If you're leaning towards a more holistic approach to your dog's health and wellness routine, here are some things I suggest. To be clear: I am in no way an expert in this area, and always suggest seeking medical advice from a (holistic) veterinarian. This is simply a list of personal decisions I have made for my own dogs, the results of which have been positive for me and my fur-family.
1. Feed a raw diet. Yes, this is important. I'm vegan, and I don't like handling dead animal parts, but buying kibble is a total cop-out in this area. I like to see what my dogs are eating, and so I get them the real thing. You will be surprised if you switch your dog to raw because the health benefits are amazing: clean teeth, shiny fur, healthy ears, perfect bowel movements (no need to squeeze anal glands), less "dog smell," better breath, the list goes on... I buy local, and a lot of what my dogs eat would have normally gone on the compost pile (feet, tripe, skin, organ, bone, etc.). These websites are great resources and introduction to raw-feeding: We Feed Raw, Perfectly Rawsome.
2. Ditch the chemicals. I don't put anything on my dogs for flea control except food-grade Diatomaceous Earth. I've had some friends tell me, mostly those who live in Florida, that there is no way to avoid chemical flea control, and that may be the case in certain geographic areas. But here in Maine I find it works just fine to use DE on my dogs and cat. I've also used DE to de-worm a puppy and I regularly use it in my adult dogs' diet to keep them worm-free as well. FMI on using DE, see this article on Dogs Naturally.
3. Don't over-vaccinate. I'm going to touch (very lightly) on vaccines. All of my dogs are adults and have had the usual course of vaccines in their youth. I'm now going to keep them free of any unnecessary vaccines and use titer testing instead. I don't want to suggest any sort of vaccine schedule here, I will just say that I feel we severely over-vaccinate our dogs in this country and I wish to reduce the number of vaccines my dogs receive.
4. Find the right Vet. If you want to feed raw and get titers instead of vaccines, it's important you find a veterinarian on the same page. I find it quite difficult to argue with an "authority figure" on these issues, so best to find someone who's already in agreement with your holistic approach. I went through at least three different practices before I found a homeopathic vet who actually approves of feeding raw, suggests titers over vaccines, and has kept her own dog intact (un-neutered). Amazing!
5. Practice Holistic Dog Training. As most of you know, I'm a practitioner of Holistic Dog Training, which addresses the dog as an emotional being, one who always reacts to the present moment, but with physical memories sometimes clouding the picture. When dogs have behavioral issues, their in-the-moment flow is always being blocked or constricted by fear.
While there are many deeper topics to go into here, such as spaying and neutering, doggie daycare, dog parks and so on, this article is meant to be a light treatment on the holistic care of your canine companion. Of course there is always a spectrum, or continuum of care when it comes to the physical and mental health of your dog, and everyone needs to make decisions based on the needs of their particular animal (and belief system).