How do you say “Thank You” to your dog? If your gratitude this Holiday Season includes your precious pup who faithfully brings so much joy and unconditional love all year long– show your appreciation by including your dog in the festivities. Say “Thank You” to your kindred canine and make your dog smile. Here are some of my ideas, please feel free to add yours to the Wish List.
1. Hang Out with Your DogOne of the best gifts you can give your dog is your time, energy and affection, and quite likely, no one is more gleefully pleased with your attention than your dog. If you have a well-socialized dog, take her with you to run some errands or spend some quality time together. Take a long ride up the coast or just about anywhere out in nature and walk along the beach, visit some of our beautiful little beach or small towns along your way. Dogs love country.
2. Veterinary Care
Be pro-active about the health care of your dog all year round just as you are about the health of other family members. Why not schedule a trip to your vet for a complete check up? Choose a veterinarian that both you and your dog genuinely like and trust. Some top-notch integrative-care veterinarians combine both allopathic and holistic approaches to the health and well-being of your dog to provide optimal dog-friendly medical care.
Practice calming desensitization techniques in order to better prepare your dog for the onslaught of stimuli she will likely encounter at the clinic. If your dog has been “dreaming of an orthopedic bed”, this could be a good time to make that purchase.
3. Train Your Dog
Say “Thank You” by practicing Positive Reinforcement techniques. Positive training for companion animals is fast becoming a preferred method of dog training. One of its most prominent advocates, The Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2006) in their article, “Good Trainers, How to Identify One”… recommends dog-friendly dog training because it is effective, humane and leads to lasting behavior. Enroll in a class or get a private behavioral consultation to target those little or big behavior problems that have cropped up during the year.
To get started at home, reward behaviors you would like to see repeated. Ignore, prevent or manage the behaviors you’d rather not see repeated. Remember to set some household rules, draw boundaries, establish routines and make it all doable for your dog by being consistent.
Tasty food ranks very high on the list of things your dog loves. Why not prepare holiday feasts for the entire family and provide a special meal for your dog? If you feed your dog healthy, organic food and avoid ingredients that are toxic to dogs, a homemade meal may be just what Doggy Santa ordered. Super-premium dog food is also a good choice. Who can resist Merrick™ “Venison Holiday Stew”! Hopefully your dog is already accustomed to eating a wide variety of foods in a balanced diet so a new dish will not upset the tummy.
Don’t encourage begging by feeding directly from the table but feed in your dog’s bowl or by hand, away from your dining area.
Whether it’s foods that people love that may be toxic to your dog, cooked bones, chocolate, or poinsettia plants, be sure to educate yourself for your pet’s sake about the season’s dangerous substances. The Humane Society of the United States (www.hsus.org) has a complete list of foods that are potentially poisonous to pets. If you think your dog may have ingested a toxic substance you may call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888.426.4435). For a fee, you will receive an immediate consultation.
Get your dog out for a nice long run if possible. There are many unique trails, parks, beach areas and neighborhoods to explore. If you prefer to watch rather than run, arrange for a “Play Date” with another friendly dog, or head out to a Dog Beach or one of our leash-free dog parks. Remember, however, to bring only dog-friendly dogs to the dog park and be aware that there is little legal recourse should your dog have an encounter with a dog that is not dog-friendly in a leash-free area.
Consider enrolling your dog in a dog sport class or joining a local group for agility training, fly-ball, or dog dancing. Behaviorally, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog, so don’t underestimate the benefits for both of you that come from aerobic and non-aerobic exercise as well.
What about gear? Many dog trainers recommend a dog-friendly front-clip harness for both walking and running in order to distribute the stress of on-leash pulling across the dog’s chest and body, rather than around the neck and throat structures.
(To be continued…)
We’d love you to share your favorite “Thank You” story, comedy or idea right here. Please do!
Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist” M.A. and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker, can be reached at (858) 259-9663 or email: LindaMichaelsPositively@gmail.com for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations in or near Del Mar or the San Diego Coast. Visit us at DogPsychologistOnCall.com All rights reserved.
Originally published RanchCoastNews, Lorine Wright, Executive Editor.