What Makes Dogs Really Happy?
A question that most dog owners really want to know the answer to, how do we make our fur-kids happy? Are we giving them the best life we can?
Dogs need way more than a biscuit and a walk around the block to keep them happy. They are team-players and problem solvers by nature, with an intelligence that far supersedes our comprehension. There are so many ways to make your dog happy - They are extremely optimistic animals after all. In fact, they are way more positive than humans and we could learn a thing or two about the grateful and 'in the moment' attitude of a dog! I love ALL THINGS DOG! Having spent lots of time researching dogs and how they think and behave and applying lots of these tips to Bodhi, here are some of the main things that I recommend you do to keep your fur-kid happy.
Exercise… And plenty of it!
This one is a no brainer really; it comes with the territory of dog ownership and is something that we must give to them every single day. The chance to run free and enjoy the big world! Exercise for your dog really isn't optional, you must walk your dog every single day. It is not OK to let them wander around a garden. They need so much more than that. Dogs must have daily exercise. A great exercise routine, appropriate to your dogs age, breed and size will have him really loving life. Lack of exercise leads to weight gain, boredom and no outlet to relieve stress or anxiety.
Us humans have had a tough time in lockdown during the Covid 19 epidemic, only wandering around the house and garden. Knowing just how boring it has been, the same applies to your dogs life. Open up your dogs world and expose him to new smells, sights and sounds! Other risks from little or no real exercise routine are joint problems from weight gain and early diabetes. Most dogs will need at least an hour of running around each day, exploring and lots of nose work. If on a leash, slightly longer or break the day up to include 30 mins in the morning and the same in the evening. Other larger breeds will need much more than that. There is a beautiful world out there! So get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It will be awesome for your health and wellbeing too!
Decent High Quality Dog Food
Let's be honest here. How would you like a life of eating nothing but digestive biscuits each day? Or worse, awful fast food day in day out? Your dogs’ physical condition is directly linked to what you feed him. I liken poor dog food, to feeding a human McDonalds or KFC every day. Sooner or later that kind of diet catches up with your body and starts to affect your health. This theory is no different to our dogs. Allergies, diseases, joint issues and behavioural problems result in a poor diet. There are so many options out there, for varying budgets so it’s important to do some research into your breed and his age to get it right for the health and happiness of your dog. You can do some great research using this link and find out what your are really feeding your dog. https://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/ I promise you, it will make a world of difference to the life of your dog. You will feel a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that you are feeding your beloved companion, food with amazing nutrition that will keep him very happy and healthy.
Guidance and Consistency
Dogs have the mind of a 3 year old and the physical prowess of an Olympic athlete! This unique combination of traits, means that providing the right kind of leadership is important in setting your dogs life up for success in navigating the world. Teaching your dog focus, control, good manners and consistency, will ensure that your pup is loved by all. This needs to be an ongoing commitment that you give to you and your dog throughout his life. The rewards for doing this will be endless, meaning that you can focus on having fun and enjoying your relationship, without being stressed out trying to manage the naughty, irritating puppy!
We’ve all seen it when out and about, or at least I have on many occassions! The dog that is placed on a lead and is not allowed to say hello to any other dogs or owners, and when people walk past or try to say hi, he barks or growls aggressively and is quickly yanked away on the lead, after being reprimanded. It’s the most upsetting and frustrating thing to see. This behaviour can be completely avoided by the right kind of socialisation, very early on in the dog’s life. Dropping a dog into a chaotic situation filled with strange dogs and humans without a gentle easing in, is a recipe for disaster for dog and owner. Set your dog up to win by early socialisation and take her out as often as possible. Until you have full voice control of your dog, keep her on a lead. This can be an extendible lead, but make sure you still have control. Let her experience new sights, sounds, smells and other people and their dogs. Stay close by her side, guide her through the process, let it happen gradually but regularly.
Whatever you do, don't pick your dog up when faced with a confrontation, this can be disaterous and you run the risk of being bitten by another dog. Simply stay calm, I cannot emphasise this enough. Gain control of her collar or lead and guide her away from the problem, quickly and firmly. Anticipating potential issues before they arise is the most sensible and safe approach for you and your dog. Good, early socialisation, provides it's rewards in teaching your dog to be calm and not fear new things.
