Top tips for making your dog’s life great
“It’s a dog’s life,” we often say, as our four-legged friend snoozes his way through the day on the sofa while we’re hard at work. But your dog’s happiness depends on far more than sleep, food and fuss.
There are so many ways to ensure your dog lives life to its full potential, from varying walking routes to harnessing natural canine instincts.
Here are just some of the ways you can beat boredom and provide vital enrichment and exercise for your companion.
It may sound obvious, but walking your dog is one of the most important factors in keeping them happy and healthy. Every dog needs a minimum amount of exercise per day, and recommendations vary greatly between age and breed – an active Labrador, for example, needs at least two hours a day, while its pint-sized Chihuahua counterpart as little as 30 minutes.
And, provided it’s safe, there’s no livestock nearby and you have mastered recall, a good proportion of walks should be off lead. Consider letting them run free in a secure dog park if recall still needs some work.
But walks are so much more than a means of exercise to our four-legged friends; they’re a chance to properly explore and understand the world with their noses, so never underestimate the importance of giving them ample time to stop and sniff en route.
Also read: How to combat the puppy blues
Your pet will love you even more if you mix up routes and destinations rather than sticking to the same plod around the block every day. Exploring different places is also crucial to a puppy’s development so that they grow up confident with as many sights and sounds as possible.
Remember, though, to be careful in warmer climes – dogs are highly susceptible to heatstroke, so shouldn’t be walked when the sun is at its hottest or the pavement is too warm for paws. Take plenty of water and utilise shady routes during sunny spells, where possible.
We’re not just talking fetch, here – though that’s a firm favourite for many dogs.
How about a game of tug-of-war? Whether you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, out in the garden, or on a walk, this is a fantastic way of channeling your dog’s instinct to pull and wrestle.
Some people worry that this kind of play encourages aggressive behaviour, but as long as you do it right – on your terms and by enforcing the leave command where needed – it can strengthen bonds and expel excess energy.
Hide and seek isn’t just for kids, many dogs love this game too – and it puts those expert noses to the test. (Did you know they have at least one million scent receptors in that snout of theirs?)
Ask a friend or relative to hold onto your dog, or use the wait command, to keep them put while you hide behind the sofa or curtains in the next room and call them in to find you. Heap praise on them when they sniff you out and reward with a treat or a little play. Once they’ve mastered the concept, you can step up the difficulty level and even try it outside, if it’s safe to do so.
There will be times when you need your dog to keep themselves entertained, so make sure they have a good mixture of toys to play with – soft, hard, squeaky, bouncy, big and small (but not small enough to be a choking hazard).
Different textures are even more important for puppies, who explore the world with their mouths. Your dog may have a favorite teddy or ball but be sure to rotate their toys so that they always have something new and exciting to play with when you’re engrossed in housework or a work call.
Fun with food
Feeding doesn’t always need to be from the same bowl. Harness your dog’s incredible scent skills to make dinner time fun as well as filling.
You can hide kibble in a snuffle mat, stuff wet food in a Kong, spread dog-friendly peanut butter over a LickiMat, or use puzzle-feeders, whether a ball or a paw-operated type.
Scatter feeding your dog, by spreading food over the garden, can also create lots of fun and keeps brains active.
On the next rainy day, why not use any extended time indoors to teach your dog something new or brush up on existing training? Puppy brains are like sponges, but it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.
There are so many possibilities, from teaching them a roll over or a high five, to the names of individual toys and even tidying them away into their box afterward.
Lastly, after a long day playing, walking, sniffing out food – and you – be sure that your dog always has a safe, quiet, comfy space to retreat to when they want to relax and sleep.
Make sure their bed is in a peaceful spot, away from drafts and direct sunlight, so that they wake up the next day ready to embrace everything the next day has to offer, by your side.