Working dogs come in all shapes and sizes. From guard dogs to sheep dogs and sniffer dogs to seeing eye dogs, our canine friends perform a huge range of services for humans that make our lives easier, safer and better. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and the least we can do is make sure that they are happy and healthy, so stop thinking of your working dogs simply as home security systems or service providers and think about what you can do to keep them in the best possible shape.
Just as it is for humans, for dogs the cornerstone of good health is diet. What you feed your dog will directly influence both its long-term health and its ability to perform the tasks you require of it in the short term. There are all sorts of foods for dogs available and as many different pieces of advice about what is best for your dog.
The simplest way to cut through the confusion is to ignore all the marketing and ask a vet what you should be feeding your particular dog. Once you have established a diet, stick to it and avoid the excessive use of treats or feeding your dog scraps from the table.
After diet, the next most important factor in the health of your working dog is exercise. Some canine roles, such as sheep dog, involve a great deal of physical activity. In this case, you will probably not have to worry too much about additional exercise, but many doggy jobs are more in keeping with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
Guard dogs, for example, may spend a lot of their working lives patrolling a very limited area. Make sure you take your working dogs out for regular, long walks. Most dogs have huge energy reserves and it is your responsibility to ensure that they can use them.
Your dog’s mental wellbeing is just as important as its physical health. Don’t think that because yours is a working dog and not a pet, it doesn’t need your love. Dogs are pack animals and crave contact and affection. You are your dog’s pack leader and as such you have a responsibility to make it feel happy, secure and part of the ‘pack’. If you do so, you will be rewarded with unquestioning loyalty. If you don’t, you’re dog is liable to become unhappy, unhealthy and unproductive.
Prevention is better than cure and if you have heeded the advice about diet, exercise and affection you are on the right track. But as with any living creature, health problems can crop up at any time. The trick is to catch them early; and that means regular check ups, just as you would arrange (or should arrange) for yourself.
This should help keep your dog healthy and limit your exposure to expensive veterinary bills. Nonetheless it is a good idea to take out some dog insurance. That way, by means of regular small payments, you can eliminate the risk of large, unexpected bills further down the line.