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What Does a Dog Need?

What Does Your Dog Need: Day One

Your dog needs food. Choose a food plan that is high quality, high protein, and balanced.

What does balanced mean?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials provides a standard for what consists of a ‘balanced diet’. However, the AAFCO has stated that “AAFCO has no statutory authority to regulate pet products.”

Therefore, the fact that big brand names such as Purina and HIlls claim to be AAFCO compliant there is no way of verifying the food is better than any other brand. 

What type of dog food should I provide my dog?

The debate of what to feed your dog is heated. One person will swear by raw and another by kibble.

I never recommend dog food to clients. The reason is the decision should be up to you and a certified canine nutritionist.  

However, I can tell you about the two camps of canine nutrition: Processed Food V.S Raw. 

Processed Food (Kibble, Canned Food)

  • Claim to contain a balanced diet
    • There is no auditing body to confirm this
  • They have been animal tested
  • Inexpensive
  • Large companies cleaning and sanitation procedures are regulated which is the leading cause of bacteria contamination. 
  • Small companies are much more lenient with their procedures
  • There is no such thing as “Human Grade Dog Food”  
  • Processed food requires high-temperature processing which reduces the nutritional value.

Raw Food

  • Most do not contain balanced diets
  • They haven’t undergone animal testing
  • Expensive
  • Some companies are audited against cleaning and sanitation procedures that fight against bacteria but this is one of the big concerns of raw diets.

Additionally, according to  Dr. Erin O’Connor, a naturopathic carnivore nutrition consultant claims that:

AAFCO requires that every meal contain every nutrient your pet needs, without recognizing balancing diets through variety over time. This requires additives and synthetics to be included in the food. This is not natural. Just like we don’t eat this way, no animals in nature eat in this fashion either. “

You should focus on ensuring your dog is getting enough calories and nutrition. Generally speaking:

  • Adult dogs are feed 2X /day
  • Puppies typically eat 4X/day

However, I recommend that you base your dogs feeding on your dog’s weight not what the bag says. The bags tend to overestimate calories. 

Over 50% of all dogs are overweight and overweight dogs live 4 years less than healthy dogs. 

Adult dogs should have access to water throughout the day.

Puppies can be limited during potty training.

It is best to use a ceramic or metal bowl. Plastic bowls can leak toxic chemicals into the water and should be avoided.

Water bowl fountains need to be cleaned often as they tend to accumulate bacteria easily. 

The # 1 Reason a dog is surrendered to an animal shelter is because the have “too much energy”. 

This is why its important to research the breed prior to adopting. 

Exercise includes frequent walks and play time. Most dog’s require at least one walk per day and high energy breeds require 2-3 walks a day. 

A walk can be any where between 15-45 minute depending on your breed. 

Participating in dog sports can be a great outlet for your dog.  

The use of choke and prong collars exacerbate breathing problems. Dogs with flat faces are, particularly at risk. Adverse techniques such as pulling a dogs collar may cause medical injury to the trachea which is essential to breathing. 

Adult dogs need 12-14 hours of sleep a day.

Puppies need 18-20 hours of sleep a day

A shelter is more than just a roof over the dog’s head. It is also a safe space to go to when stressed.

Crates and kennels are great for this. 

There is a misconception that dogs do not like kennels but this is typical because it is used as a punishment.

Dog’s need a space to go to when they are stressed and a kennel provides this.  

  • Pet dogs should never sleep outside.
  • Dogs require temperature-controlled sleeping quarters. 
  • Pet dogs should not be left outside if the temperature is below 20°F. If the temperature is above 20°F follow these rough guidelines:
    • Large dogs (50-80 pounds) should be outside no more than one minute per degree.
    • Medium dogs (25-50 pounds) can be outside for 30 seconds per degree.
    • Small dogs (15-25 pounds) can only withstand 15 seconds per degree and
    • Extra small dogs (less than 15 pounds) 7 seconds per degree.
  • At 10°F or colder, the guidelines are cut in half.
Other Factors:
  • Fur insulation
  • Moisture in air
  • Breed type
  • Winter gear

A dog must feel safe in his or her environment. If there are other dogs in the house or loud children this could be a cause of stress.

Some forms of stress can be overcome but its best to eliminate them in the beginning and expose them to it slowly. 

Depending on your dog’s breed he may need to be groomed daily, weekly, or monthly.

Dogs that do not receive their recommended grooming can develop mats that are uncomfortable and pull on the skin. 

Your vet will recommend the necessary vaccinations and nutrition to keep your dog healthy.

Some vaccinations are standard while others are based on lifestyle. For example, a family that rarely hikes would not need to vaccinate for lime disease, and dogs that participate in dog sports might need joint supplementation.

