Friday, December 5, 2008

What Do Dogs Need?

I'm working on a Mush with P.R.I.D.E. project that has me contemplating the basic physiological and psychological needs of dogs, specifically of sled dogs. Maybe by posting my thoughts here I can clarify what is needed for my project, and maybe share some information with those not familiar with the basic needs of dogs.

Obviously all dogs need food and water. Working dogs need a diet that is nutritionally adequate to meet provide the energy they need to run and pull and to regulate their temperature properly during extremes in weather, and that contains all the vitamins and minerals necessary for them to maintain good health.

Dogs need adequate shelter from inclement weather, whether that be the brutal heat and humidity of a southern summer or the bitter chill of an Alaska winter. During winter the shelter needs to have adequate bedding or insulation to permit the dog to lie in the house without shivering.

Dogs need to be able to perform "species typical" behaviors. For dogs, these include running, trotting, walking, jumping, rolling around, stretching, chewing and a whole host of others. I personally believe that digging falls under this heading.

Dogs need exercise - LOTS of exercise. When you consider that racing sled dogs frequently run 100 or more miles in a single day, you can get an idea of how much exercise they really need. A walk around the block just isn't going to cut it for a dog with a body designed to haul an overloaded sled 50 miles through unbroken snow or overflow.

Dogs need a lot of social interaction both with other dogs and with humans. How much is necessary has not been defined, but it is known that dogs deprived of contact with other dogs and/or humans tend to develop behavioral problems. I think this need is closely associated with the next.

Dogs need sensory and mental stimulation. Dogs need to be exposes to a variety of scents, sights and sounds. Just as long periods of sensory deprivation can cause psychological problems in humans, they can also cause similar problems in dogs.

Like humans, dogs need safety and security. They need protection from the dangers of the world including abusive humans, fast moving cars and trucks, wild or stray domestic animals and the other obvious dangers of the world.

Domestic dogs are totally reliant on their owners to meet their needs. It doesn't matter if the dog is a member of a huge sled dog kennel, a moderately sized pack of hunting hounds, or a cute little beady-eyed lap weasel his or her basic needs are the same.

Thank you for helping me organize my thoughts. I appreciate it.


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