Learn the language of your dog
A dog communicates through body language. The most important signals are the calming signals They tell us, if a dog feels pressed, stressed, or uncomfortable. These signals include:
- licking their mouths
- a smacking sound
- winking their eyes
- turning the head to one side
- pulling the ears back
- wagging with the tail lowered
If you observe your dog giving any of these signals, consider what is going on in that moment and act accordingly.
For many dogs there is too much going on in their daily lives. A grown dog should sleep around 14 hours a day. A puppy needs about 16-18 hours of daily sleep!
Stimulating the body and mind
The stimulation of a dog will to be different according to its race and age. It can therefore be hard to observe general rules here. Certain activities are, however, more stressful than beneficial.
When you throw something to fetch, it increases the pulse and stresses the dog.
- throw a stick
- throw a ball
- play any kind of wild tug of war games
Certain kinds of toys also stress the dog. Dogs have a hearing ability thats is up to 4,5 times what humans do; so a little “squeak” can be really loud for them.
Stop playing with squeaky toys or remove the part of the toy that makes the sound.
The sniffing walk
Always use a harness and a loose leash.
Collars apply unnecessary discomfort and can lead to damage in the neck and throat. The harness should allow the dog free movement in the shoulders and front leg.
This harness is sitting in a correct maner.
If your dog pulls on the leash the constant pressure from the collar will stress the dog even more, which worsens the situation. If you need to have a tight connection with your dog, a harness provides you with a safer grip.
The dog needs a loose leash for it to choose where it wants to sniff. Flex lines are not allowed. By using a flex line your dog feels a constant pressure from a tight leash and it feels restricted throughout the whole walk. Flex lines feel like steel wire and often cause damage to both dogs and humans.
The daily exercise has to be on the dog’s terms. We humans tend to rush and let the dog follow us. Slow down, walk slowly. Give your dog choices. Let it decide, where it wants to sniffle and for how long.
Some dogs are highly sensitive. Even smaller inputs can feel very disturbing. That’s why not all dogs thrive in an environment of much activity and noise.
Not all dogs are happy greeting other dogs.
Calm and relaxing activities
Relaxing activities are important for the well-being of your dog.
Intensive sniffling reduces the level of stress. The dog uses its nose; let it feel free to do that as much as possible.
Let your dog search for treats during the walk: throw a fistful of treats over a large area and let your dog calmly search for them. It lowers the pulse and feels good. Searching for treats can also be done at home and is a meaningful and calming way to end the walk.
Calm chewing on a bone or a “kong” is another relaxing and joyous activity for everyone!
The dog’s space
Give the dog the opportunity to withdraw when you are at home. When it rests, leave it alone and do not disturb it. Family and guests should respect that the dog is not up for endless cuddling and talking to, just because WE want to pet our dog. We also need to teach our children to respect the dog’s withdrawal and its need to be free from social contact.
Little tools for communicating
Our body language says more than a thousand words. If the dog does something you disapprove of, ignore the action and keep QUIET.
The behaviour we want we reward, the behaviour we disapprove of, we ignore.
Obtain a good connection with your dog with a simple tool: use a smacking sound. When the dog looks in your direction, reward it with a treat within three seconds. Right then you give the dog a treat, you reward the correct behaviour.
Learn the hand signal: turn the palm of your hand towards the dog. That is the signal for “it’s okay”. This signal can be used in many situations, when you wish to tell your dog not to worry:
- When you pass people, dogs and things, that seem to upset it.
- When the doorbell rings and the dog runs towards the door.
- When the dog begs or tries to jump up and down.
“Get in the way”: If e.g. a situation of conflict is about to occur, physically move in between your dog and the challenge. Lead your dog away from the situation.
Walking in a curve / curving: When dogs meet in nature, they walk in a curve toward each other.
If meeting other dogs is a challenge for your dog, practice to walk in a curve. You can also cross to the other side of the street.
If contact with other dogs should be practiced, walk in parallels. I.e. you and your dog walk in a parallel with another dog and human. Keep a good distance and practice moving closer gradually.
If you learn to implement these practices/habits in your daily lives, you are offering optimal conditions for your dog’s well-being.