fabrics every other week, not all of us actually do that. Easy solution: spritz Febreze’s Fabric Pet Odor Eliminator Spray in a sweeping motion directly onto your fabrics. The odor removal is instant once the fabrics start to dampen and dry.

2. Keeping your pet physically and mentally healthy
Exercise is both physically and mentally beneficial for most pets. This is true for both dogs and cats, so don’t forget about your feline friends!
Cats require daily exercise or they risk obesity. House cats in particular will often spend their days lounging on the couch unless you encourage them to be active. There are a variety of cat toys on the market that you can use to get your cat off the couch. Having your cat chase a pet laser, enticing them with a toy with dangling feathers, and throwing around a catnip mouse are all great ways to get your cat moving.
Dogs are generally easier to exercise because they go outside, either for walks or to run around on their own in a fenced in backyard. They also tend to enjoy a variety of active games, such as fetch, so exercising your dog shouldn’t feel like too much of a chore. But with all that outdoor activity comes an unwelcome side effect…dirt!
Pet Mess Tip: After a long day in the park or some time playing around the backyard, pets tend to leave their tracks all over your home. The solution is simple, thanks to the pet-friendly Swiffer WetJet Mop Starter Kit, you can easily remove muddy paws while sanitizing your floor.

3. Road tripping with a pet
Summer often times means family road trips. Before you get on the road again, make sure that you’re paying attention to pet-safety etiquette in the car!
First of all, dogs and cats need to be restrained in the car. Whether it’s with a seatbelt (usually only for dogs) or a carrier, it’s important to keep your pet safely and securely buckled in. This helps keep them safe in the event of an accident, reduces stress for them and will reduce the risk of distraction for you.
If your dog likes the fresh air in their face, feel free to open the window a bit, but never so much that they can stick their heads out (it’s not safe).
Also, don’t forget to give them breaks! Your dog will want to stretch his legs and use the toilet just as much as you will during long car rides. Cats will probably prefer to stay in the car, but make sure to offer them fresh water.
Pet Mess Tip: After traveling with your favorite sidekick, perhaps you have found your car is starting to smell like a pet crate? Easy fix! With Febreze’s Fabric Pet Odor Eliminator Spray, lightly spritz in a sweeping motion directly onto your car’s fabrics. If your car’s seating is leather or any other fabric that water spots, instead of using Febreze’s Fabric Pet Odor Eliminator spray, use Febreze’s One Car Vent Clip.

4. Dealing with accidents
Even the most well behaved and house broken pet can have an accident. Illness, eating something they shouldn’t have, old age, and behavioral issues can all lead to messes on your floor. Because accidents are bound to happen with your pet, the trick is to not stress and have cleaning supplies on hand so you can act fast (that’s the best way to protect your floors).
Pet Mess Tip: Quickly soak up and dispose of the mess as much as possible with paper towels. Afterward, use your Swiffer Sweeper and insert the pet-safe WetJet pad onto the mop to take care of the mess for you.

5. Creating a safe and clean environment for your pet:
Pets are inevitably messy. From litter boxes to shedding to food bowls, it can be tricky to stay on top of all the little messes our pets create every day. Litter box areas and food bowl areas are often the biggest culprits of minor pet messes. Dogs have a tendency to splash their food and water around, and cats like to dig in their litter box, often spraying litter around. While you can try and stay on top of the mess by cleaning every day, it’s easier to try and contain the mess to begin with.
Pet Mess Tip: Placing a rimmed tray under the food dishes and litter boxes is a great way to catch a lot of the mess. Then, simply dump the contents of the tray in the trash! For those times when the tray won’t cut it, you can rely on Swiffer’s pet refills to clean quickly and efficiently.

Richard Cross

One way to keep your pet happy is to provide plenty of mental stimulation. A daily walk is essential for physical exercise, but many owners don’t realize how bored a dog can become if left without entertainment for long periods. The good news is that it’s easy to prevent boredom. Trick training is a great option, as you can bond with your pet while getting his brain to work on overdrive. Feeding meals via a puzzle trainer is an alternative if you need a hands-off approach.

Jeff Franklin

Remember, that with any type of training—consistency is the key to success and a happy pup in your home and life.

You can’t work on sit one day and assume your dog will remember it the next day or even next month if you don’t continually work on the obedience—daily—you must work on it regularly and then maintain any training over the years. Practice makes perfect. And practice keeps our four-legged friends from forgetting or getting out of habit.

All training needs to be black or white. Dogs are not people and cannot understand grey areas. Grey areas create uncertainty, and that does not bring joy to your pet’s life or yours. If you don’t want your dog to think “It’s okay to jump” on Aunt Sue or Grandpa George or the neighbor across the street, then you cannot encourage your pet to jump on you. Same applies to all other behaviors you do not want long term. If you don’t want your adult dog barking at other dogs, do not encourage them doing it as a puppy. If you don’t want them on your couch, but your spouse lets them . . . then that is a grey area. The rules for a happy dog need to be the same across the board with all members of the household.

