1) Increase interaction. We may live busy lives but we can add interaction into our daily routines. Each time you are waiting for the kettle to boil, have a short training session. Each time you put something in the bin, have a quick play on the way back. Build small interactions into your day; the dog wants to be part of your life.
2) Never use force, fear, pain or intimidation. For an animal to be happy or content, they must first feel safe. They will not feel safe if their best friend in the world behaves unpredictably or acts aggressively towards them.
3) Let them stop and sniff, rather than dragging them away. They love to sniff, it’s incredibly good for their mental health and it’s how they make sense of the world.
4) Rather than feeding all their food from a bowl, consider using enrichment toys (such as a Kong or K9 Connectable). You can also recycle your old food boxes for enrichment. Chuck some food in your old cereal or egg box and give it to the dog for some awesome fun. Ensure the dog doesn’t try to eat the cardboard. For more ideas visit the canine enrichment facebook group.
5) Teach some basic scent work (tutorial here). Dogs love love love love love to use their nose.
6) Take them to the woods, through the streams, and in the mud. Let them get a little messy exploring the great outdoors.
7) Take a look at the quality of the food you feed. It can be mindboggling trying to decipher all the contrasting information but the website allaboutdogfood simplifies the process somewhat.
8) Find some appropriate dog friends for canine play sessions, or just a sniff if they prefer.
9) Allow 15 minutes for just you and the dog each evening. Playing, grooming, just sitting with them, or giving a massage. Do whichever they prefer or mix it up a bit. Of course, you may do more sessions if you like. Just you and the dog, so give them your full attention.
10) Keep them at a healthy weight. Weigh their food. Whenever I’ve checked the quantity, I’ve found that people are feeding much more than they think. Keep track of the dog’s weight; most vets will allow you to use their scales free of charge. Keeping track allows early warning of other health problems too. If in doubt contact a veterinarian.
11) Yes, I said 10 ways, but there are always more things we can do. Buy them a harness. In the throat, just where the collar sits, lies the trachea (windpipe), thyroid gland, oesophagus (food-pipe) and the main artery supplying the head and brain. Pulling and yanking of these vital structures is not a good idea medically and is something we should consider ethically too.
Thank you for reading, now go and enjoy your dog.
Shay Kelly is the author of Dog training and behavor: a guide for everyone and Canine Enrichment: the book your dog needs you to read