Having a dog is a lot of hard-work, effort, time, and money being spent – it’s taking on responsibility for the wellbeing of a living creature and being aware that you’re the one they look to in every situation.
It can be tough, but the rewards are so worth it – the famous quote from Josh Billings, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself,” is so true, and it stands to reason that the devotion, companionship, laughs, and love they so freely lavish on you should be rewarded in kind.
So, what makes a good dog person? What makes someone a good owner, companion, and carer? Have you ever noticed that dogs are amazing judges of character, and quite often if they dislike a person, there’s good reason for it?
We’ve put together a short list of actions and activities that you can undertake to improve your relationship with your dog, so they can live their best life with you.
1. Consistency is Key: Training isn’t a One-Way Street!
Dogs are pack animals, and they’re used to looking to their owner to determine what they should be doing, and when.
Training isn’t just an activity that gets your dog doing what you want, it’s a vital activity for building a positive relationship with you. As the pack leader, you’re providing them with instruction on how they should behave, what you expect from them, and where they’re allowed to roam.
But training isn’t one-way – as you’re training your dog to behave and meet your expectations, you’re also conditioning them to react to you – your tone of voice, your body language, and your energy.
Using tools such as a dog whistle can help to establish behaviours, because your dog gets used to hearing the specific sound – and it’s not affected by emotion or dramatic changes in tone like the human voice is.
When you’re training yourself to work with your dog, you need to consider:
- Tone of voice
- Volume of voice
- Body language
Dogs have incredibly powerful senses, much stronger than any humans, and they will pick up not just on what you say, but how you say it – as well as the way you’re standing, and how you’re moving.
To be a good dog person, you need to remember that your dog is watching you very carefully, and if you’re having a bad day, for example, they’ll see it in how you hold yourself, how you speak, and even how you smell!
2. Food for Thought: What are You Actually Feeding Your Pup?
There are lots of different pet food brands, and plenty of healthy dog treats and trying to determine what’s the best dog food for your companion can be difficult.
But unlike people, who can choose what they want to eat, and generally go and get it when they want – your dog is completely reliant on you to find out what food works for them, what has the best nutritional and health benefits, and ensure that they’re fed (and watered) regularly.
Taking the time to read the ingredients on your dog’s food and their snacks is important, as some brands stuff their products with ‘meat and animal derivatives’ which can range from decent quality meat to the worst quality scraps and otherwise unusable parts.
There’s also the issue of added sugars, preservatives, and additives that may negatively affect your dog with various conditions or see them put on excessive weight, which can damage their health.
As a general rule of thumb, the less ingredients there is in a product, the easier it is to balance your dog’s diet – and monitor any reactions they might have to certain ingredients (this isn’t limited to additives either, our own Toro for example is allergic to chicken!). It’s one of the reasons why we provide a range of single source protein treats, that are naturally packed full of nutrients and provide a healthy option for snack time!
3. Living to Play: What Toys Does Your Dog Love to Enjoy?
Dogs are extremely social creatures (for the most part), and need to be entertained and kept busy – a bored dog can easily become a depressed dog, and serious behavioural changes can have a variety of consequences, not limited to: excessive chewing, increased reactivity, aggression, etc.
It’s your responsibility to keep your dog from getting bored or depressed, and providing them with a comfortable environment that has plenty of stimulus that suits their age, temperament, breed, and personal quirks.
You can help to improve your ‘good owner’ standing by carefully watching your dog – what do they enjoy playing with? Are they the sort that loves to destroy their stuffed toys? Do they like to solve puzzles? Are they happiest when they’re searching for hidden treats?
The way in which your dog plays can tell you a lot about their personality and give you a good benchmark for monitoring their behaviour – if they suddenly don’t feel like playing any more, and they’ve been enthusiastic about it before, it could indicate a serious issue.
Playing with your dog can also be a great way of reinforcing training – especially developing the ability to safely remove a toy from your dog and have them drop an item on command.
As with the dog food, there’s a huge number of dog toys available on the market – but unlike children’s toys, there are no strict rules or regulations surrounding their manufacture or sale, which has led to some dangerous items making their way to the shelves.
Take extreme care when picking toys, look at what they’re made from, where they’ve been made, and if you can – have a look at what other people are saying about them, and whether there have been any prior problems with the brand.
We take this very seriously, which is why all of the amazing dog toys we sell here have been carefully researched and resourced before going on sale.
4. Canine Health and Hygiene: What Do You Know About Your Dog?
Not all dogs enjoy being washed or checked over (or they enjoy it too much and have a tendency to roll on the one side you want to look at instead) – but as a responsible dog owner, it’s up to you to keep them clean, healthy, and happy.
When you’re looking at your dog’s health, you should at least be regularly checking their ears, teeth, coat, and skin. Vet bills can be extremely expensive, and regular love and maintenance on your dog can help keep these costly excursions to a minimum.
Depending on the breed, age, and size of your dog, washing and cleaning times will vary, and it’s recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week (with twice daily being the ideal) – just remember, both with the dog shampoo and dental gel, human versions are not ideal (and in some cases may contain ingredients which are harmful to dogs), so sourcing an appropriate blend with the right mix for your pup is the best course of action!
5. Home is Where the Heart is: Making a Safe Environment for Your Dog
Having a safe, warm, and happy space to return to isn’t something that’s limited to people – your dog will identify your home as their home, and in some cases, dogs have been known to fiercely protect their homes from others (this territorial instinct is why dogs make such good security guards as opposed to cats, who don’t really care what you’re doing and will go else where if you don’t meet their demands).
As a good owner, you should be providing your dog with a safe space – for some, this may be a crate, others use baskets, some like for the dog to share their bed – it all depends on you and your dog.
But for home essentials, you absolutely need to have:
- A sleeping area with sufficient padding (blankets or cushions)
- Access to clean water 24hrs a day
- Toilet space (either outdoor access or a designated space)
- Enrichment and Engagement activities (toys, etc)
It’s especially important to have a ‘safe space’ for your dog, so they can retreat when they need to be by themselves, or if they’re overwhelmed and need to rebalance.
As we said, at the end of the day, your dog relies on you for love, protection, food, fuss, and their very lives. We fully believe that there’s no such thing as ‘too much effort’ that can be put in – as much as we might wish otherwise, we don’t have a single dog for our whole lives, but quite often, they have us for theirs – so we owe it to them to give them the very best lives that we can.
What will you be doing for your dog today?