Here’s a quick recap on dog ownership...
Dog owners are consistently reported in studies and surveys alike as being the happiest bunch of people, when compared to people who own other types of pets, or no pets.
It’s true to say, that happiness is a warm dog!
For many of us dog owners, we know that keeping our dog happy takes a bit of work. Whether its food, exercise, playtime, vet check ups… there’s lots of work involved in keeping our dogs safe and happy. And when our dog is happy, so are we.
But what if things aren’t going quite right in your household? Perhaps your dog is exhibiting some level of aggressive, fearful or anxious behaviours. Then forget the happiness studies, you’re probably stressed out, and your dog is likely to be too.
And so I want to share why it’s important to fix these types of issues for your dog’s overall health and happiness, plus offer some suggestions that you can implement at home to help manage aggressive, fearful or anxious behaviours in your dog.
So what, why should I care?
We all want our dog to be happy and playful, and importantly, to demonstrate resilience towards adversities they may encounter in their own life. That may sound funny, but just think about a trip to the local park. Some dogs can happily meet other dogs, play with them, and if there is a small altercation, shake if off almost immediately. No big deal.
Unfortunately, if your dog is prone to aggressive, fearful or anxious behaviours, they aren’t as easily able to assimilate with dogs they don’t know at the park, and often react strongly to seemingly insignificant events with anger or fear. If left unchecked over an extended period of time, your dog could experience emotional and mental problems, which, generally speaking, can lead to chronic stress and a poorer quality of life which affects both their health and lifespan.
The happier and more resilient dog meanwhile, has lower stress, greater happiness and a higher propensity to be trained; learning and listening to voice commands.
So what can you do at home to manage, and hopefully fix, these behaviours?
From the time you get your dog, establishing good maternal care is really important. Think about a new puppy or a rescue dog in their new family environment for the first time. You might be soft and gentle, but your kids might unknowingly be a bit heavy-handed. And this can stress out the dog.
So getting the environment right for your dog is something to think about. Ensuring they have their personal space, as well as quality time with you and your family, and of course, socialisation with other dogs when they leave the house.
It’s really important to establish quality habits and routines with your dog. Things like:
- Walking your dog at least once per day
And that’s a quality walk – it’s you engaging with your dog (not on your phone or a work call) so that your dog is experiencing shared time with you.
- Playing with your dog at intervals throughout the day, or at least a few times during the evening if you are working during the day
It’s all too easy to overlook this, but just a handful of minutes regularly can make the world of difference to your dog’s day, and their overall disposition
- Engaging in obedience training with your dog
That’s right, school’s in. Dogs actually love the mental stimulation that comes from being taught a new command, or a new trick. It keeps their mind active and they love the positive reinforcement that comes with knowing, you think they did a good job.
- Setting up a stable feeding routine so that your dog always eats at the same time
Dogs love routine because it creates certainty for them. If dinner time moves and shifts around, it creates stress for your dog and it is one to try and avoid.
- Leaving music on when you leave the house
This is particularly effective for anxious, or less calm dogs. Music has been found to relax dogs so that while you are out of the house they are more inclined to sit or lie down, rest and sleep and spend less standing and vocalising (that’s crying or barking).
But here’s the kicker… dogs have been found to be less stressed and anxious when exposed to Classical music. That’s right. Not pop, not heavy metal, dogs love Classical. Think Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky. Just think of what a cultured dog you are going to have!
Of themselves, these habits and routines aren’t difficult to instil. But by doing them regularly, there’s lots of evidence that shows these may act as protective agents against adversities you dog faces.
And as well as establishing these positive behaviours and routines with your dog, it’s also important to display the correct facial expressions when engaging with your dog, as evidence demonstrates that dogs are sensitive to emotional cues conveyed by our facial expressions.
Just think about how your dog responds when you’re laughing vs when you’re recounting a story about a miserable day or bad experience, that has you annoyed and frustrated. Dogs read the cues on your face and respond accordingly.
And with this in mind its also important to talk to your dog in a happy and upbeat manner, as your dog is sensitive not only to your facial cues, but also how you use your voice when talking to them.
There’s lots to think about and practice here, but I really encourage you to give it a go to build and maintain a quality relationship between you and your dog, a stress-free household and most importantly, a feeling of happiness, so that dog owners can continue to rock the happiness studies.
For more information about this, and many other related dog topics, check out our website at activecreatures.com