Positive Ways to Spoil your Dog!
There are approximately 78 million pet dogs in the United States. The vast majority of these dogs are beloved members of the family that are often pampered and spoiled. These creatures bring so much into our lives and we instinctively want to return the favor! Unfortunately, a large part of my dog training experience involves modifying and extinguishing unwanted poor behaviors that are result of spoiling. There is no doubt that there are positive and negative ways of spoiling a dog. I offer here some positive ways you can spoil your favorite four legged companion:
- Make time each day to get out with your best friend. Dogs are, by nature curious, social and completely engaged with their environment. The same old, static environment becomes boring and dull. Just as we enjoy going and doing new and interesting things, so do our dogs. Make the time each day to take your dog out for a walk. You don’t have to even go far, just get out and let him check things out! Smell the flowers! Watch the world go by! If you can get his blood pumping with some active, dedicated exercise, so much the better! I recognize that taking a daily walk can be a tough fit in our busy routines, but believe me, your dog will be so appreciative for recognizing his needs for physical stimulation!
- Play Games! Dogs do not need expensive beds, toys, collars, or clothing. They don’t know the difference between a $200 plush dog bed and an old, ratty comforter. They absolutely love to play. Take the time to recognize your dog’s favorite play activity. Some dogs love to play fetch, others love hide-and-seek or treasure hunts. Other dogs just want to be held, and have their tummy scratched. Whatever makes your dog happy is spoiling in their book! My favorite game is to throw a toy for my dogs and then, as they go get the toy, I run and hide in another room. They run around, searching gamely and when they find me, we have a big party, including lots of tasty rewards for ‘winning’ the game and finding me!
- Time and place and right type of treats. Judicious feeding of dog treats can be disastrous for dogs. 40% of pet dogs are overweight or obese. Don’t make a habit of offering your dog generous volume of treats for no reason. Humans have this odd desire to feed lots of treats because we feel our dogs will love us more because of it. This is just not true. Sure, they LOVE being fed treats, but more is not better. In my house, I offer treats---low calorie, small bite treats such as ‘Charlie Bears’ or their own kibble, but only if they do something to earn the treat…I use treats in conjunction with asking for behaviors that I want---being calm when strangers come over, sitting before going outside. I also provide daily opportunities for my dogs to perform behaviors which will earn them more food rewards. They both know a variety of trick behaviors and they absolutely love to perform their repertories and get their rewards. I use higher calorie treats only when teaching new or complex behaviors.
- Puzzle Toys Some of the best toys ever invented for dogs are puzzle toys. These are toys that contain a food source and the dog must manipulate the toy to get the food reward. These types of toys are mentally stimulating and may provide your dog with lots of fun and mental exercise. These toys can also be invaluable to offer your dog when you must leave him alone. Some of my favorites include: Buster Cube, Kong toys, Kibble Nibble, Atomic Treat Ball, JW Amaze a Ball, Twist and Treat, to name a few.
- Be Attentive and Aware. Perhaps the best thing you can do to spoil your dog is to be truly attentive to their wellness and needs. Take time each day to observe and physically check your dog to make sure he is healthy and feeling well. Dogs can be notoriously stoic and hide pain or discomfort. Early detection and management can prevent more serious physical issues down the road. Watch for their mental health as well. Is your dog showing signs of stress or worry? Do all you can to avoid putting your dog into situations where he is stressed and anxious!
In closing, remember it is perfectly ok to be solicitous, and attentive to your dog, just do so in positive ways!