Take The 30 Day Happier, Healthier Dog Challenge

We all like to think we’re taking the best care of our dogs. I do too.

But then I learn something different and find out that I could be doing more. That I could be making my dog’s life even better.

While this post was written in December, I am not big on New Years Resolutions becaues I don’t beleive the first of the year is the only time you should make a promise to do something differently.

I would like pet owners to take this challenge at whatever point during the year they find it.

Photo Credit: Canva/Capuski

Note: I am not a veterinarian. I’m just a dog owner trying to improve her dog’s lives and help others do the same. Please check with your veterinarian before starting anything new you are not confident with (ex. suplements, exercise).

What is the 30 Day Happier, Healthier Dog Challenge?

We are bombarded with new information every day. It can be overwhelming.

I know each time I am presented with the latest scientific study on dogs, or pet trend, I start to feel like I’m not a good enough pet parent.

But I am a firm believer in:

  1. Where you are at now with taking care of your dog is great.

I don’t beleive in using new information to make ourselves feel bad if we are unable or uncomfortable changing the way we take care of our dogs.

2. Improving your dog’s life can be incremental. Taking one tiny step to improve yoru dog’s life is sufficient.

So I decided to come up with this challenge in hopes of nudging you to make just a few small changes in your dog’s life.

We will tackle one primary area of pet care per week – the 4 areas that I think are the most important – for a month.

During that week, you will examing a specific area, do some additional research if needed, and try to make one tiny change that will improve your dog’s health and happiness.

What Are the Four Pillars of Dog Care?

Again, I am not a veterinarian. This is just my humble pet owner opinion.

There are many theories on what pet care is essential and how it’s categorized.

Personally, I consider most everything I do for my dogs to fall into one of these 4 primary categories.

  1. Nourishment
  2. Play and Exercise
  3. Training
  4. Medical care (Veterinary Care, grooming, etc.)

I regularly look at each of these 4 categories of care to see if I can be doing anything differently to help make my dogs healthier and happier.

The challenge gives you promts in these four areas.

How Do I Take the Challenge?

Taking the 30 Day Happier, Healthier Dog Challenge is pretty simple.

Choose a start date and then work on one of the 4 pillars of pet care each week for a month.

Working on them can mean:

  • Reflecting on what you are currently doing
  • Doing 5-10 minutes of reasearch so you are more informed
  • Seeing that there is one small change you can make that will make your dog happier or healther and trying it out
  • Making a major change
  • Deciding this is an area where no improvement is needed and posible and moving on

Below are the 4 pillars and examples of what you can consier with each.

Note: you don’t have to do these in order. You can choose what you want to work on first.

Nourishment

This pillar has to do with what your dog is eating – food, supplements, treats, chews, etc.

Step 1: take a look at each of these categories (more below).

Step 2: see if you can make an incremental improvement somewhere.

Here are some examples:

Dog food ingredients

Look at the ingredients of your dog’s food and choose a food that is at least a one-step improvement from what your dog is curently eating.

If your dog’s current food has a lot of fillers like corn or peas – the higher up on the ingredient list something is, there more there is in the food – look for a food with less of them.

A great resource to check the quality of your dog’s current food quality rating is Dog Food Advisor.

You can also check out the list of what I feed my dogs to keep them active and healthy.

Kibble dog food in a bowl on a wood background

Supplements

Consider adding or changing supplements.

If you are not giving your dog any supplements, maybe it’s a good time to start incorporating one or two.

Almost every dog can benefit from a joint supplement, some kind of omega oil, or probiotic.

If you are alreay giving your dog a supplement, consider checking to see if there is a higher quality or more effective one on the market.

For example, not all joint supplements are created equally. Some have higher concentrations of key ingredients and scientific studies behind them.

For ideas, review my list of supplements I give my dogs.

Dog Treats

Make sure you are giving high quality treas that contain the appropriate amount of calories for your dog’s size and the quantity you give them a day.

The thing that matters most to me when considering dog treats is ingredients. I want to choose only the highest quality.

To, that primarily means all, or mostly, meat.

As with your dog’s food, take a look at the list of ingredients on the treat package and consider using something higher quality.

My second consideration is the number of calories because I like to reward my small dogs for good behavior frequently.

It’s easy for too many reats to make them fat.

Take a look at the calories listed on the package for your go-to dog treats.

I’m comfortable giving my small dogs treats that are 1-3 calories each.

You can view my list of favorite, low-calorie dog treats HERE.

