Dog's Needs Feature Photo of a dog Lying in Bed

Our Role as a Pet Parents Part 2 – Our Dog’s Needs

“The natural canine environment of the wilderness has drastically changed… dogs still have the same needs, but fulfilling those needs now requires different actions.

Wolf pups look to pack leaders to fulfil their needs, and dogs look to us.”

~ from The Dog Guardian by Nigel Reed

In Part 1 of our ‘Role as Pet Parent’ series, we mentioned Nigel Reed saying our dogs have specific needs based on their wolf ancestors – and if those needs are not met – then dogs have a responsibility to the pack to step-up and take on the leadership role (or part of it) to ensure the needs of the family are met.

(NB. These need may be being met, but if our dogs don’t actually see them being met – they naturally assume that they aren’t being met.)

Our Dog’s Needs

Nigel adapts Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help breakdown canine needs (wolf and dog).

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to reflect on our dog's needs

Interesting that he does so because we set up the Pet Parenting Journey blog to reflect the needs we believed our dogs have and how we as pet parents can help meet those needs.

Nigel breaks them down into:

Physiological and Safety (we cover that in our Health section)

Belonging (that’s in Relationships)

Esteem (our version is Happiness)

Physiological (Health)

Physiological needs include; healthy food, access to freshwater, their own place to sleep and shelter. 

Nigel highlights the need for dogs to have a place away from everyone else to rest or sleep and know your dog’s toileting habits so they don’t interfere with any training.

Dog Sleeps GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Regarding food, Nigel advises us to be careful about what we buy.

”Just because something is on the shelves does not mean that it is good for your dog, there are diets that have made it onto supermarket shelves but are full of artificial colourings, preservatives and excess bulk in the form of grain.”

Wonderful to hear a dog professional spelling out so clearly the problems with modern supermarket/big business dog foods, particularly in regards to grain. He even goes on to say,

 “Some dogs have problems processing the nutrients from such foods… which can lead to excess fat and can affect the internal organs.”


Nigel really emphasises that safety is HUGE for dogs; they need to feel safe wherever they are. Our human environment presents many situations which our dogs can perceive as threatening.

If our dogs don’t feel safe, they fall back on wolf behaviour which means choosing Flight, Freeze (barking/growling) or Fight.

Scared Cartoon GIF by Scooby-Doo - Find & Share on GIPHY


Often flight is not an option for them (within homes and on leads), leaving Freeze (barking/growling) or Fight.

Belonging (Relationships)

Like us, dogs are social animals, so we shouldn’t leave them alone too long during the day (Nigel suggests 4 hours max).

Play is important for forming relationship bonds and helping boost physical and mental well-being.

Their relationship with us is vital, and how they view us dictates their behaviour. They see us as one of the following:

  • A guardian that takes care of their needs.
  • A friend that takes care of some needs.
  • Someone they need to care for.
Pet Parent meeting their dog's needs with a cuddle.

Esteem (Happiness)

Getting the previous sections correct is vital to our dog’s happiness. They must feel safe, secure, healthy, have a good relationship with the pack, and understand their role.

Ensuring our dogs are happy and their self-esteem is good means they need to feel confident.

We can help cement that with play and games as they love learning and receiving praise, treats and rewards when they’ve done a good job.

Like us, dogs really thrive on a good job done.

Next time…

These are the general needs our dogs have based on their ancestral lives as wolves.

However, dogs also have more specific needs related to leadership.

We must be seen to be fulfilling that role for our dogs, so they know their place and role within the family. 

Check out Part Three here!

If you’re interested in reading ‘Dog Guardian’ by Nigel Reed for yourself then you can find it here:

Healthy treats and food are vital foundations for your dog’s lifelong well-being.
If you haven’t already, check out our pawsome one-time offers:
20% Off Grain Free Dog Food (and free samples to try first)
50% Off our no-nasties Treats (no grain, no additives, no preservatives and no awful derivatives – just simple, tasty ingredients).

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1 month ago

Can you be more specific about the content of your article? After reading it, I still have some doubts. Hope you can help me.


[…] the last post, Our Role as Pet Parents Part 2, we looked at our dog’s needs and how Nigel Reed, author of The Dog Guardian, adapted Maslow’s […]