Never leave a puppy or new dog unsupervised. If you don’t want your dog chewing on things which could be dangerous for their health (and also often hefty on your pocketbook) . . . then do not leave them alone without supervision. If you are cooking at the stove, your dog is unsupervised. If you are running out to the mailbox, your dog is unsupervised. If you’re in the bathroom with the door closed (even for 2 minutes) . . . this is unsupervised.

The biggest item which leads to a happy dog . . . exercise. Exercise daily is necessary for the health and happiness of your pet. They have 4 legs and need to use them, stretch them out, run them, and get their energy out.

J. B. Shepard

Socializing your dog and taking them on walks are obviously important activities, but it’s not enough to simply be around your dog or do things alongside your pup. If you want to raise a happy and healthy dog, you need to actively engage your pet on a regular basis.

Dogs that live in households with actively engaged caretakers tend to be much happier and easier to train. 9 times out of 10 when we meet a client who is struggling with training, it’s because they’re not paying enough attention to their dog.

We notice it immediately whenever these clients walk in the studio. They’ll complain about how their dog can’t be trained and warn us about how tough their pup will be to photograph. Cut to 15 minutes later, they’re absolutely floored by how well the dog listens to us during their shoot and they want to know what trick or special technique we used. But there really is no trick. The only reason the dogs listen to us is because they recognize that we’re listening to them—it’s really that simple.

A dog is one of the best investments you can make, in that a dog will always return whatever you toss at it.

Fetch puns aside, it’s important to take time out of your day to look for and respond to your pup’s nonverbal cues. Just being present in tiny moments can really add up in a significant way over the lifetime of your pet.

When you come home, and your dog comes up to greet you, take a moment to kneel and greet them back. Your dog has been alone and waiting all day to see you again. Your groceries can wait.

When you’re petting your dog, put your phone down and look them in the eyes. Be there. Be in the moment. Your dog can tell when you’re distracted.

Whenever you head to the kitchen for a snack, grab a light low-calorie snack for your dog. You might be surprised to see how much your pup appreciates even a single piece of kibble when it’s gifted by their favorite person.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not about what you gave them. To your dog, what is important is that you thought about them in the first place.

Jessica Gore

It is a balanced and holistic lifestyle awareness that lends itself to the well-being of your pup! Life enrichment and education are key, along with the basic biological and emotional needs of your companion. The right dog trainer will be able to refer to Maslow’s hierarchy and best determine that all your pup’s need is being met, to raise a happy and healthy pet! Empathizing with your pup and their experiences will help create a positive relationship.

Nita Sweeney

Morgan, my four-year-old yellow labrador, wasn’t unhappy, but when I began to run with him, he turned from contented to joyful. We started with sixty-seconds of slow jogging and gradually worked our way up to long runs. He and I spent many hours, covering miles and miles on the streets of our suburban neighborhood. Physical activity performed in the company of one of his pack-mates (me) improved his physical health and brought him great pleasure. I never put on my running shoes without him rushing to my side. “Let’s go!” is his favorite command.

Dane Kolbaba

How to best care for different types of dogs may depend on the breed, but generally speaking (for dogs as well as for a number of other pets) I’d say the most important aspect is forming a bond with them. Dogs tend to be on the emotionally needy side, and taking the time to bond with your dog, whether that’s playing games with them or simply having them near you while you watch TV, would probably already make their day. Positive affirmation goes a long way too (who’s a good boy?) and of course, other essentials would be keeping the dog clean—and keeping his or her environment clean—and feeding them adequate amounts of healthy food.

Zazie Todd

Use food to train your dog, and know what your dog likes best so that you can motivate them. Positive reinforcement is the best way to train a dog because it is fun for you and the dog and can help to build a good relationship between you. I like to use little pieces of chicken but roast beef, liver treats, cheese, are all great too. Believe it or not, scientific research has shown that dogs work harder for better quality rewards. Think about training as a fun enrichment activity for dogs of all ages, and a way to help your dog learn how to behave in situations they might otherwise find difficult.

Debi McKee

Raising a dog is a lot like raising kids. Dogs, just like kids, need loving direction on how to behave in a respectful manner. Consistency and guidance will be key in raising a happy dog. I like to remind people that what they get what they pet. If you pet or give your dog attention while he is jumping on you or doing annoying behavior, he will continue that behavior. Give your dog rules and boundaries, just as you would your children.

Feeding your dog healthy foods will help your dog stay happy too. Imagine if you eat junk food all day and never eat any fresh food… you’d feel sluggish, cranky and just blah. The same goes for your dog. Feed him the best quality food you can afford and add in fresh foods like fruits and veggies. Our dogs favorite are carrots and bananas.

Stephanie Seger

While there are other aspects that enhance a dog’s life, the absolute most important requirements for raising a happy, healthy dog are the following:

Health Care
Dogs must have access to routine veterinary care to prevent disease and provide medical treatment as necessary. Veterinarians provide important services needed for optimum health and wellbeing for all dogs, especially senior dogs who are at greatest risk of developing chronic and degenerative diseases that result in a decrease in quality of life.

