We all want a happy dog don't we? Seeing them content makes us happy and they're less likely to cause us unnecessary stress and anxiety if all is well in their world.
But I know from the people I meet through private consultations and home visits that living with a dog isn't always the wonderful experience that they had envisaged it would be.
Quite often the trouble is that we get trapped in our view point and we find it hard to see things from our dog's perspective. Having a fresh pair of eyes on the situation can help us see solutions that we couldn't see from being so close to the problem.
Here's the 3 key factors that I first look at when I'm trying to unravel an unhappy dog - dog owner relationship.
I could start with any of these 3 keys, but this is a really good place to start.
If we're feeding our dog a lot of additives and preservatives, perhaps a high energy diet with elevated levels of protein and fats, then we shouldn't be surprised when our dogs are manic and generally a bit over the top!
The truth is 'We are what we eat' - this goes for dogs as much as it goes for humans.
Would you be surprised if a young child came home from a birthday party where they'd been eating lots of sugary treats and found it difficult to settle down and concentrate on doing their homework? Whilst not impossible, I'm sure you'd be impressed if they could!
Check out the ingredients and composition of your dog's food - you could find answers to their 'bad' behaviour right there!
It's important that our dogs get regular, appropriate exercise for both their physical and mental well-being.
Whilst this is likely to look different depending on the dog you share your life with, here's some guidelines that I find are important.
- Breed specific activities - does your dog love to retrieve? To follow a scent? Can you build this into some playtime whilst out exercising them?
- Reading the newspaper - dog's shouldn't be mindlessly chasing a ball for the entirety of their regular walks. They need time to be dogs and sniff to catchup on the local doggy news ;-)
- On lead & off lead - some on lead walking warms up muscles for running and chasing when dogs are off lead. Including some on lead time can also calm an overexcited dog before being allowed off to play again
- Amount - this varies from dog to dog, but I know more than one small dog who enjoys a good hour's walk when they head out with their owners. Observe your dog and if they're hard to catch at the end of a walk, perhaps they'd like to be out for longer?! As a rule I'd aim for half an hour at a bare minimum, but most dogs would usually prefer more :-)
- Variety is the spice of life! - Try to visit different places, going to the same walk every day becomes monotonous and boring for you and your dog. Going to new places often helps with getting your dog to come back when called as they aren't so familiar with the surroundings so want to check in more.
The other day I asked the question on my blog 'Is Dog Training Optional?'.
My personal opinion is that a basic level of training is most definitely ESSENTIAL when we invite a dog into our lives.
You see training is our way of communicating with our dogs, so that we are both able to live in relative peace and harmony.
Understanding how to train a dog means that we are able to look at a situation through our dog’s eyes, and in doing so, find the seeds of a solution.
Does that mean you need to be an expert dog trainer in order to own a dog? No, not even close. A bit like parenting, there’s a lot of learning on the job ;-)
But I do believe that the first few years of a dogs life are a crucial time, and that the lessons they learn throughout that period create the adult dog that we share the majority of their lives with.
From my perspective that involves attending puppy training, and reading a few books to find out more about how dogs learn. It means continuing your puppy’s education with further training, perhaps involving the Kennel Club Good Citizen scheme or another alternative. It might even mean you have a go at some sort of dog sport of which there are many to choose from; agility, gun dog, flyball, canicross etc.
Dog training can be a lot of FUN when you find the right trainer and class and it needn’t be a chore.
Only last night I struggled to make myself heard over a group of laughing students – sometimes I wonder if we’re having too much fun! ;-)