While you’r at it, take a close look at any chews you’re giving your dog.

Stay away from those that are treated with chemicals, and aren’t easily digested, like rawhide and nylon chews.

Calories

Feeding your dog properly doesn’t just mean considering the quality of the food, treat, or chew.

It also means considering your dog’s daily calorie need/intake and controlling portions as necessary to make sure they stay at the proper weight.

Use this calorie calculator for dogs to see how many your dog needs a day.

Note: you may need to add 10-20% more calories if your dog is more active than average.

Then weigh or measure food and treat portions and look at the calories on the package to make sure your dog is getting no more or less than they need.

If you have a Dachshund, you can also read this detailed description of how to tell if your Dachshund is at the correct weight.

It’s important to consider food, treats, food scraps, supplements and chews – everything that goes into your dog’s mouth – when totaling the calories consumed for the day.

Play and Exercise

This category includes:

  • physical exercise like walking your dog, hiking with your dog, or playing sports.
  • mental stimulation like dog puzzle games, lick mats, snuffle mats, and other treat toys
  • Engagement with you – undivided attention like play

Let’s discuss each of these separately.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness can mean walking your dog reglarly but it doesn’t have to end there.

But it can start there.

If you are not walking your dog, try going for a 15 minute walk a couple times a week.

If you are already walking your dog regularly, try increasing the number of walks a day, the length of your walks, or how many days a week you go.

If you feel like your dog is alreay getting enough exercise from walking, or you are physically unable to do more yourelf, consider doing dog gym exercises to strengthen their muscles.

Mental Stimulation

Mental stimlation, or mental exercise, is as important for your dog as physical.

While walking, hiking in the woods, or sports can provide some mental stiumulation, it’s not the complete picture.

Besides processing their surroundings when out and about, dogs need to use their smarts and natural insincts to solve puzzles or figure out to do something.

Hint: they will do this on their own if you don’t give them something to do like stealing and chewing your slippers).

Consider incorporating one of these brain games or dog puzzles into their routine.

Undivided Attention

Most of us got a dog to provide us companionship. But don’t forget we need to provide companionship to our dogs too.

If you’re constantly busy rushing in and out of the house, or distracted by TV, social media, or household chores, your dog may feel ignored.

While dogs don’t feel the range of emotions people do, look at any dog that is not getting the focused attention they crave and you can tell.

They may look depressed, bored, or sad.

Make sure that you are turing your total focus to your dog at least a couple times a day.

Sometimes a little is all they need to be happy all day.

Training

While training is a form of mental stimulation, it deserves a specific call-out.

Well trained dogs are easier to live with, get yelled at or punished less, and are more enjoyable companions while you are traveling or going to events.

I admit I was sorely lacking in this area until about 4 years ago when I brought my first Dachshund puppy home.

Since then, I have made a slow but consistent effort to train her to my routine and to be well behaved.

I’ve even taught my senior Dachshund a few new things in the process.

A couple of the most important things I have taught my Dachshunds are to come back to me when called and leave it.

It truly is never to late to teach an older dog new tricks, so if there is something about your Dachshund’s behavior you don’t like, or that that causes tension in or out of the house, consider:

Medical Care

Medical care includes veterinary care, grooming, and being prepared to handle emergencies.

Veterinary Care

Regular veterinary care is important.

Some people don’t take their dog to the vet unless the the dog is clearly sick or injured.

I’m not judging – veterinary visits can be costly and post-pandemic waiting times can be long.

Ideally though, your dog would get an annual checkup.

Your vet can check your dog’s vitals, physical appearance, and feel in all the telling places to monitor whether something has changed with your pet’s health.

It’s even suggested that older dogs recieve a senior blood panel to act as a baseline for future comparison of blood tests so any changes can be noted.

If it’s been a while since your dog has been to the vet for a checkup, you may want to book one.

Grooming

I consider grooming to be part of medical care.

Dog nails that are allowed to grow too long can cause pain, are more likely to break, and can cause your dog to trip and fall.

If your dog has long hair and develops mats, they can trap bacteria, tear the skin, and cause pain.

Not bathing your dog can cause bacteria to build up and lead to skin irritation and infections (but be sure not to bathe your dog too often).

Grooming also give you or your dog’s groomer an opporunity to feel your dog’s body for suspicious lumps, bumps, and sores.

I’ve been very vocal about brushing not being the only way to clean your dog’s teeth so I get it if you don’t want to do that or your dog hates it.

