In theory, a dog’s day should take about seven times longer to elapse than our own, so to that end, it would be nice if his day was filled with seven times more fun than our own, but that may never be practical.
Dogs thrive on mental stimulation and if delivered cleverly by the clued up owner, each day can bring its own adventures and excitement to enrich a dog’s life.
Read on as Desmond Fellows uncovers 8 ways to make your dog's day.
Change His Toys Around
It’s advisable from a pack dynamics point of view for the owner to be the one in charge of the toys. That way your dog knows it’s a privilege and not a right to have some playtime.
But taking charge of the toys offers you the opportunity to bring some variety into the daily routine. By removing and reintroducing various toys on a day-to-day basis, you are encouraging your dog to use his brain more effectively.
If given the same toy for a long time, a dog may go into ‘autopilot and simply chew, shred or destroy the item without really thinking about it.
By mixing up and changing the toys from one day to the next, your dog has an almost new mental challenge each day. It is also a great idea to alternate what times and in which areas of the house the dog has access to toys – where practical.
Different floors, for example, make the experience of a certain toy quite different, so again, this could provide a new mental experience for the dog.
Take A Different Route On Your Walk
In the vast majority of dog-owning households, going for a walk in the high point of the day. But that is no reason not to improve an already winning formula.
It isn’t just the exercise that appeals to a dog, they are able to indulge their senses in new scenery, explore new smells and now and then meet new people and dogs. Many people have a pre-planned route that they take when walking the dog.
This makes a lot of sense as it enables the dog owner to estimate the time the walk will take and can also enable them to combine other errands with the walk.
But by changing the route of the walk every now and then you are opening up a whole new world of smells, sights and sounds to your dog. And for someone who has over 200 million nerve endings in their nose, this is kind of a big deal.
Even by going the other way around on your walk, your dog is experiencing a new sensation and will be mentally stimulated by it.
Did Someone Say Hide & Seek?
Hide and seek is one of the most rewarding games for a dog. It incorporates many canine instincts, such as hunting and also has the added bonus of being extremely fun and easy to learn.
Treat the teaching of the game as an exercise in obedience and when the commands and ‘rules’ are understood by all parties, use the game as means to excite, inspire and stimulate your dog.
Using different types of rewards such as food and toys can make each game as exciting as the last. Be creative, use props to make hiding places more difficult to find.
Dogs are pretty good at remembering the quickest way to a prize and will normally look for you in the last place that they found you, so by putting in a little planning you can generate a good deal of excitement through a very simple game of hide and seek.
Get Up & Dance
Dancing with dogs is more popular than it has any right to be. It is one of those strange activities that sound ridiculous until tried for one’s self. There are two types of dog dancing.
One involves costumes, rehearsals and an audience, often a large audience at an organised event, whilst the other type involves a person, a dog, optional music and fun.
Dancing with your dog is one of those impulsive things that the vast majority of dog owners have done at least once. You know the scenario, you’re getting ready to go out, spirits are high, music is playing and your dog decides to stand on his hind legs.
Rather than pushing him down as per usual, you hold his front legs and do a few steps. The tail starts wagging, the lips get licked and you both realise two important things. Firstly, that dancing is a lot of fun, and secondly that you don’t care how ridiculous you look.
If your dog asks for a dance or even attempts to cut in if you already have a partner, make his day and give him a few steps.
Do Something Instinctive
This is for the dog’s benefit, not yours! All dogs have instincts, some are stronger than others. The latent and strong instincts differ from dog to dog and breed to breed, so it is important to know your dog well before attempting to appeal to his instincts.
Labradors, Spaniels and other retriever breeds love to fetch. Sighthounds such as Lurchers and Greyhounds love to chase.
Do some research into your breed and watch out for what stimulates them on a regular basis and try to work this into training and play. The dog will get more out of a session of play that appeals to their natural instincts.
Put Something New On The Menu
Constantly altering a dog’s diet can have disastrous consequences, as many dog owners will know. But by mixing up various parts of your dog’s diet you can make mealtime much more exciting for a dog.
Yes, dogs are not particularly fussy eaters and tend to be more grateful than intrigued when their food gets put down, but even the easiest to please dog can benefit from the odd culinary variation from time to time.
Some dogs may even get health benefits from a shake-up of the diet. Some dogs will go for months or even years with slight nutritional deficiencies which are only spotted when their condition improves after a diet change.
As dogs age and their activity level drops, their nutritional requirements will alter too, perhaps a change in the diet is due to anyway? Try fish.
A Little Swimming
This may not be practical for many dog owners – and there may be many dogs that don’t fancy it either, but if you are lucky enough to have access to a dog-friendly pool and have a dog that likes to swim (Newfoundland owners pay attention) then you’ll find that going for a dip with your dog is one of the most fun things you ever did.
The summer months bring with them the temptation to peel off and jump in at the mere sight of a pond or river. Your dog often feels the same urge, although peeling off is unnecessary.
Provided you take safety precautions and are not breaking any rules by having a swim with your dog, the exercise, bonding and sheer fun you’ll have swimming together may just make your dog’s summer, never mind his day.
Catch Up With Friends
To be more specific, catch up with many friends that have dogs. A huge number of domestic dogs spend the majority of their life without canine company.
Most don’t mind this fact, they adapt to it and focus on their human pack mates, but dogs tend to thrive if allowed access to the company of other dogs.
Even if it is limited play or a walk with a dog-owning friend, your dog, provided socialisation and training is up to date, will be delighted to let off some steam with one of his own.
Many dog owners find that they make new friends through their dogs, so why not repay the favour? Whilst dogs will adapt to a life without interaction with other dogs, canine socialisation is one thing that provides lots of natural, mental stimulation.
We'd love to hear your own tales of ways you make your dog's day. Contact us via the site and we'll feature some of your stories next month.