It’s best to be thorough with your vet so they can give your dog the best healthcare possible.

A checklist for what new puppy need

What Your Dog Need: First Month

You need to teach your dog to not be fearful. This is done by creating an environment with:
  • Security
  • Love
  • Trust
  • Consistency
  • Benevolent Leadership.

Marc Bekoff Ph.D. distinguishes emotional needs as The lack of fear while social needs is access to social situations.  

You can not have meaningful interactions with others if you are fearful of them which is why emotional stability comes before social needs. 

Adverse training techniques can cause a dog to develop fear-based aggression. Consequently,  this is when force free, ethical training starts to emerge as the prominent dog training methodology in the 21st century. 

What Your Dog Need: Second Month

  • Social Bonding With You
  • Social Bonding With Other Dogs

This can include playing with your, a neighborhood dog, or going to the bark park. Check out if going to the dog park is best for your dog. 

Your dog needs you to teach him to not be fearful
How to socialize your dog

What Training Does Your Dog Need?


Difficulty Level
Leave It
Loose Leash Walk

Nice To Have

Difficulty Level
Up-Up (Get On/in)
Free (release cue)
Go To Spot
Back Up

Why Do Adverse Training Methods Fail?


Linda Michaels, M.A. Psychology founded the concept of The Hierarchy Of Dog Needs which was founded on Human psychologist  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

Simplified it means that dogs (and humans) can not learn unless all their basic needs are satisfied. 

Therefore, it is crucial we provide our dogs with their biological, emotional and social needs prior to training them. 

If at any point the pyramid is weak it will collapse and you will fail at achieving cognitive learning. 

What Does A Dog Need Hierarchy Chart

You can find the link to the diagram at The Hierarchy of Dog Needs 

Training Techniques That Prevent Learning

Choke Collars

Causes: Choking (Lack of Air)

Choke collars restrict air which means a dog can never move to the last tier of The Hierarchy of a Dog (learning)


Causes: Mental Security Issues

The kindest thing we can do with our dog is to provide consistency. If you do not provide consistency they do not understand what is expected of them.

Shock Collars or Fences

Causes: Fearful Behavior or Aggression

Shock collars are painful. Dog's have more nerve ending in their neck than humans. So that little buzz does not feel the same to them. In addition, pain tends to cause aggressive behavior. If the dog si fearfully they are unable to learn.


Causes: Lack Of Security

Yelling creates fear in the dog. Fearful dogs are not secure in their environment and struggle to learn

Withholding Walks

Causes: Lack Of Exercise

A dog with pent up energy will not be able to focus. If you do not properly exercise your dog he/she will have the zoomies

Alpha Roll

Causes: Lack Of Exercise

This does not provide benevolent leadership. The "Alpha Wolf concept" has been disproven. Most wolf packs consist of a Mom, Dad, and their babies. Maybe an older sister. Wolves' families are benevolent, not competitive.

Training Tips From The Expert

Dr. Bekoff, (co-founders of the Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (EETA) association) argues that the last tier which is coined self-actualization in humans, or ‘cognitive needs’ in animals,  is dependent on all biological, emotional, and social needs being met.

 Since dominance theory and other forms of adverse training directly inhibits biological, and emotional needs, the methodology of force-free training became widespread in the 1990s.  

Animal behaviorists, shelters facilities, and force-free trainers  instead focus on positive reinforcement training

 This is because positive reinforcement training has shown is 25% less likely to cause fear-based aggression and is more successful in obtaining its goal in dogs thus satisfying their emotional needs.

 Even associations such as the American Society of Vetenariry School of Animal Behavior have released statements condemning the use of dominance theory in behavior modification of animals.  This is why it is important to understand dog communication signals and the 3 types of reward dog value. 

8 Force Free Training Techniques

1. Management is the most practiced force-free training method

A list of typical force-free management dog training

Management is not training per se because it does not train a dog to choose to reduce or increase a behavior. 

Instead, it eliminates the possibility of the bad behavior from occurring. The difference between training and management is choice. Is there a choice to be made or have you eliminated the choice. 

For example, ensuring kitchen counters are clear of food when leaving the house or keeping your shoes in your closet eliminated choice. Training would be teaching the dog to not counter surf or to chew approved bones. 

2. Antecedent Modification is the most overlooked force-free training method

Wow, what a mouth full. Lets break it up, antecedent means an event that logically precedes another event. For example, turning your car on precedes the movement of the car . 

Modification means to change a behavior. Many times owners do not realize they are causing bad behaviors. 

Antecedent modification means to change the owners action so it no longer predicts a response.