But there are things you can do to help keep your dog’s teeth clean.

See the brusheless dog teeth cleaning strategy I use if you want to know more.

So if it’s been while since you’ve clipped your dog nails, combed out mats, or done anyting for your dog’s teeth, try doing something now.

Emergency Planning

Emergency planning means preparing for the future in case something goes wrong.

Consider signing up for pet insurance, getting a Care Credit card specifically for veterinary care, or starting a savings account for your pooch.

Properly preparing for the future also means making or buying a dog first aid kit.

But don’t stop there because you need to know how to properly use what’s in the kit.

If you never have, consider getting certified in pet first aid.

I’ve taken about 10 different classes and I think the best is from Walks and Wags but even the 35-minute pet first aid class from the Red Cross is better than nothing.

Final Thoughts

When you found this article, I assume you are taking the best care of your dog you can given your knowledge and resources.

But when we know better, we do better (within our means).

I hope this 30 day challenge will help you get out of your pet care rut and make a change in you pet’s life to improve it.

A hundred tiny, incrimental steps add up and can help your dog live a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life.

We all like to think we're taking the best care of our dogs. I do too. But then when I learn something different, I find out that I could be doing more. That I could be making my dog's life even better. Take this challenge to discover what you could be doing better. #pethealth #doghealth

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.

57 Comments

  1. WE ARE IN! GoGo is a pain in the rain for walking, but Pretzel and I are in! There are days I know we won’t get it in (life happens) but the more the better. Great idea!!

    1. I might have to make the same adaptation with Chester and Gretel. Gretel doesn’t mind the rain as much. I will try to wait until we get a rain break so I can take them both out but you know how some days go here in western washington 🙂

  2. Woooo! I love it! And yes, we’re in! Now I can totally justify going to get that cool Fitbit pedometer tomorrow. I NEED it for the challenge! 😛 The Idita Walk starts in February, btw, and you can break it up into any time increments that you choose. So, if you hike an hour and a half on a Saturday, it counts towards your total time. Bunny and I both wear our past year’s pins on our backpacks because I’m geeky like that! And we’ll be celebrating the new year with our annual New Year’s hike, so I’ll be off to a good start. Cn you tell I’m excited?

    1. Thanks for joining us. Another blogger friend is doing it with us too. I suggested that maybe we could write a guest post for each other’s blogs talking about the challenges we have faced and how we have adapted during the challenge. On another note, you might find this comparison review about the FitBit interesting

      I will think more seriously about the Idita Walk. It would be fun to do that together too.

  3. Oh! I love it. We tend to get a bit complacent about daily walks in the midst of a cold, wet Pacific Northwest winter (*you know*). Mr. Felix has been watching his ounces and a walking challenge might be just what he needs. I can’t promise we’ll be able to walk *every day* (Felix and I melt in the pouring rain. We’re made of sugar) but we’re going to do our best!

    1. That’s ok if you can’t do it every day. I mean, the idea is to shoot for that but I know that sometimes things come up that you just can’t get around.

      1. Pac. West driving rain seems like a legit excuse/total cop out all at the same time. I wonder if I can buy a plastic bubble to walk in?

  4. I just saw this on Kol’s Notes so count me in. I have three dogs at two different houses that love to go for walks.

  5. We’re In!

    We joined you in the Imperfection Challenge at the beginning of December and it’s been great…I have posted every day this month (some posts better than others)& it’s helped me form the habit…Thanks for that.

    So we’re ready to tackle a new challenge with you…Gizmo & I will be out there New Year’s morning and will add an update to our Follow-Up Friday post.

    1. Glad to have you join us. I did really good on the Imperfection challenge until half way through the month. Hopefully this one goes better. Ha, ha.

  6. We’re totally IN! And we love the idea. Momma’s working on a guest blog post right now about doggie fitness and weight management which will be published in early January. I’m in really good shape and “perfect” weight per my vet, but momma is a different story, so we need to work on getting her shaped up. She’s pretty good about taking me walking every day most of the time, but sometimes she has difficulty getting motivated when it’s dark and cold when she gets home from work, or when it’s rainy. And I want a walk EVERY day – at least one. And December, January and February are probably the worst months for us, so it’s a great time to do this kind of challenge. We think it’s totally okay to break it up into shorter 10 or 15 minute walks – however you can fit it in.

