Five Ways to Keep Your Dog Sane
FIVE WAYS TO KEEP YOUR DOG SANE
When I did a lot more basic training and in home behavior consulting, I would get calls all the time from people who were having a hard time dealing with their dog’s behavior or “mis”behavior in their eyes. Sometimes behavior modification was necessary, but in almost all cases changes needed to be made to the dog’s day to day life because there were things missing that dogs need to thrive. All dogs are individuals and have different needs, varying energy levels and they were bred for different purposes all of which factor into a dog’s needs. Here are five things to consider if your dog is exhibiting any worrisome or even annoying behavior.
When most people choose a breed of dog they are considering the natural traits for that breed and how well that breed fits into their lifestyle and family. If you happen to have chosen a breed that has a lot of energy, such as a sporting or herding dog bred to have a lot of stamina and work all day, hopefully you enjoy exercising so that you can make sure this need is met for your dog.
It amazes me how some people have busy, active, energetic dogs yet provide them with very little exercise and then expect them to be well behaved and calm around the house. There are many breeds of dogs who can get their exercise in with a little bit of play, maybe some fetch and neighborhood walks, but some need quite a bit more than that in order to really thrive. Be sure your dog gets the exercise he needs and what his mind and body require. Exercise should be safe, appropriate for the individual and enjoyable for the dog.
All dogs require mental stimulation. Mental stimulation is exactly what it sounds like, it is making sure that your dog is given the opportunity to think, learn, problem solve, explore, work, play and anything else that encourages him to use his mind. Mental stimulation can burn as much energy as physical exercise. Yes, you read that right. Mental stimulation can burn as much energy as physical exercise. This is because, like physical exercise mental stimulation is tiring. This is one reason why good dog trainers encourage clients to introduce puppies to foraging toys such as kongs or food puzzles. Sports like nose work or barn hunt that do not require a lot of physical exercise but require dogs to use their noses to problem solve is incredibly tiring and can be a great way to burn some energy. Even offering a big meaty bone can provide a few hours of mental stimulation. Find ways to offer some enrichment and mental stimulation on a regular basis.
Basic training is a must if you want a well adjusted dog. How can a dog “behave” how you want him to if he hasn’t been trained to do so? The answer is that he can’t. Dogs speak a completely different language than us and need to be taught basic life skill behaviors so that they can perform those behaviors when asked. For years when I taught basic through advanced dog training classes it always blew me away when people would say that their dog “blows them off” or “doesn’t come when they call him”, yet they would readily admit that they had never actually trained the dog to do that. And, when the dog didn’t know how to respond to cues he had never been trained to respond to, they assumed it was because the dog is stubborn, stupid, being willful or some other label that actually had nothing to do with it.
Positive reinforcement training is not only effective in teaching a dog to respond to cues when you ask, but it is also relationship building. Not to mention that training can also give your dog the mental stimulation and exercise he needs on a regular basis. Enjoy the journey of training with your dog. Don’t go into it only to get the dog trained, do it to have a fun, mutually enjoyable activity to do with your dog. You will end up with a dog that responds to what you ask because he has been effectively trained to do so.
Get your dog out into the world. Most dogs enjoy outings of some sort. Even my sensitive dog who doesn’t like neighborhood walks enjoys going on walks at the local marina or park. When I had several older small dogs with various health issues, I would take them out for walks in a stroller. These dogs were not able to go for walks, but they loved their stroller rides. Most dogs need to get out just like we do. Even my older dogs who are much less mobile enjoy going to the grooming shop for the day with me or for a car ride or to the pet store. If you don’t want to take your dog out because he acts wild or isn’t trained, refer to my other recommendations…more exercise, mental stimulation and training is probably the best place to start.
A SOCIAL LIFE
Dogs are social animals and like us they do best when they have company. Whether your dog prefers the company of other dogs, people, his family or his flock, having a social life is important to him. As social animals, dogs want to be with us, they need to be with us. Of course, some dogs prefer the company of their own people and some never met a stranger, but all dogs need people in their life. Making sure that your dog get plenty of company and attention will help him to be a happy, content and well rounded dog.