Common training mistakes caused by the owners actions
I always had issues with leash aggression. I would tighten the leash every time I saw a dog to prevent my dog from lunging. I had no idea that modifying my own behavior would make such improvements.
Client and her dog wendy
Arika Cozzi

3. Positive Reinforcement is the most often taught force-free training method

Positive reinforcement has two parts: 

  1. Positive which means to add something and
  2. Reinforcement which means to increase the likelihood of the behavior.  

To increase a behavior we must reward which can be done using a treat, praise, or play.

 For example, when you cue your dog to sit and he sits, you reward him with a treat. Therefore the dog learns that when he sits he gets a treat thus reinforcing the behavior. 

4. Differential Reinforcement is the most complicated force-free training method

4 Types Of Differential Reinforcement

1. Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behavior (DRI)

Barking----Toy In Mouth

3. Differential Reinforcement of Other behavior (DRO)

Greeting The Dog When She is Not Jumping

2. Differential Reinforcement of Alternative behavior (DRA)

Only Greeting The Dog When She Sits & Not Jumping

4. Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates (DRL)

Rewarding A Dog Who Barks Less At Strangers

5. Social Learning is the easiest force-free training method

This occurs when Dog A watches Dog B perform task C  who then gets a reward. Dog A then will attempt task C hoping for the same reward. 

6. Premack Principle is the most Underutilized force-free training method

The Premack Principle is what I call the anitcue. The anitcue is when you give a dog a high reward for doing something that is undesirable. Others have called this the Grandma method because it’s similar to telling a child that if he wants dessert he has to eat his vegetables. Desert is the high reward and the less desirable is the vegetables. I use the anticue in training to drop it and recall. To get a better understanding of the anitcue check out How To Teach  A Dog To Come. 

7. Desensitization is the most understood force-free training method

Desensitization is used to solve aggressive dog problems.

You desensitize the dog to the stimuli (the other dog) by gradually increasing the intensity of the trigger.


Below is an example of how to desensitize you to an object. This is best understood with the fear of spider. However, the spider can be replaced with any object such as other dogs, trains, car, bikes, kids and so forth. 

Example with how to desensitize a subject to a fear

8. Classical & Counterconditioning is the most misunderstood force-free training method

Classical conditioning occurs when a stimulus causes behavior. It is commonly thought that rewarding a dog with a treat is classical conditioning when in fact this is operant conditioning. 

Operant conditioning is when a behavior predicts a response. When you counterconditioning a dog you are essentially reprogramming him to no longer think stimuli A results in B but instead results in C. 

This differs from 

“Antecedent Conditioning”

because instead of modifying your behavior (such as not tightening a leash when you see a dog) you do not modify your behavior but modify the  preceding result. Instead of seeing a dog, your dog sees a cookie. You are counterconditioning that tight leash means a cookie and not there is a dog nearby. 

 The most common example of this is with leash aggression in dogs. When the owner sees a dog, the tighten the leash. A tight leash indicates fear, alertness, and stress. Therefor, the dog acts aggressively towards the dog because the event of tightening is self enforcing. Therefore, to modify the dog’s behavior the owner needs to modify the indicator behavior (the tightening of the leash).  This is called antecedent modification. 

The End Goal In Training

Every owner wants to obtain cognitive competency.

 Cognitive competency is when the dog exercises choice, creativity , problem-solving, and experiencing novelty at home and in the environment. 

This involves making good descisions based on what environmental cues are occurring. In other words, does your dog choose to listen to you? This is the stage where you are no longer managing your dog’s behavior (such as removing food from the counter) but instead, she/he makes the choice to not engage in bad behavior. This is a dog who has learned the skills needed to thrive in her environment. When your dog is uncomfortable by the level of activity that often accompanies house guest, will your dog find a quiet place?  Does your dog know to sit, wait and be released when going outside? Will, your dog leave food that has fallen on the floor? If so, then your dog has achieved cognitive choice.

This is when a dog is confident exploring new things in her environment, seeing them as a likely predictor of reinforcement rather than something scary. When new things that might be scary pop-up, she looks to me for guidance instead of reacting without thinking.

This goes along with creativity. If you give your dog a puzzle will she/he work to figure out even the most complex challenge?  Is your dog confident that if she just keeps experimenting and trying new things, she will find success and satisfaction, or does your dog get frustrated easily and scratch or chew at the new puzzle?

 It is important that you recognize your dog’s passion. It is also important to differentiate your passion from your dogs. Does your dog like agility or does he enjoy the fact you like agility.  Maybe he enjoys nose work despite being a herding breed or hates swimming even though he is a waterdog. It is your job as a pet parent to expose your dog to all types of activities such as dock-diving, therapy work, biking, running, and herding which not only enriches your dog’s life but it introduces new challenges and promotes thought, enthusiasm, and enforces their mental and social needs. 

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1 thought on “What Does a Dog Need?”

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