Okay, you’ve unwrapped the pressies, eaten the turkey, spent time with the family, watched endless hours of TV….what next? If you’ve got the luxury of some time off, why not use the festive period to spend a little more time with your dog, building relationships or even future planning?
1 – Walks for you and your dog only – Take some time to enjoy each other’s company – no phones, no headphones – nothing! Just you and your dog! Watch what your dog does on walks, how he interacts with other dogs and people, how he behaves and responds to noises, smells and his environment. You will learn so much more about his character and personality if you become a little more absorbed in his world.
2 – Give your dog ‘me time’ – We all live busy lives and this doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of your day, maybe even only 10 minutes. Try and allocate a little slot where just you and your dog just have a bit of space together where you play, pet your dog, or even just some physical proximity. All dogs are different – it can literally be anything your dog enjoys. Maybe incorporate this into when you are relaxing in the evening, maybe watching TV,. Just enjoy a little bit of quality time together; your dog will appreciate it and your bond will grow even stronger.
3 – Personal space – Many of us also have hectic households! Dogs are sensitive to daily hustle and bustle too so try to remember this. Shouting, banging and crashing affects them too. Make sure that you have a calm area for your dog, so he can retreat here away from any little poking fingers or noise. In addition, if you are feeling stressed, a soft target is easy to find but your dog should never become one.
4 – Learn some new tricks – Don’t assume that your dog has accomplished all he can. Whatever his age, he can still learn and he will enjoy actively engaging his brain. It’s fun to pick a task – novel, useful, manners, skill etc. – to teach him and then watch how he learns. If there’s a particular task that you find difficult or bothersome, why not teach your dog so that he can help you – e.g. shutting doors, unloading the washing machine, carrying things, or finding items around the house.
5 – Brain games together – Mental enrichment is so often advocated, but is so important…and it’s fun! There are a huge range of brain games you and your dog can engage in together. Again, these can improve your relationship and are also good for older dogs’ cognitive capacity.
6 – Old for new – We all get stuck in a rut, especially true when it comes to walks. Have a look around where you live and search for two or three new walks that you could try that wouldn’t take too much extra time to get to. Maybe also look for a couple of ‘treat walks’ a little further afield, e.g. woods/beach/country etc. where your dog would have a real change of scenery, maybe be allowed off leash if safe to do so, etc.
7 – Plan a new goal – Why not think about trying something different in the New Year? Maybe have a go at agility or flyball, or maybe using your dog’s nose in scenting, tracking or one of the many dogs sports that are available. Your dog doesn’t have to be super fantastic, the main thing is that you both have a go and enjoy yourselves.
8 – Be a little introspective – At times it’s easy to coast along with the ‘same old, same old’, but is what we’re doing and how we’re doing it really that good for our dogs? When we actually have time to pause, make that time to stop, think and reflect upon whether our dog is responding the way we really hope he will, and if not, why not? Even if he is, ask yourself if your dog is responding because he actually wants to and whether you are happy with the training methods you are using.
9 – Consider change – Building on the above, change isn’t always that easy to instigate, especially if you’ve been utilizing one method or believing in one approach for instance for a long time. Use any available time to consider your options for change, read current, professional advice and ask for help from a force-free professional.
10 – Our dogs are all family members and they deserve our time as much as any other. So, when you can devote just a small chunk of your day, please do so because you will be richly rewarded!