If you ask most dog owners whether they consider their furry friends part of the family, they’d say “yes.” And while training and disciplining your pup is important, it’s equally beneficial to raise them with praise and affection. Beyond the basics, there are some easy, expert-recommended ways to give your pooch an emotional boost and ensure they have a sunny view of the world. Keep your dog happy and healthy with the following tips.
1. Know your dog as a “person.”
That means tuning into their likes and dislikes, nurturing the former, and avoiding the latter. “There are two approaches to tending to the needs of an individual dog. The first is minimizing the experiences that the dog finds to be negative; go out of your way to prevent situations where the dog is fearful,” says psychologist and dog trainer Zazie Todd, author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. “This ranges from avoiding the situation to teaching the dog to like the situation instead, or even using medication under the guidance of a veterinarian. The second is knowing what that particular dog enjoys. Do they love to play fetch, or do they prefer to go for a swim? Do they love agility class, or do they prefer to mooch about on a forest trail? It’s up to us to know what our dog likes and give them the opportunities to experience it.”
2. Be an architect of the night.
Your dog needs to feel comfortable during sleep and, of course, dreams. Many dogs might love nothing more than to hop into bed with you, but for a number of reasons, including human allergies, that doesn’t always work. In response, some owners push in the opposite direction, forcing their dog to sleep alone behind closed doors — a situation that often leads to anxiety. If your dog is agitated sleeping away from you, create a happy medium where you each have your own space but are not shut off from each other.
3. Set up a playdate.
If your pup likes to play with other dogs, give her a chance to do just that. There’s nothing sweeter than watching pooches romp with each other, and having fun and socializing is good for your furry friend. Find a dog park local to you and let your pup play around.
4. Born to dig?
Many dogs are natural-born diggers, and nothing makes them happier than creating a hole in your yard — or your favorite sofa. To satisfy their needs while protecting your valuables, give diggers a set spot, such as an outdoor sandbox filled with dirt or a bin of material they can shuffle through at home. Dogs have canine instincts that are, after all, not human — so instead of punishing or suppressing those tendencies, we must find ways to help them indulge.
5. Put on a TV show.
No one wants their fur baby to turn into a couch potato, but a new raft of shows made specifically for dogs can be engaging and stimulating for brief periods of time. Just remember that content matters and human TV can do your dog more harm than good. We recommend the DOGTV network and shows such as Puppy Time. If the colors seem off, just leave that dial alone. Those hues are for the dogs, not for you. Dogs can see yellow and blue, but green and red appear gray to your pet. For the ultimate half hour, snuggle with your dog and watch the show side by side.