What does my dog actually want?

Ever get told by a complete stranger what your dog ‘needs’? It might be something you have looked up or have read, but more often advice is offered when you haven’t really asked for it, and often when you are happily walking your dog and minding your own business. It gives me what I now call the ‘advice hangover’, so I thought it was time to redress the balance.

I did a quick survey on my WildPaw Facebook account asking if people have been told their dog is in some way unhappy, by a complete stranger. I received over seventy responses within minutes. Friends reported strangers approaching them when out, telling them their dogs were ‘starving’, walking them incorrectly, poisoning them with branded foods, even that their dog is ‘dangerous’! I’ve been told my dogs are ‘snappy’ (they aren’t  but one is a Jack Russell Terrier cross – still not snappy though). One lady accused me of walking a guinea pig on a lead (my tiny rescue chi x Bonnie who sweetly duffs up the bigger dogs at playtime, but is otherwise charming). The zinger was an adorable elderly lady who told me that poking my collie in the face with a stick was a sure fire way to stop him pulling on lead (he wasn’t). And all just by looking for a second. I wish my behavior diagnoses were that instant and simple.

I reassure clients all the time that what other people say about your dog is probably not to be listened to. Of course, if you have paid for the advice, or asked for it from a vet or qualified trainer, then that’s different. So, why do we let ourselves get upset about strangers’ comments?

Do you know that your dog’s needs are being met? I would say, especially if you are reading Dog Lovers Digest, you probably are doing the best you can already.

It’s time for reassurance with the ‘Am I a good owner?’ list.

These are just examples so if they are on your list, give yourself a pat on the back, as you are providing what your dog does really want and need.

Health needs

Regular vet checks, vaccinations, preventative treatments, a good balanced diet and not too much or too little, are all things that caring dog owners routinely do. Even taking them to a kind, friendly groomer should not be underestimated, as this is something from which dog can really benefit.

Behavioral health needs

If you go out and about with your dog, allow him to play regularly with other nice dogs, teach him that being left alone is not a problem from time to time, and provide plenty of training games to make sure you can ask him to behave when you need, he’s going to be behaviorally healthy, too!

Know what your dog likes to do (which is not the same as letting him do it) – allowing him to use their sense of smell, giving foraging tasks for food, allowing him to chase his toys, meet people, meet new dogs, curl up on a cosy warm bed in bad weather, and enjoy contact with you, his family. We also know that your dog will probably love to dig holes, roll in fox poo, eat unspeakable items, hump the legs of unwilling visitors… I am pretty sure you aren’t going to let this happen, but the other activities can provide an outlet for these energies.

So, next time you have an approach from a stranger and their critical comment hangs in the air for a second, don’t snap. Don’t feel bad for your dog, or yourself. Scan that list in your head, and smile the biggest smile you can. Your dog is happy. And so are you.

‘What your dog wants – the seven key skills of a perfect dog owner’ http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Your-Dog-Wants-Perfect/dp/0600624633/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

by Karen Wild (Hamlyn) is available on Amazon

Karen Wild BA (Hons) Dip App Psych is a full member of the APBC and an Associate member of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers.

You can catch up with Karen online at www.karenwild.co.uk or listen to the WildPaw podcast on iTunes, or catch up on twitter @WildPaw

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