Everyone knows that dogs need food, water, and shelter to survive. I’m here to tell you three more things you can provide for your dog that will take their life with you from good to GREAT! Your dog needs you to teach, to play, and to love. You’re probably already doing some of these, but this newsletter will give you new ideas for ways you can truly meet your dog’s needs.
A little training goes a long way. You don’t need to spend a year in a training class with your dog (although there are some really fun training classes out there, such as K9 Nose Work which every dog can do, that’ll make you want to keep going back!).
Most dogs need a class or two so you can teach them good manners. Good manners are the way dogs get more freedom in life – the better behaved they are, the more places they can go with you. The more places they can go, the more fun the two of you can have together.
Teaching can go beyond (far beyond!) good manners. You can teach your dog really useful things like getting you a cool drink from the refrigerator, finding your car keys, pulling your laundry basket to the washing machine. I’m talking about really cool tricks!
Don’t stop there! Your dog is capable of learning almost anything. You can teach your dog how to be calm during veterinary visits, how to accept having his nails trimmed and his ears cleaned. And all of those things can be taught (and ARE taught at Smart Dog U) with dog-friendly clicker training.
Smart Dog U works with a service dog agency to teach dogs how to be service dogs. These dogs can pick up a credit card and hand it to a cashier, bring the phone, pick up the remote control, indicate high (or low) blood sugar, and provide balance to a person. The dogs we work with aren’t any different from your dog – these dogs start out in Puppy Charm School, move onto K9 Building Blocks, have a little fun in K9 Nose Work, and then learn even more advanced skills specific to what service they’ll be providing.
Teaching your dog new things – any new things – is great for his mind. Teaching new things can tire your dog out. A thinking dog is a happy dog!
Playing with your dog might seem like a no-brainer. Everyone knows how to play with his or her dog, right? Yes. And no. Some dogs make it easy to figure out what toys they prefer and what games they like to play. But what happens when your dog tires of that game or that toy? Then what?
There are some really fun and interactive toys available to pet parents these days. Twenty years ago, we had to be creative and inventive– there weren’t many options on the supermarket shelves for dog toys. From toys that can be filled with food to toys you can make at home, the options are as varied as they are plentiful.
Some dogs enjoy learning new games to play. Instead of fetch, try hiding your dog’s toy – see if he can use his nose as well as he can use his eyes. If your dog loves to retrieve, get a “Chuck-It.” It’ll launch the tennis ball a lot farther than you can throw it yourself – and it’ll give your dog a lot more exercise, too.
If your dog is young, healthy and active, see if your dog is interested in agility. Agility is sort of like an obstacle course for dogs. There are tunnels made out of fabric, jumps (tire jumps, jumps with bars, etc.), A-frames, poles that the dog weaves in and out, and all kinds of fun stuff. You can make your own equipment, too. Until the agility bug bites you and you need to find competition-grade equipment!
The best part about play is that it’s fun for both you and the dog. And that’s what it’s all about.
This one’s easy – you wouldn’t have a dog if you didn’t love him. But we go past the basic love idea. We’re talking about things that go past just the emotion and get deeper into how you can keep that dog you’re crazy in love with healthy and happy for as long as possible.
Safety falls under the Love category. Do you know what common household items are toxic to your dog? Know these items, know the symptoms, and know what to do. You’ll also want to program this number into your cell phone contacts: 888-426-4435 (ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center).
Health is a big rock in the Love category. Lots of people equate food and treats to love. If you do this, you could be loving your dog to death, literally. Do you know how many calories a day your dog needs? Do you know what an overweight dog looks like? Is your dog at his ideal weight? If he’s not, you can help him find his svelte and athletic figure again. Ask your veterinarian to show you the Body Condition Chart and help you identify where your dog is on that chart. Getting your dog’s weight into the normal range can be the best way to love your dog. Put the treat down! Go out and take your dog for a walk! That’s something both of you will love and it’s good for your dog’s waistline (and yours, too)!
Teach. Play. Love.
Applying even one of the ideas in this article can help you and your dog have a happier life together. All of the ideas are easy. They’re all fun. And they’re sure to enhance the bond and the joy you share with your dog. Have fun with your dog – he’ll love you for it.
What do you do with your dog to teach, play, or love? Share your experiences with a comment below!