Love Your Pet: Walk in Your Dog’s Paws
February 20th is ‘Love Your Pet Day’. How will you mark the day with your best friend?
To be honest, I suspect you already love your dog to bits and they have more toys, coats, and blankets than one dog can reasonably appreciate. So let’s look at this day from the other side of dog bed, and ask if you have truly thought about what ‘love’ means to your pet.
Love is about more than toys, tasty treats, and a fancy bed – love means putting your dog’s needs first. So this ‘Love Your Pet Day’, instead of buying your dog a new toy, do something different. Why not walk a mile in your pet’s paws?
What I mean by this is looking at life from a pet’s point of view. Does your dog have everything essential to leading a happy and fulfilled life? And before you yell at the screen, ‘Yes, of course he does!’, read on…
Go about your day as normal, but make a note of what part your dog plays in events. For example, work out exactly how long they spend alone, waiting for you to come home. When you take them for the usual walk, the regular once round the block, make a mental note of how long that actually takes. And of who your dog has the opportunity to meet and how they reacts. Try to look at your dog as a stranger might see them: is he happy and bouncy, or dragging behind on the end of the leash?
If this leaves you scratching your head and asking ‘Why?’ -all is revealed below!
How long does your dog spend alone?
Dogs are social animals who love company. If your dog spends more than 4 hours on their lone-some, the chances are they either get bored or lonely. Now, my intention is not to make you feel guilty-we’re all busy and must work to pay for dog food – but rather to set you thinking about improving their time alone.
So, how to enrich your dog’s day when you can’t be there? For a start, think about puzzle toys to keep his mind busy and help those hours fly by. For instance, there are many types of interactive toys where the dog solves a puzzle to find hidden treats. Then there are standbys like the Kong. In hot weather, try stuffing it with moist food and freezing it overnight. In the morning this gives your dog a real challenge and keeps him cool.
If you are out for most of the day, can you afford a dog walker? That social interaction with other dogs and a chance to burn off excess energy could make all the difference to his happiness. Perhaps there is a local student in your neighbourhood looking for some extra pocket money and more than happy to take your beloved pooch out for an afternoon walk.
Walks and Well-being
Are you literally ‘stuck in a rut’ on your daily walk? If you tread the same old route every day, the chances are it’s not particularly interesting for you or your dog. Try somewhere new. Look at a local map, pick out the green spaces, and give it a go. Find a new local off leash park and jump in the car. You’ll meet new people and your canine companion will find a whole new world of smells to enjoy and enrich his life.
If you can’t try pastures new, then mix things up with a new game. If your dog is a ‘sniffer’ (loves to pick up scents) then teach him to track down hidden treats. If he loves to pick things up in his mouth, then try retrieving games (for a reward, of course!). And if he just loves to tear around, try going at a different time of day so the sights, sounds, and smells are different.
On your walk, notice how your dogs reacts to other dogs. Does he approach head up, tail wagging, or does he show signs of fear such as crouching down, a low tail, or even growl? If the latter, have you considered he might feel threatened and be lacking in confidence?
Realising their attitude is due to insecurity is half the battle. It’s for your dog and personally rewarding to work on building for your dog’s confidence? In a nutshell, this is a long term project where you help your dog develop pleasant associations with whatever it is that worries them. Read up and educate yourself on reactive dogs, fear aggression and training and then implement these with your dog.
You’ve heard the expression, “tough love”, but is this something we gloss over with our dogs? Tough love means doing things that are not always pleasant, but benefits their health and well-being in the long run.
‘Love Your Pet Day’ is a chance to express this in practical terms by looking after your dog’s health. Don’t forget, overlooking routine things like deworming or dental care, can have a real impact on his quality of life. (After all, tooth ache is no joke!)
Treat or Trick?
Express your love by reassessing your pet’s diet. Is their weight where it should be? Are you feeding them for their needs? Whilst it’s tempting to shower your dog with treats, the tricky thing is to know when you could be doing more harm than good. Treats can pile on the pounds, and they often have poor nutritional value for your pet. So instead, think about giving healthier alternatives such as low-fat organic treats, fresh vegetables, or using part of your dog’s daily meal allowance as their treats (to keep the calorie count down).
Mountain or Mole-hill?
Instead of spending money on a new toy or dog coat, how about finally getting that niggling lump checked out? By spending money on a vet check it could mean an early diagnosis, or else putting your mind at rest – and that’s got to be good!
Walk in your Dog’s Paws
Of course, any day (not just February 20th) is a great day for showing you love your pet. But this ‘Love Your Pet Day’, concentrate on what really matters in life and make sure your dog is the happiest he can be.