Dogs are social animals who thrive when they are able to be close to their people and interact positively with the world around them. To the contrary, when dogs are confined, secluded and not provided ample socialization, especially during early growth periods, they are more likely to suffer from fear, anxiety, fear aggression, and other behavioral problems. According to the ASPCA’s National Rehoming Survey, 47% of re-homed dogs were relinquished due to pet problems including problematic behaviors, aggressive behaviors, grew larger than expected, or health problems owner couldn’t handle.

Maintaining a Proper Weight
Overweight dogs are more likely to get diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, orthopedic and joint conditions, skin conditions, and liver disease. Maintaining proper weight through a high-quality diet and adequate exercise throughout a dog’s life is critical to good health and longevity.

Often overlooked, but when a dog owner is able to read their dog’s body language, identify signs of stress, they are able to respond more quickly and more appropriately. Because socialization and training are essential to raising a bomb proof canine good citizen, improved communication between dog and dog owner enhance the partnership between them. This enhanced partnership makes dog training more efficient and effective as compared to more traditional, one-size-fits-all, dog training methods.

Aurora Pets

As difficult as it is remembering to have boundaries in what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t, agree as a family or individual in what is acceptable behavior. Small bite-size training sessions and showering your puppy or dog with attention when good behavior is taking place will ultimately lead to both you and your dog leading a happier life. Remember always to make time for fun and games, enjoy every single moment you get with them and make life with your dog an adventure. They are not blessed with long lives, but we can make every moment count.

Pet Lovers Centre

Raising a healthy and happy dog involves proper training, communication, and nutrition.

Some owners tend to humanize pets, and as a result, they don’t know how to behave around them or communicate effectively with them. Hence, once you bring a pet home, it’s essential to ensure that he has gone through proper training, be it at home or by attending professional obedience courses. Having a well-disciplined dog strengthens communication and your bond, making him a safer, happier, and healthier pet.

Next, be observant of his behavior and communicate with him. For example, patting your dog or giving him a belly rub will make him feel at home. As dogs require the presence of a pack leader, establish your position by using tools such as leashes. A simple tug of the leash indicates to your pet to steer away from danger.

Just like human beings, dogs need a variety of nutrients in their diets too. Ensure that you’re aware of any food allergies or digestion problems and purchase the most suitable food and treats for him. Lastly, when in doubt, always consult a veterinarian.

Sadie Cornelius

A healthy dog is a happy dog so start your pup young with preventative care. This includes annual exams, ongoing oral care and regular baths and grooming. Even if your dog is in good condition, routine care can add up quickly so pet parents should consider pet wellness plans. For a small monthly fee it helps cover the costs of tests, vaccinations, teeth cleanings, flea and tick treatments and more. In addition, eating healthy can contribute to a pup’s overall health and happiness. There are a number of fresh dog food delivery and all-natural products that can accommodate dogs of all sizes and diets. Dogs can improve our overall health and help us live happier lives too.

Key Takeaways

With the right amount of patience, time, and effort, it’s possible to lead your dog to a better life filled with happiness and good health, based on the answers given above. The good thing about these answers is that they’re not only from experts in the field but also from true dog lovers who have willingly changed their lives themselves to be better carers for their furry friend. How to raise a healthy and happy dog includes the following essential takeaways:

  • You can never go wrong with proper nutrition. What you feed your dog can either extend or limit his or her life and overall disposition. They are what they eat. Make it a habit to be mindful and keep track of your pup’s daily intake.
  • Bonding and spending quality time with your dog is a pure form of happiness for them.
  • Socialization or playtime with other dogs is critical for honing your pup’s behavior. Same goes for discipline. You must learn how to clearly communicate what is right and what is wrong to your dog consistently.
  • Exercise is a must for dogs. They will benefit mentally, emotionally, and physically from it. Being confined in a limited space for a long time, alone, can definitely dampen their mood and may cause behavioral problems if not dealt with accordingly.
  • Leading by example is vital for dogs. A pet owner must project good qualities that his or her dog can follow. Being calm and friendly are traits that can be trickled down to your pups.
  • Emergency funds must be set up for pets as well. As the pack leader, you must always be prepared for any kind of medical or health-related emergencies.
  • Always consult a veterinarian.


Showing how much you love your dogs can come in many forms. But nothing beats leading them to a better, healthier, happier, life. As you are everything that your dog has, it’s important that you have the proper mind-set when things don’t go the way you want it to.

Dogs have their own unique traits. It’s up to you to lead them to the right path and help them develop good habits in terms of eating, exercising, and socializing. Keep in mind these are vital components that affect a dog’s overall disposition and behavior. The next time you get home and your dogs go running toward you, be sure you give them the time of day.

Bonding time with your dog is his or her greatest joy. For you can love many pets in this lifetime, but your dog will only love you.

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