Play and Interaction with Their Humans
Giving your dog some time each day will make them feel loved and part of the pack. It’s a chance for your to show your pooch just how much you love them and for you to learn a bit about one another, to build an unbreakable bond. Dogs love their humans, so getting to touch, interact and play makes them feel secure and wanted, but most of all, completely loved and cherished. Make up a new game, roll around on the floor with them, hand feed them some fresh warm chicken when they’ve been really good, praise them and cuddle them. I play with Bodhi every single day. We have a variety of games and I make sure I keep good eye contact with her and show her consistency with rules and boundaries. So, if I want her to take the toy out of her mouth, I give her the command of 'out'. This is a great way of teaching impulse control, for those high energy, excitable dogs. Remember, the play is on your terms, not theirs. This approach maintains you as pack leader and builds the trust and respect you want from your dog. I also tend to take Bodhi with me to new places as often as I can, shes generally by my side in our van when we go exploring and I know she loves the time we spend together. This is us in the picture below having just pulled up to Ganavan Sands, Oban, Scotland. We had a fantastic time exploring!
Just like we have a need to feel creative and purposeful, dogs have this innate need as well. Exercise is so important to the dog’s physical wellbeing, but enrichment is equally as important as exercise is, for your dogs mind. It is essential for your dog to use their brain to feel as if they have accomplished something each day. A well stuffed Kong or a few snuffle balls do the trick of being a great puzzle for your dog, to work really hard for his treats. Stimulate your dog by playing games like ‘hide and seek’, ‘find the treat’ and ‘which hand’, get him to work and feel busy. Teach a new trick or get him to learn a new word – He will totally love you for it! Make sure you are providing the means for your dog to focus, think and act for himself.
All dogs want to please their owners and other humans, so with the right kind of behaviours, come the right kind of praise. Our doggos are sensitive to how their humans are feeling and behaving. Studies have shown that a dog can take on mood traits of their owner, so when they do something that does not please you, do not shout or yell, or worse EVER raise your hand to them. Dogs do not respond to the word 'no'. They respond to pitch and tone. Just as you praise your dog in a high pitched happy voice, you'll see that in return for this type of voice, you'll get a tail wag and lots of interest from your dog. You need to have a word or phrase spoken with a sound they associate with 'no'. I tend to use the 'ah-ha' sound and make it low pitched, so Bodhi associates this with 'not allowed'.
Set your dog up to win by positive reinforcement. Doing this helps them learn very quickly and be even more eager to please you. Divert the negative behaviour, to a situation that involves praise – and plenty of it. You will find that you will quickly earn their respect and they will start to see you as their leader. Let's look at an example, your dog starts to chew something you do not want them to chew. Respond by calling their name firmly but calmly - Calmness is the important bit here. If you are frantic, your dog will mirror and match your response. As soon as he looks at you, call him to you, get a toy or something he is allowed to chew, give it to him straight away instead, when he puts it in his mouth – Give him loads of praise and raise the pitch in your voice. If he ventures back over to the item he's not allowed to chew, then use the 'ah ha' or whatever appropriate sound you want to use, to let him know his behaviour is not OK. With consistency and calmness, your dog will start to learn that with praise, great things will happen in his life. Happy dog, happy owner!
Be careful not to give praise in all circumstances, such as during a thunderstorm or fireworks – These situations can reinforce behaviour that you don’t want them to display, if you start to pet them or comfort them. This is how dogs think. If a dog is frightened and you are praising or comforting him, he will continue to be frightened, because he is being praised for it.
Giving a dog a treat on it's own, does not necessarily make him happy. It will for a few seconds, but to make the experience even more worthwhile, get him to work for the treat, earn the treat and then provide all the praise and the love you can give him. Use treats to your advantage for positive reinforcement, puppy will do anything for a treat! This will be a time where he will give you his undivided attention and you can use the opportunity to do some training or enrichment work, your dog will be tail wagging with happiness at all the good stuff that comes with being given treats!
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