Physical Needs

Physical Welfare Needs of Dogs

Good health, the right type of diet, always having access to fresh drinking water and a comfortable living environment are essential for the biological functioning of dogs and their phyisical well-being.

Health care

It is valuable to have a good relationship with a vet (hopefully one who helps your dog feel safe and relaxed). Injuries, sickness or parasites which could harm a dogs health need to be prevented. A yearly health check by a vet is recommended. When a dog shows signs of physical discomfort (i.e. changed mobility, excessive grooming, loss of appetite) a quick diagnosis and treatment is needed.

Healthy diet

Healthy, balanced meals have a great influence on the overall life expectancy of dogs. Dogs require food that provides them with the necessary fuel/nutrients (proteins, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins). Fresh drinking water needs to be accessible to a dog at all times.

Dogs are carnivores, but they evolved from scavenging on human food which has resulted in slight changes to their digestive system so that they can also keep functioning as an omnivore (dogs are able to process starch, unlike wolves).

Each dog has individual needs when it comes to the type of food and the amount of food intake that will keep them healthy. These needs will also change during the different life stages of a dog (puppies have other food requirements than senior dogs).


The right type and amount of exercise helps to develop muscles and prevents the dog from becoming overweight. This will need to be adjusted to the individual dog, also depending on their age and life phase. In example, too much exercise can have a negative effect on the development of bones in young dogs and dogs with short snouts can handle a lot less exercise than dogs who  have a very strong athletic build.

Recovery time - rest and sleep

All dogs need time to rest and to recover from their activities. Dogs take short naps and short breaks and sleeping sessions during a day (24 hrs) and in between those naps they often switch from locations and posture (which is often related to physical and thermal comfort). It is estimated that young puppies need about 15 to 20 hours of sleep per day, young adults around 14 to 16 hours a day and older dogs around 18 hours a day.

More research on the sleep patterns of companion dogs needs to be done, but a study on free ranging dogs in India showed that these dogs were resting for an average of 50% of a day (12 hours) and their activity was mostly around human activity, during the day, when they could scavenge and beg for food.

Living environment

The living environment of dogs needs to offer physical  and thermal comfort. Not too hot, too cold or too moist, but also consider other environmental factors, like not too slippery floors. It needs to be kept clean and to offer protection from the elements (shelter).

Dogs need free access to a safe haven where they can rest undisturbed and where the dog can retreat to if he or she wants to avoid stressful situations. Within family homes it is therefore important to plan and agree on creating a space which is a safe haven for the dog and the dog should not be disturbed while resting there.

© LotsDogs | Written by Liselot Boersma, welfare consultant (PgDip CABW) and owner of LotsDogs, may 2016; translated in 2020. Copy paste of images or text is forbidden. Sharing the URL of this website is very much appreciated. Many thanks in advance.


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