Building a healthy lifestyle for your dog

September 12, 2023

Adopting a dog is often a decade-long commitment. For as long as it’s in your care, your dog’s health and wellness are your responsibility. That’s a serious commitment – one that has to be taken seriously. The commitment is worth it. Having a dog that is happy, thriving and living a fulfilling life far outweighs the time and energy it takes to create a consistent routine. Here are things all dog owners should do to contribute to their dog’s overall health. 

Make smart food choices. 

Animals have distinct dietary needs, dogs included. Learning about your animal and providing nourishing food can help it maintain a healthy weight, regulate its energy, support digestive health and much more. There are thousands of dog food varieties on the market – many of them are good options, but some are not. Talk with your veterinarian about what food options are best for your dog. Most often, vets will recommend varieties that are specific to your dog’s size, breed or stage of life. This will ensure that the food it eats is full of the vitamins, minerals and nutrient values it needs at that time in its life.

Making smart food choices extends beyond what you put in your dog’s bowl. As a general practice, dogs should never eat food that is prepared for humans. The oils, spices and flavors we include in our meals can be toxic to dogs. Sometimes the foods themselves can be dangerous. It’s better to be safe than sorry and keep your dog from eating anything that’s not put in its bowl. 

When it comes to treats, use them in moderation after speaking with your veterinarian. Just like food, some treats may be better for your dog than others. Your vet can help you make a decision about what treats to provide your dog and how to use them sparingly. 

Match the exercise with the dog.

All dogs need exercise, but how much and how often depends on your dog! One of the largest determinants of how much exercise your dog should get is its size. As a general rule, larger dogs will need more rigorous play than smaller dogs. But each dog is different based on its background and current health condition. The best thing to do is incorporate your dog into your outdoor walking routine and closely monitor them to see when they tire out. That’s a good indication of how long you should exercise your dog! You can work to build up stamina over time.  

Prioritize consistent training. 

Structure and hierarchy are important for a dog, which is why training is such a helpful tool! Training your dog can create a happier household and build a mutually respectful bond between you and your pet. Ensure your dog knows core commands – like sit, stay, come, heel and down – to keep both of you safe. Beyond basic house manners, advanced training can be mentally stimulating and fun for both you and your dog! Commit to ongoing training, and you’ll find that it benefits your dog and you! 

Lean into natural instincts. 

Fetch, digging and herding are natural instincts of certain dogs. Lean into these inclinations when you can! Allowing sighthounds to sniff on walks, retrievers to bring you stuffed animals and shepherds to run laps in the backyard can bring them joy and expend energy. 

Teach old dogs new tricks. 

You may be embarking upon a health journey with your dog years after you adopted it. That’s ok! Just like with your personal health journey, it’s never too late to start making positive changes for your animal’s overall health. If you’re starting a new routine with an older dog, ease into it gradually. Transitioning food slowly and gently increasing your amount of exercise can help your dog’s system safely adjust. 

Building a healthier lifestyle for your dog takes work, but it’s an investment worth making! The time you spend playing, exercising, training and enjoying life together is enriching for you and your pet. If you’re looking for a dog to enrich your life, the Humane Society has many! Check out our roster of adoptable dogs and fill out an application to bring your next best friend home. 


Donating to the Humane Society is a meaningful way to make a positive impact on the lives of countless animals. Your generous contributions provide vital support for our mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and find loving homes for abandoned and neglected animals.