Just as parents of human children take steps to raise happy, healthy, and confident children in these early, impressive years, so should parents of Furkids take steps to ensure their dogs become happy, healthy, and confident four-legged friends, including family members!
During every interaction, whether playing, exercising, or just hanging out with our furry friends, our dogs learn. It is important that these moments count by avoiding simple, common mistakes that can potentially ruin your dog’s confidence, health, or happiness.
Here are 3 ways to avoid ruining your dog:
1. Socialize your dog early and often
Socialization essentially means exposing your dog to new environments, situations, and experiences in a way that will help build his confidence and teach him to be positive about new things.
Many pet parents mistakenly believe that socialization is the same as socialization or meeting new people and new dogs. While socializing with other people and animals is an important part of socializing, it’s only part of the process. Dogs should also be introduced to new environments, new sights, sounds, and smells! Without proper socialization, new experiences can be quite scary for a dog.
However, socialization should always be done in a safe, controlled, and rewarding manner. And it doesn’t end with puppy age! Some simple ideas are walking in new and different places, or visiting a park or nature trail where you are likely to encounter new people, new smells, and possibly new animals.
Visit local dog-friendly establishments such as pet shops, home improvement centers, or restaurants with outdoor seating. Choose dog toys with a variety of textures and sounds. Expose your dog to as many new sights, sounds, people, and animals as possible while keeping those experiences positive for him. Reward with praise and treats when your dog shows interest in something new, greets a stranger or other dog appropriately, or shows confidence in a new environment. If your dog is ever uncomfortable or afraid of a new experience, slow down. Don’t force a dog to do something he’s afraid of as this can actually lead to fear and apprehension about new things.
2. Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of physical and mental exercise
We are all aware of the importance of good, high quality food to health and wellbeing. But did you know that your dog’s diet can also affect their behavior? Hyperactivity, mood swings, inappropriate potty training, compulsive behavior, reactivity, aggression, excessive barking, and dozens of other behavior problems have emerged as possible symptoms of poor nutrition.
Unsurprisingly, many more behavior problems can be traced back to physical inactivity.
Choose a diet that is free from fillers like corn, wheat, or soy, which have been linked to a variety of health and behavioral problems, in favor of all-natural dog foods that are high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Then make sure you don’t overfeed or underfeed your dog to make sure he is maintaining a healthy weight.
In addition to proper nutrition, exercise is important to maintain physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Dogs that are bored, have too much pent-up energy, and have no exit for that energy often turn to destructive behaviors to relieve boredom. Dogs should be physically trained for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day. Very often, pet parents mistakenly believe that it is enough to let a dog run and play outside in the backyard for 20 minutes. While casual games are great for dogs, they usually need more structured activities to get their hearts racing and benefit from the cardiovascular effects of exercise.
But don’t forget, mental exercise is important too! Make time every day to exercise your dog’s brain! Feeding and treating puzzles, hiding and obedience training are great ways to train your dog’s brain and develop their confidence and problem solving skills.
3. Training is about so much more than obedience!
Despite advances in understanding dog behavior, there are still an alarming number of pet parents who believe that training is frivolous and thrive on the idea of ”making a dog be a dog.” Inadequate training is not only one of the main reasons that millions of dogs are abandoned and given to animal shelters every year. Taking the time to exercise your dog will make it easier for you to communicate with and bond with your furryest family member.
Aside from the obvious benefits of living with a dog who understands what you want and need from him – for example, to walk well on a leash, avoid jumping up and catching visitors to come when he is called to Not breaking the sofa cushions or sitting quietly in its crate when you need it – training gives your dog a job – and dogs LOVE to work! It builds trust, promotes problem solving, and generally makes your life together more rewarding for both of you.
Remember, however, that training your dog should always be a rewarding and positive experience.
Pet parents who remember these three important aspects of dog ownership are sure to enjoy a fun, loving, happy, and healthy life with their four-legged friends.