Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Six Dimensions of Wellness for Dogs

May 02, 2016 01:12AM ● By Mary Oquendo

Dr. Bill Hettler of the National Wellness Institute developed a model for quality of life he calls the Six Dimensions of Wellness. The six tenets are occupational, physical, spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual. As we are all living beings, human and animal needs mirror each other. The path to achieve these goals is all that is different, so we can adapt and apply these quality of life principles for the dogs in our lives.

All dogs want to do something. ~ Bernie Rogers

Dogs are pack animals. They work for the betterment of their community. In modern times, it’s the household in which they live. In addition, dogs over the years have been bred for specific characteristics. When you put those two components together, dogs will usually find their own “job” if they are not provided with one; it will most likely be along the lines of what they were bred to do. This is not always a good thing as it may involve destructive or unwanted behaviors. Dachshunds that were bred to hunt badgers might dig a hole in your sofa. Beagles are single-minded scent trackers; they smell something and off they go. Shelties could nip little kids in an attempt to herd them.

Examples of jobs include:

• Agility, coursing, dock diving, barn trials, hiking or any other sport

• Therapy or comfort dogs at nursing home

• Wearing a doggie backpack to carry items

• Breed specific opportunities such as pulling carts or sleds, hunting or herding

• Walk around your home at night with you to secure the premises

Observe your dog and find a job that mimics his behaviors. You may be able to turn destructive into constructive behavior.

Handicapped dogs need jobs as well. Spirit is a blind husky who travels across the country with his owner teaching at professional pet educational conferences. Spirit greets all the students and is on hand to be petted and offers up his leg so that students can feel a pulse on a dog during a pet first aid class.

Exercise releases serotonin, also known as the happy hormone. Dogs can get exercise through their job or by a daily walk or hike, as well as play time with other pets and family members.

Dogs are connected to Mother Earth. They make that connection when their paws are on the ground, meaning the earth and not man-made surfaces. Keep in mind that there are situations that can cause harm to paws such as hot pavement, sand and ice.

Dogs love us. They need to feel the love from us as well. A cuddle and some time alone with your dog is time well spent and important for your dog’s well-being.

Back to the pack. Dogs are not solitary creatures. Even if they do not like other dogs or even children, they still need one-on-one contact with a person.

Have you ever had to spell out a word in front of your dog only to realize your dog had figured out what it meant? Dogs need mental stimulation. There are treat toys designed to make the dog think about how to get the treat. You can hide treats around the house or yard and make a game of it.

All six proponents are intertwined with each other. A hike alone could satisfy all six at one time. A cuddle could be occupational (it’s their job to offer you comfort), emotional and social. A walk around the outside of the home before locking up at night could be occupational, physical, spiritual and social.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the co-owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All. She can be reached at See ad, page 22.