Are you giving your dog enough choices?
Providing choices in your dog’s life will not only improve their health it will also decrease current problem behaviours and decrease the risk of developing problem behaviours in the first place.
As humans we make many choices every day. We get to decide what and when to eat, when to go to the bathroom and often have our days planned according to our needs. Our dogs are often not given the same opportunities.
Choice for dogs is as important as it is for us. Dogs are conscious, intelligent beings with emotions (Read more about emotions in dogs here). Despite having adapted very well to our human lives, they are non the less another species. With needs, feelings and wants of their own and they need to make choices to feel content and to feel that they have some control over their lives.
By not providing choices for our dogs in their everyday life we risk our dogs being more stressed and frustrated. Stress can just like in humans cause physical illness and even decrease your dog’s life span. Both frustration from not getting your needs fulfilled and the stress surrounding that can cause your dog to develop unwanted problem behaviours such as fear (Read more about fear in dogs here), reactivity or anxiety.
How can you give your dog more choice?
There are many ways to give your dog more choice in his/her everyday life. Below you can find a free e-book about how to give your dog choice.
For our dog to make good choices you need to help him/her by setting up the environment for your dog to be successful in his/her choices. Keeping your dog safe and in a place without too many distractions will help him/her make better choices.
An example could be how your dog eats. Maybe you have a dog that has no stop button when it comes to eating so you cannot just leave food out for him/her to eat when (s)he pleases. What you can do is prepare the food in 2 different enrichment toys (a Kong and a dog puzzle as an example – get more enrichment ideas here), then present the two options for your dog and have him/her choose which toy (s)he wants to eat from. Your dog has gotten to make a choice, leaving them not only happy but also more confident and fulfilled.
It could also be during the walk. We, humans are very good at planning our days and the same goes for our dog’s walk – we plan for how long we want to walk, where to walk and often also how fast (Read more about how to improve your dog walking skills here). But what happens if you let your dog decide the route? How far to walk and the pace including as many sniffing stops as your dog desires? What happens if you are just enjoying the moment with your dog, without stressing about time and how far you want to get?
The walk then changes and becomes for your dog and not just with your dog.
Getting a choice like that will not only enhance you and your dog’s bond, it’ll also fulfil a strong need in your dog, improving your dog’s welfare overall.
There are many other ways to give your dog a choice in his/her everyday life. As mentioned I have a full e-book with ideas that you can download below.
Have a look at your dog’s daily life and see where there might be an opportunity to give him/her a say and start by implementing one thing a day. Before you know it, your dog and you might have discovered new ways of doing things that is easier and more fun for the both of you.