At first, I struggled with what to write for my first blog. After long deliberation, I decided to write about something I have been experiencing lately and that most people are ashamed to admit about their dogs:
Nowadays our dogs are expected to be as perfect and polite as we are by being great around kids, playing well with other dogs and being as quiet as if he were in a library. That’s a lot of pressure for a pooch! If you have a dog that has ever failed at one of these tasks you know the sickening feeling of your own damaged ego as you explain “but he’s really a good dog.” And of course he is, he just needs some education.
Now it’s true that training and socialization done properly can work some true magic! But what do you do to keep your dog happy and healthy during this transition?
I will break it down into three steps:
Exercise (Mentally and Physically)
Don’t push it!
So what happens when that doggie that was put up on a pedestal doesn’t behave at the dog park? How does he get exercise?
Physical exercise is literally anything that is physical, running, jumping, playing Frisbee, hiking in the woods.
Mental exercise works your dog’s brain. Think of it like doing math problems. Running releases endorphins that make you feel happy and energized. Though I don’t know about you, but I feel like a nap after an hour of Calculus. Your dog needs both types of exercise and all too often we forget to give our dog’s mental exercise. So here are some exercise tips that you can put into action!
Your dog can lose interest in the backyard pretty quickly; same goes for the uniform walk around the block every day. Challenge him by mixing it up! Give your dog some outside toys, a bubble machine is great, it blows several bubbles at once when you turn it on and you can even find bacon flavored bubbles, which will work your dog’s senses. Once the machine is on all you have to do is sit back and laugh. On a hot day you can freeze chicken broth with a tasty treat in the center. Long walks can be a great way to exercise physically, but also mentally because your dog gets to sniff out a whole new world! Take your time on these walks and let him benefit from this, it will wear him out more than just walking around the block and back home.
My favorite thing to do with my beagle/coon hound is to take her to the park and play Frisbee, but is this an option for those dogs who can’t be trusted off leash right? Yes! You can purchase a cotton training lead, 10, 20 or even 30 feet in length. Grab your dog’s favorite toy and find a space where you can play undisturbed. Just watch out for the leash getting tangled, and don’t throw the toy out of his range.
Remember that just because dogs are social animals doesn’t mean that they want to be social all the time or with everyone. We too are social animals, and I’d bet you can name at least one person you’d rather not be social with (maybe you’ve even imagined growling at them as a warning to back off) and of course, we all have days where we’d rather stay in bed.
In your rush to have a well-trained or even “perfect” dog, you may just hurt your own cause. If your dog is tense or backing up don’t force him into that particular situation. A good check is to let your dog lead you to new things. And remember it’s okay to tell someone “no” when they ask if their kids or dog can say hello. I usually just say “sorry she’s not always friendly.” This will get people to back off right away. You may not like saying it, but being wishy-washy by saying maybe or he’s in training doesn’t give people enough information to understand your dog’s needs and too much too fast can frighten you’re dog.
Be patient and create a bond with your dog through training and fun games.