Whether you’ve had dogs before or this is your first canine friend, whether they’re a new addition to your family or they’ve been with you for a while; we all seem to have ideas about what dogs want, how they like to play and the ways they should spend their time.
We were guilty of this with our first dog Lola, convinced at first that she needed to go to the dog park and wanted to play with every dog she met. That she needed to run around twice a day to tire her out. That she would want to interact with every person we came across. Even when she would show us otherwise we still, at times, pushed for her to have what we thought were the right doggy experiences.
Once we let go of those preconceived ideas, learned to listen to Lola and respect her decisions we definitely had a much more relaxed and content dog. Instead of going to a big dog park we started visiting smaller reserves where she could spend her time exploring and not being bombarded by other dogs and the resulting high arousal scenarios. We switched up her daily activities so that it was a short park visit in the morning with a bit of ball here and there and then a relaxing walk in the afternoon where she chose where to go. We paid close attention to her when she was around people outside of our family and if she wasn’t showing any real interest in interacting or wasn’t showing inviting body language then we made sure to provide her with a safe place to go to as well as giving her something else productive to do while helping her build positive associations.
Thankfully, we learned a lot from training Lola and our current dog Evie has certainly benefited from this. So, with the extra time you may have over the holidays, why not take a step back and start paying attention to your dog, what they really enjoy doing and what makes them really happy!
Let your dog decide where they want to go for a walk, come to a stop at the end of your driveway and just see where they want to go.
When you’ve got the time, take your dog on a ‘sniff as much as they want’ walk and see where it takes you.
Try out a smaller or quieter park to get a better idea of how they enjoy their playtime and who they want to interact with.
Ditch the ball and practise some fun tricks instead to give their brain a workout.
Take them on different doggie adventures than what they are used to. Try the river instead of the beach or a hike instead of going to their regular park.
Look into some of the awesome doggy activities that are available; agility, rally ‘o’, adventure courses and tracking.