I bet between all my training experts we could come up with a dozen or more opinionated ideas on how to enrich our pets lives.
And that’s a great thing.
It means we have numerous options for different household and lifestyles. What I would like to do is touch on a few easy to make adjustments that should help you have a more fulfilled relationship with your furry best friends.
Enrich feeding times and ditch the bowls
Whether you feed kibble, wet, raw or home-cooked, there is a way to may feeding time more fulfilling. Think about how much your dog loves to eat and then think why you wouldn’t try to use that experience to make his day even better.
Try to ditch the bowl for at least one feeding a day and get creative with how you feed.
If you feed kibble get an old blanket or towel out and put a portion of the food in it and wrap it up. Set the blanket down and encourage your pet to show interest in it. Now not only will your dog be engaged but he should be busy for a while as well. For smarter dogs, roll and tie the blanket up around the food with packing string or a shoelace.
For wet or raw dog food feeders simply shove half or more of their food portion in a standard Kong. They hole soft, wet and sticky items well.
Once your pet understands the game of feeding from the Kong feel free to freeze it to keep them busy longer.
Engage your dog’s nose.
Our dog’s noses are their main sensory organs and can be 1-10 million times as sensitive as ours. It would be silly to take them for granted but that is what we do every day as we hurry them along on the same pre planned neighborhood walk. With a slight hardware change and a slight paradigm shift, our walks with our dogs can be more beneficial to them and require no more work on our parts. Add a 10-15 leash to your pet and let them get ahead of you if they want. By the time you catch up to them they will likely have sniffed what is near them and they will be ready to follow you to the next smell.
This is a great opportunity to add some easy positive reinforcement training by giving them yummy treats the times they are paying attention to your or catching up to you.
Eventually this may develop a natural check-in behavior by giving them a reason to come find you after you let them have the freedom to sniff around. Win! Win!
Play with them.
I would bet 5 minutes of play a day is more than most people offer their dogs on average for any sincere play interactions.
Your dog is social and needs social interaction.
Get a tug toy or a ball or any item your dog likes and try to engage with him. If your dog just loves your company trick him by throwing a few treats and then running away to play hide and seek. Just slip behind your office or closet door and be as quiet as you can until your pet finds you. When they do, make a big deal and give them some more treats to reinforce the finding behavior and start again. Then get down on the ground with them and show them some good affection at their level.
Consider how you pet your dog
Ok I bet you weren’t expecting any tips on how to pet your dog and you probably think your dog loves all your pats, rubs and affection. But I can promise you most pet owners I work with could use some improvement and your dogs will thank you for it.
First, consider using the back of the hand.
They don’t have grabby and pokey fingers that have a prior history of manipulating them around. There is no assumed possible consequence from getting a back of the hand pet. I bet it’s rarely happened.
Concurrently use long soft strokes like you would like if you were getting a Swedish massage.
Pressure is not important here and should be very light as your dog has up to 3x thinner skin that a human does. I suggest focusing on the chest and sides of the dog until they show you some belly. That’s the green light for more affection and in my opinion their full approval.
Avoid and patting and stay away from the head unless you’re doing very light ear caresses. To test the waters and see if your pet likes what you’re doing, stop all together and see if they nudge themselves back into your hands or lap. If they don’t maybe try again later and change it up a bit.
Take their clothes off.
In a previous article I suggested adding clothing (leashes/shirts/collars) to change behavior. In this section I’m encouraging you to take it all off to relax them. There is a sense of freedom we have all experienced taking our clothes off after a long day. Unless your using the collar, shirt or leash on them to manage them for other reasons try to offer your dog some time in the day free from wearing any of his traditional doggie baggage. This would be a great cue that its doggie massage or affection time as well.
While I could go on and on and in the future I probably will. I want you to pick one or two of these and put them on your calendar or to do list.
Make a habit of them and if you’re paying attention you might just notice a positive shift in how your furry best friend offers you their future interest and respect.
Until next time,
Be well and wag tail!