    We don’t know about this “fit bit” thing but momma uses the free Map My Fitness app on her iPhone and really likes it because it keeps track of time, distance, pace, etc., and even maps out your walk.

    your pal,
    Garth

    1. Be sure to let me know when your guest post publishes. I would love to read it. I have used MapMyFitness but have been using Strava lately. It’s designed for running but works for walking too. If you have iPhone you can try the SlimDoggy ap. They haven’t made one for Android yet so I haven’t checked it out myself…but it looks promising.

  7. This is a great idea for you and the pups and anyone else that does not get out much. Our problem is that mom has us out all the time and we are worn out. We walk 2 hrs+ a day in all types of weather so we won’t join the challenge but it is a wonderful idea for those that aren’t out as much!

    1. That is great. I wish I had the time to take Chester, Gretel and my lazy ass out for 2 hours of walking a day 🙂

  8. Hi Jess,
    Life with a Labrador forced the issue years ago. She gets a 1-3 hr. walk EVERY day and year ’round. One walk in the morning or two shorter walks, depending on our human schedules. We feel the benefits of excercise and enjoy the time to relax and bond with the dog every day. She gets smelling, moving legs,socialization and a little training along the way. She is a happy dog without behavioral problems and seems well adjusted in her place in the pack of our family. She keeps us skinny! If you are in Sequim; we’ll make sure you keep the commitment while here!

    1. That would be fun. I will let you know when I come to town. It should be withing the next two or three weeks.

  9. Great goal. It’s hard with little dogs to have an excuse to get out in the bad weather. Throw in a bigger dog, like Torrey, and you really need to get out.
    I would love to see your walking pics, post them and tag them #roxysdogwalkpicaday. Facebook, twitter, instagram, and Goggle+ That goes for everyone that wants too. I will be rooting for you when we are walking too.

  10. Blimey you guys have little legs but 30 minutes would be a down grade for me. I get at least 2 hours a day. Hey sometimes more when I am squiggle hunting and my human can’t catch me. Have fun with your 30 minutes little ones. Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

    1. I am sure they wish they could be out longer. I am just super busy so I had to start with the low-hanging fruit to make sure it was something I could actually achieve. If the mood strikes we will walk longer than the 30 minutes.

  11. We are IN, Jess. As I’ve told others, with the number of dogs here, I always have a walking partner and two, at least, want to get out and motor any time I approach the door. I need to get fit. Your entire post reflected much of what I’ve been thinking now I’m recovered from surgery and done with medical issues for a bit.

    With almost all the dogs back home, they, too, not only need physical activity but mental stimulation as well. I’ll post a 30/30 blog entry weekly and will follow yours. Are you making a badge? I like badges :).

    Here’s to personal and mental fitness in 2013.

    1. That’s great Roberta. I understand how health issues can derail you and make it hard to get back to fitness. I thought about making a badge but I am no good at it. I might be able to come up with one but I always have trouble making code for it…so I just make people cut and paste.

  12. As I have a dog who would destroy my house if she wasn’t walked at least an hour every day, preferably more, I have learned to suck it up and get out there. But before I lived with a wackadoodle dog, I was the epitome of lazy. If I didn’t have to go to work, I probably wouldn’t have left the house much at all.

    This year I am trying to get back into running. It’s something I love to do once I am doing it but have a hard time motivating myself towards. Perhaps I will join your challenge and instead of walking 30 minutes, which I already do, I will vow to run or jog for at least 30 minutes a day. Hopefully this will also help get me ready for the 10K I am signed up for in May. I will do my best anyway!

    1. That would be great if you did it but with running. I am trying to get back to running after years off and with bad knees and back……so I am not sure I will be able to do it. I will sneak some little running spurts into the 30 minutes if I can though. Chester and Gretel love to run 🙂

  13. Good luck on your new commitment. I actually wanted a dog so that I wasn’t alone taking my walks and it is the best excercise you can do and I believe the best way to bond with your dog. Very proud of you and look forward to following your progress!

  14. I never have a problem walking my guide dogs pups 30 minutes a day, but Linus and Stetson don’t always get out for a nice 30 minute walk. Linus, Stetson, and I will join you for the challenge.

    By the way, I remember reading a long time ago on a productivity blog that one way to form a habit is to do something 30 days in a row. Hopefully this challenge will turn into a habit for me in the boys!

    1. Yes…you must be fair to Stetson and Linus! Ha, ha. And yes, I am hoping that if I can do this for 30 days it will become routine for us. We’ll see how it goes.

