You know there’s more to having a dog than covering their basic needs. You’re committed to providing an all-around healthy, happy lifestyle for many years of learning, joy and friendship. But you can’t help but wonder if there’s anything you can do to be an even better guardian for your pet.
Here’s what you can do to distinguish yourself from being a good owner to a truly great dog owner:
Be The Leader Your Dog Needs
In the past, people believed that wolves and wild dogs lived together in packs made up of unrelated individuals. The highest ranking dog, the Alpha, used aggression and intimidation to keep lower-ranking dogs in line. Most dog trainers and behaviorists now know that this is far from the truth. A real pack consists of a family – adult dogs and their offspring.
You may have heard the outdated advice, “Show your dog who is alpha, or he will think there is no leader and will naturally rise up the ranks of your pack, misbehaving in order to dominate you.”
People do bizarre things to prove to their dog that they are alpha. You do not need to ever grab your dog’s muzzle, force them onto their back, eat before them, forbid them from sleeping on your bed, or do anything else to prove that you are your dog’s leader. These actions do not communicate leadership to your dog. At worst, they destroy your bond and cause your dog to act out aggressively.
So, what does it mean to be your dog’s leader?
As a human being, you’re smarter, stronger and more advanced than any dog. You can teach your dog skills that he could have never imagined. You can teach your dog to communicate beyond his natural abilities. All without force, intimidation or pain.
Dogs have a natural tendency to look to their humans when they are feeling scared or uncertain. They already see us as leaders. They already trust us to show them how to interact with the world around them. When people scare or hurt their dogs in the name of training or dominance, they break that trust and lose their position as a trusted, loving leader.
Provide A Nourishing Diet
You may have noticed that, in the past ten years, pet food aisles are bigger than ever. They’re packed with options, all claiming to be natural, complete and healthy. You may have also seen refrigerators in pet aisles with rolls of premade raw food, or even heard of people making homemade cooked or raw diets.
Selecting the right food is actually very complicated. Like people, dogs have different sensitivities, allergies and metabolisms. What’s right for someone else’s dog might not be right for yours. If you’re thinking of upgrading your dog’s food, you’ll need to transition gradually to avoid upsetting your dog’s digestive system.
The best way to assess the quality of a food isn’t by price, it’s by the ingredients label. The first ingredient should be a high quality protein. Avoid foods that contain corn, soy, by-products, artificial colors and flavors.
You can also give your dog fresh food with their kibble to make it more nutritious. Avoid giving your dog fatty table scraps, and supplement with lean meats, bone broth and fresh vegetables.
Take Your Dog On Adventures
A potty break out in the yard is nice, and a leashed walk around the block is fun, but every dog could use an adventure every now and again. An adventure means exploring a brand-new terrain, making memories with you and getting to know new sights, sounds and smells.
Most beaches allow dogs during the off-season. Many hiking trails are dog friendly. Even dogs with behavioral issues can enjoy an adventure if taken very early or late, when areas are not crowded.
Practice training skills in new areas to teach your dog to listen even around distractions. Take pictures. Enjoy a sunset. Or a sunrise. An adventure takes you and your dog away from routine. It’s an opportunity that every dog deserves, and you’re sure to learn and grow from it as well.
Say, “Thank you!” Once In A While
Have you ever noticed that, of all the things we say to our dogs all day long, we rarely ever stop to say, “Thank you”?
Try it sometime.
Instead of telling your dog off for barking at the door, thank him for alerting you of a visitor and reward him for being quiet when he stops.
When your dog is nervous about a car ride, thank him for coming along for the trip, and promise that good things will happen when you arrive at your destination.
Sometimes, we focus so much on fixing “bad” behaviors, we fail to notice when our dogs are being good. Rewarding that tiny moment of silence is the first step to getting your dog to be consistently calm and quiet when you need him to be.
Thank your dog for being there. Thank your dog for being your friend. They might not know what it means, and that’s okay. You still benefit from reminding yourself to feel gratitude and appreciation towards your dog, and that’s what helps you be a truly great dog owner.
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