Every dog owner can attest to the fact that having a dog improves their life. Pets make us happier, healthier, fitter and less lonely, and it doesn’t get much better than that! But what can we do to enhance our pet’s lives?
There are the basics of pet care: good highly digestible balanced diet, fresh water daily, shelter from the elements, comfortable thick bedding, regular grooming (free of matts), copious patting and love. So, in addition to this here’s a list of tips to follow to help your dog be the happiest they can be:
1. Walks: Every day. Exercise is essential (and should really be mandatory) for dogs. Choose the exercise type and intensity that best suits the needs of your mate. A young energetic dog may need 1 hour once or twice daily of exercise, whilst your more senior pet may just benefit from going around the block, or past a few houses twice daily. If you can’t do it, there are so many options available for help, such as from a helpful dog loving neighbour to dog walkers and doggy day care centres.
2. Treats: Reward those behaviours you enjoy and mix it up for your pup. Always go for healthy and tasty, if you’re not sure then find out some ideas here.
3. Kongs: They are a good quality play toy, and food can be hidden in the middle to treat and entertain your dog whilst you’re away. From my experience they are not indestructible, but they do hold up pretty well! They are key to reducing boredom and it’s associated destructive behaviours such as digging holes and chewing at your furniture. One tip is to put some pieces of dry food and some water in the kong, put in the freezer and it’s ready to go the next morning or later in the day. You can also try a small amount of vegemite or peanut butter in the centre. Hours of entertainment!
4. Feed in slow release devices: Especially if you are out and about but your mate is at home. In the wild dogs forage and hunt for their food but typically we just provide it in a bowl, taking away the fun and time spent finding the food. By giving them something to do whilst getting the reward (their meal!) you have alleviated their boredom and helped them burn some energy so they are happier to rest later.
5. Plan play dates: Get creative keeping in mind your dogs personality. It’s important that the right type of socialisation is done for your individual dog. Some will thrive at busy dog parks or dog friendly beaches, some will prefer the company of just a few. Isolation certainly doesn’t make for a happy dog, they are pack animals and need to be around people and other dogs. In the case of an antisocial dog, sadly, they often they become further isolated at home to avoid any possible triggering situations, this compounds their issues further. So whilst these guys aren’t suited to straight out unsupervised play dates, they need to be managed through consulting with veterinarians, recommended dog trainers who use positive reinforcement, and/or veterinary behaviourists.
6. Time: Your dog needs your time. The more time you spend with your dog, especially doing something with your dog, the happier your dog will be. Dogs are social animals and are most happy when they are with others.
7. Regular training: Keep the training up beyond puppy school. A daily ritual of 10 minutes of training with positive reinforcement or teaching a new trick or game is a great way to spend time together and strengthen your bond.
8. Regular routine: Dogs thrive on routine and knowing what to expect and when to expect it. Things can’t be the same every day but following a basic routine of exercise and feeding times will be highly beneficial.
9. Operation calm: By managing our own anxiety and stress, and creating a calm, consistent environment for our dogs to live in, we are in turn allowing them to be calm and happy. This may sound strange, but a stressed parent will create a stressed dog.
10. Keeping healthy: A sick dog isn’t a happy dog, a healthy one is! If there’s been a change in their weight, appetite, drinking habits, peeing or poop, presence of vomiting, coughing, change in exercise tolerance or an increase in sleeping, something may be up. Have regular veterinary check ups and speak to a veterinarian for advice. Switch from reacting to sickness to being proactive and keeping your buddy well.
Looking after and loving a dog is one of the best things you can do. By taking the time to make them the happiest they can be, it only follows that you will be happier too!
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