Having a dog as a family member is a wonderful experience. They love us unconditionally, are loyal and are always honest about how they feel. Dogs are a source of joy in our lives, but as in any relationship, there may be challenges. Your dog may do things that confuse and frustrate you, or perhaps they develop behaviour concerns that are upsetting for all involved. The good news is that these are preventable and there are many things we can do to ensure we can enjoy a lifetime of happiness with our dogs. In this post, I am going to outline 10 easy things dog owners can do to ensure we get the most from the time with our dogs.
Training is much more than just teaching your dog to sit, come when called and walk on a loose leash. Training is what makes them attentive to you, provides you a way to effectively communicate with them and helps them navigate our crazy human world. It enables them to know what is expected of them and teaches them manners. Training is what allows them to be a part of our lives. By not providing adequate training for your dog, you are setting them up for a stressful and confusing life.
Only some breeds require regular and more frequent visits to the groomer, but all dogs require basic grooming. This includes nail trims, brushing and teeth and ear cleaning. If introduced properly, grooming can be a great bonding time with your dog. It also allows you to do regular checks on their body for health reasons. And regular grooming keeps your dog feeling better and is good for their overall emotional well-being. Nails that are too long, dirty ears and unkept teeth can cause unnecessary pain for your dog.
Just like us, a poor diet can leave your dog feeling sluggish, cause gastro-intestinal issues and have many other negative impacts on their health. A proper diet ensures they feel good and keeps them at a good weight. Spend the money on a high quality food for your dog to save more money on health bills in the long run. Expensive vet care can cause unnecessary stress so do your part to keep your pet healthy through diet and regular vet visits.
We have all heard the saying, “A well exercised dog, is a well behaved dog”. Exercise is critical to ensure your dog’s emotional and physical needs are being met. Exercise should consist of walking, running and playing to provide physical stimulation, and also consist of training, teaching tricks and puzzle toys/games to provide mental stimulation. Ensure you are not over-doing their exercise either or not providing any structure. Too much over-stimulation will have adverse effects and potentially cause behaviour concerns.
Play with your dog. Engage with them through games such as tug and fetch. These are excellent self-control exercises for your dog and a great way to bond. Get silly with your dog as well. Let go of your inhibitions and play chase, wrestle (not too hard to encourage inappropriate behaviour), and enjoy some fun together. This will be good for both of you and is a wonderful stress management tool.
Do not get caught up in routine and always walk your dog just around the neighbourhood. Do not forget that they are stuck in your house all day and their walks are their only experiences outside of there. Get them out and let them experience the world. Their lives are too short, so help them get the most out of the short time they have here. Taking them new places provides important socialization and enrichment opportunities that will also help to prevent behaviour concerns from developing.
Dogs learn through association and think only in black and white. They do not have a language, so grey areas do not exist. This means that if you want to ensure your dog learns quickly and abides by the rules, then you must be consistent in what you are teaching them. For example, sit must always mean sit. And if you do not want them on the bed, they must never be allowed on the bed. Or if you do not want them to jump, then you cannot ever let them jump, even if you love how happy they are to see you. By being consistent, you make a much less stressful life for your dog because they have clear consistent rules that do not change.
Too often we focus on teaching the dog things that we communicate to them. We rarely take the time to learn and adequately understand canine communication. By understanding canine body language, you will understand when your dog is nervous, happy, scared or excited. This allows us to better assist them and ensure they are comfortable and confident. It alleviates stress for the dog as we better understand them, so in turn we make better choices for them. It also allows them to be more successful and avoid conflict throughout their lives.
Dogs do what works or what they have been taught. Your dog is never doing anything to intentionally upset you, so there is never any reason to get angry at them. Your job is to understand this, be patient and teach your dog what is expected of them. If they misbehave, it is because you have put them into the wrong situation or have not trained them effectively. Do not get angry, but instead show patience and understand they are learning.
Show your dog affection and love. Ensure your dog is comfortable with how you are handling them, but take the time to enjoy quiet time together and in each other’s presence. Snuggle with them and experience the benefit petting your dog has on both of you. Studies have shown that petting our dogs lowers our blood pressure and settles us. Take this time to appreciate your dog and listen as your breathing syncs up together. Connect with them, smile and enjoy your cuddles. Your life with your dog will be full of many happy memories. Ensure you do your best to train, communicate effectively and bond with your dog. This will ensure they are happy, healthy and most importantly, well behaved. Follow these simple steps and you both will benefit.