5 Things to Start With Your Dog
Life is short, and your dog’s life is even shorter. The time with your dog is limited and these simple things are worth doing, for more reasons than you might think!
#1 - Take longer walks
Not only will you be spending more quality time with your dog this way, walks are one of the best ways for most dogs to relieve stress and practice normal behavior that they can’t do inside the home.
The average walk that a dog gets, is probably around 20-30 minutes at a time. For many dogs, even if this happens more than once a day, that isn’t even enough time to let the excitement and stress of getting out the door and on the walk out of their system. So they don’t come back to the home refreshed, they may come back frustrated and in a similar state to when they left. This of course is not the purpose of walks, and not the mindset we should be aiming for with our dogs.
#2 - Use meals to train
Every bowl of kibble is full of training treats and there is no reason not to use your dog’s meals as an opportunity to train! Training doesn’t have to be complex, and can be done throughout the day with portions of your dog’s meal. Catch them doing the thing you WANT them to do, and reward them for it with some of their kibble.
This alone is a very basic training plan that can be adapted to many different situations. Let’s take it past simply sitting before eating a whole bowl, or waiting for you to say they can eat. Why not break up the day for your dog with opportunities for them to earn something they want, and for you to reinforce the things you want? Everyone wins!
#3 - Let them do more dog things
A lot of dogs that come to me are suffering in multiple ways. It is extremely common for me to see dogs who just aren’t allowed to be dogs, and their needs become pent up or are unmet until the pot boils over. This may be one drastic event, like a bite or a fight, or it could be a behavior that the dog tries that turns into a daily habit.
In any case there are certain biological needs that every dog has that need to be fulfilled if you want to have a happy companion who doesn’t have behavior difficulties. Sniffing, running, playing, exploring, all of these things regularly should be occurring, plus more. Dogs are not meant to live in a house or apartment and only go on walks. Or to only play in their own yard. They need more.
Having outings and adventures with your dog is probably part of the reason you have a dog in the first place. It’s worth your while to get back into the habit of being out in the world with them.
#4 - Look for the things you like
There is a culture in dog ownership that seems to be one of letting a dog do whatever he wants until he makes a mistake. For many dogs there is very little input from their owners otherwise. Yes they are fed, watered, and given love, but there is little to no guidance or direction when it comes to teaching them what exactly the human’s expectations are.
The burden of figuring things out and learning is not the dog’s. It is our obligation to teach our dogs, to reinforce the things we want to see. The alternative is becoming your dog’s dictator. Personally that’s not the relationship I think many want to have. Doesn’t a partnership with your dog sound much better?
Use food, treats, play, or praise to let your dog know you liked exactly what they did. You will quickly begin to see more of it as your dog tries to earn more rewards.
This is a great way to start getting better house manners, and can help reduce stress for everyone in the home.
#5 - Recall training
It doesn’t matter how well your dog can sit, shake, or down. None of these things will stop your dog from running after wildlife into the woods, or from running out into a street. A recall will though. It can be lifesaving. Any other skill, even loose leash walking, a dog can do without. Recall skills are something you can develop with your dog, it’s completely achievable.
And now that you know you can use your dog’s meals to train throughout the day, those are opportunities to work on your dog coming to you! Training doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact the best training is broken down to its most simple pieces. Small changes and consistency make big changes attainable in the long run and get you that much closer to having your dream dog.