You’re the gate keeper to everything for them, make their life fun!
Get rid of their bowl and use enrichment toys. Our dogs ancestors had to hunt for their food. They’d spend however long scavenging for a meal, then rest. When you give today’s dog all their food in one place they miss out on the sniffing, the hunt, and then they have the rest of their day to fill. It doesn’t tire them out at all! There are loads of puzzle toys available, use those instead.
Give them time to understand want you want. If I gave you instructions in a language you don’t understand and yelled when you got things wrong… How would you feel? Would you feel safe to keep trying? Reward good behaviour and that is the behaviour they will repeat. A reward can be attention, food, anything they value. None of us work for free!
Let them have dog friends. Having someone of the same species to do natural behaviour with has been shown to improve quality of life for ALL species, not just dogs. As long as they’re dog friendly this will be exciting for them!
Let them stop and sniff on their walks. A dog’s sense of smell is about 40 times stronger than a human’s. Not letting them stop and sniff is like us reading the paper, but we’re not allowed to read the articles that interest us. Sniffing also tires them out mentally and physically, whereas going for a run only wears them out physically!
Teach them to find things. Once again, sniffing is a huge part of being a dog. This will help entertain them AND tire them out. Plus, using their natural behaviours to sniff things out, or hunt things, will keep them satisfied.
Increase your interaction with them. If I were to sit around all day and not have any books, my phone, or socialisation, I’d probably make my own fun too. This can lead to your dog digging, barking, or any other normal dog behaviours that often annoy humans! Give them an alternative.
Keep them at a healthy weight. Excess weight can exacerbate existing conditions like arthritis, and lead to conditions like diabetes. Yes, dogs suffer from many of the same health issues as humans, and just like with us, many can be avoided with lifestyle changes.
Consider the quality of the food you feed them. There is nothing wrong with treats and junk food in moderation, just like in humans. But, just as eating nothing but junky fast food isn’t good for us, it’s not good for our dogs. There is a variety available and a vet can help you get started.
Let them get dirty. Dogs love stinky things. Let them roll in sand and grass, run through puddles, and jump into gross things. Dog ancestors used to instinctually mask their scent for hunting, it’s another natural behaviour. It all washes off! And on that note, don’t wash your dogs too often as you can dry out their skin. Every breed is different!
Take care of their health. Whether it’s the onset of bad breath, a recurring limp, or other symptoms, it’s your job to provide them with access to health care. There are so many options nowadays, and getting a little problem treated before it turns into a big health issue is usually easier to fix and cheaper!
Take care to not overwork your dogs. They want fun, not exhaustion.
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Canine Mobility Specialist