        1. I haven’t but I will check him out. I am finding that the key to me sticking with things right now is breaking the challenges up into small time-frames…a week, 10 days, a month, etc.

  15. Sound like a good plan. I was going to do a new years resolution where I would either walk the dogs or do the elliptical everyday for 30 min. If I do your thing I can forget the damn elliptical!!!! Ha 🙂

  16. You live in Southern California and you were considering running INSIDE on an elliptical. Get out and walk that dog in the sunshine girl! Ha, ha. I look forward to hearing about how it goes for you.

  17. I have a six-month old twiner, and got a FitBit as a holiday gift. We both could use the exercise and companionship. We are going to go for the 30/30.

  18. Great idea! Tara thanks you for this challenge. She loves to walk but has trouble getting her mommy’s butt in gear. Would do us both good in many ways. Helps to be accountable, then once it is a habit hopefully we will continue to walk. Count us in on the 30/30. Yeah! Tara sends her thanks.

  19. Okay…My hands are shaking as I make this commitment. I KNOW Y-Bo, my pup, will be ecstatic when I give him the news that I’ve signed us up for this thing. Adventure Jess, thanks for a brilliant idea–although come a frigid, January morning know that some lazy, overweight baby boomer in Chicago is cursing while she freezes! LOL

    1. Great, I will. These FitBit things seem to be really popular. I work at REI and just found about them recently when I went back to work after a long break. I have a speed-distance monitor that fits onto your shoe.

  20. Great idea! Glad to see folks commiting to join in. I would too… but we already do at least 45 min every day and most days more like an hour, sometimes more. Of course, living in San Diego means we don’t often have bad weather as an excuse to not go out! And having an 18 mo old pup means we NEED to get out there or suffer the consequences!

    I always say, a crazy puppy makes a great exercise plan!

    1. It sounds like you have a great routine. We would have a better one too if we had great weather like you 🙂

      1. It figures… Shortly after bragging about our great weather we went for our hour long walk and (of course) at the farthest point from home we got dumped on with a very heavy cold rain! Came home soaking wet. Rita was not a happy camper and neither was I!

        Knew I should not have bragged about our weather! 😛

  21. We would love to join the challenge but Bella is in rehab for a torn shoulder muscle and is only up to 15 minutes a day walks. Can I do a 15-minute walk with her and get back to my 30-minute runs? We’d love the motivation of joining the challenge.

    1. Of course! I really think challenges are about stretching your routine while keeping them manageable for you….making it a stretch but something you have a reasonable chance of success with. There are a few other people modifying this challenge too. It’s just about getting out and doing something regularly.

  22. My dachshund, Frida, and I would like to join you on this challenge. We barely made it yesterday and I was so mad at myself for putting other things/people in front of my needs/wants. I need to be better about prioritizing me time.

  23. Hey Chester, Hey Gretel, Jet here. Hi Miss Jenn.

    What a pawesome idea… two of our pals have joined you and we would love to as well. We will post the badge and make a mention tomorrow in our Follow Up Friday Post!

    From Mom: Since we do not have a fence, I must take Jetty and JJ out several times a day for business. On two of those occasions we walk 15 minutes or longer.

    If not for them, I probably would never know: how lovely the birds are in the neighborhood, how spectacular the sky is, the smells that pervade the area like jasmine (sneeze, wheeze), how nice my neighbors are and how I can help with the crime watch!

    So thank you for initiating this project. We’re all paws/feet on deck!

  24. I KNOW I replied to this and asked if I was too late to join in, but I don’t see my post!! 🙁 I just popped back to find the URL to post a link for my update post tomorrow.

    I shall be posting tomorrow and adding the badge – then I link back here, yes? Hope I’m doing it right!

  25. Pocket and I are starting the challenge late but like the saying goes, “better late than never”. It’s getting colder her in VA but we are up for the challenge.

  26. LOVE the 30/30 Challenge concept, both for dogs and cats. (Well, maybe not 30 minutes of walk a day for cats, but 30 minutes of play and bonding would probably improve a relationship with any cat.) I love Dachsies too and have 2 (technically 1 1/2 I guess) plus 2 other canine furkids who would LOVE to start a routine like this. Their walks/runs are too infrequent, according the them! Glad I came upon your blog!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. There is a lady in our neighborhood who walks her cat on a leash. I am a dog walker and one of my clients has a cat that always follows us for the first few blocks. You’re right…neither walk for 30 minutes though 🙂

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