I am a self-admitted dog fanatic and currently have two dogs. They are my fur babies and bring me more joy than my previous dog-less self could have ever imagined. Certainly, my dogs make my life better.
They take me for walks, share their tug and fetch toys with me, and overall treat me like a rock star. I’m even one of “those” people who talk for my dogs and have been known to use baby talk with them (daily).
My pups absolutely help me feel better when I’m feeling down or stressed. Not that I need scientific research to tell me this, but according to AnimalSmart.org:
Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Just like humans, dogs can also get stressed. Since our pups take good care of us, of course we want to take good care of them.
I’m not an expert, but I have a lot of experience with caring for dogs. It also helped that I used to work at a pet supplies company that had several veterinarians on staff.
Discipline is not my strong suit, but overall my dogs are happy and healthy.
Here’s a compilation of dog care tips that I have learned over the years, as well as some tips my friends have used. Always remember, your dog’s veterinarian should be your #1 resource for concerns.
Top 7 Dog Care Tips From a Dog Fanatic
1 – Physical Exercise
If you’ve ever went for a walk when you feel really stressed, this tip is obvious. Exercise is a great recipe for stress management for humans and pets. Take your pet for a walk, play ball or whatever your dog likes to do.
Physical activities like a game with fetch toys or a walk around the block are a great for dogs. Your tired dog will be better behaved, less anxious, and exercise is good for you too!
Do a little research to find classes in your community that you can do with your dog. I’ve taken my dogs to agility classes and they LOVED it. Dog parks are another good option.
If you can’t provide your dog proper exercise, hire a dog walker or drop them off at doggy daycare. My dogs love their “Dogercise” stays and come home good and tired.
The ol’ saying “a tired dog is a good dog” is true!
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Fun Fetch Toys (click to view on Amazon)
2 – Mental Exercise
Boredom can lead to bad behavior, and mental exercise can help keep your dog’s mind active. Mental exercise is especially helpful when bad weather prevents you from getting outside with your canine friend.
Ideas to keep your dog’s mind challenged:
- Provide some new toys, including those that you can put treats inside of. Puzzle toys can be very entertaining and mind-stimulating.
- Teaching your dog tricks makes him “work” and provides mental exercise that all dogs need. As my dogs learn new tricks, I find it very rewarding and fun! Use really fantastic treats such as cooked chicken or small pieces of hot dog for rewards.
- During our daily walk, I have a certain part of our walking route that I refer to as their “newspaper” area. They get to sniff as much as they want, during which time I think they’re discovering what has been happening in the neighborhood. Sniffing is good mental exercise for dogs.
- Training is essential even for older dogs. It provides a great bonding opportunity and teaches dogs who’s boss. (If my husband reads this, I guarantee you he’ll claim our dogs are the bosses in our home.)
- Read 7 Indoor Dog Game to Tucker Out Your Active Dog by Teamdoggy.com. (Hide and Seek is my favorite to play with my dogs.)
Puzzle toys that have been tested by my dogs!
(Click image to view on Amazon)
3 – You’re Leaving Home?
When you leave your house and your pouch has to stay home, some dogs find it stressful.
If your dog experiences anxiety or gets stressed when you are gone, start by going outside where he cannot see you for 5 minutes. Don’t make an issue of walking out the door or coming back in. Gradually lengthen your absence.
I saw a trainer on a show using this training technique for a dog with separation anxiety disorder. She did it in small steps:
- Leave for 5 minutes and return
- Leave for 10 minutes and return
- Leave for 15 minutes and return
- Then pushing the limit up to 30 minutes, returning, etc.
You get the idea. She always praised and gave treats to the dog for a job well done in her absence.
Soon the dog learned that she wasn’t going to be away forever and would be returning. The dog and the owner’s anxiety was relieved – making them both a little less stressed!
4 – You’re Home!
When you return home, if your dog is like mine, he treats you like a rock star. I don’t care if I’ve been gone 10 minutes or 10 hours, my dogs are beyond thrilled to see me!
That’s all fine and dandy, except when the excitement turns into jumping up on me. I’ve managed to get my dogs to not jump on me about 98% of the time, but we still have trouble with others.
The best thing I found is to keep the event low-keyed and unexciting. If I have groceries, I bring them all in and then some of the excitement has worn off. At that point I give them a calm hello with a pat on the head. I go about my business, and give him some more calm attention 10 minutes later.
If you get all excited and give your dog energetic attention when you arrive back home, he’ll quickly learn to get excited and ready for play every time you (and others) walk through that door.
Is your dog unable to contain his excitement and jumps up on you when you return home?
Here are two ideas you can try…
Train to sit.
Train your dog to sit whenever he greets someone, including you.
Get down to his level so he doesn’t have to jump to get up to your face level. Stroke his ears and chest slowly to help calm him down.
It really helps to practice this by doing leave/come back exercises a few times per day. Leave for a little while and come back and do not greet him unless he sits nicely. This takes different amounts of time to learn for different dogs, but it could take less than a week if you’re consistent.
This has worked with me, but we still struggle with visitors. When our grown children come home, our larger dog goes bonkers. She simply cannot contain her excitement. It does help if they give her attention only if she sits nice, but it is still a work in progress.
Stand like a statue.
A veterinarian once offered me this advice…
This may end up as a battle of wills. Yours versus his. When you come home you must ignore him.
Any response is, from his perspective, interaction. This won’t be easy, but he is playing off you and your interactions with him.
He shouldn’t be “rewarded” in any way when he acts inappropriately. When he leaves the situation and has calmed down, then, and only then, he gets praise from you and/or a treat.
It may mean standing like a statue when you come home until he realizes that he is not going to get any attention using his current behavior. He will learn. Be consistent and persistent.
5 – To Crate, Or Not (is the question).
Using dog crates or confinement versus “run of the house” is a choice every dog owner must make.
I’ve had dogs that did great having the run of the house. They loved taking long naps in a quiet, peaceful house and actually got stressed when I confined them to one room.
I’ve also had the opposite. The dog feels safe and secure in his crate, and anxious if he’s home alone with no space limitations.
My dogs always have a crate to go to if they choose, and they generally go happily into their crate when we need them to do so.
Crating your dog is not mean. If your dog tends to be anxious, he may very well feel more secure in a crate when you’re away from home.
6 – Storms and Fireworks
Lots of dogs stress during times of loud noise such as storms and fireworks. On a stormy night, my little dog completely stresses out.
Your attitude can influence the severity of your dog’s fear.
- If you’re worried or nervous during storms, your dog can pickup on your emotion and his fear may become more severe.
- If you attempt to overly comfort your dog, then he may think there really is something to be afraid of. So over comforting can end up being positive reinforcement of an undesirable behavior.
- Try to project a calm attitude: pets are very aware of the emotions of their owners.
- Give your dog attention in the form of playing or any activity your dog enjoys.
MY BEST TIP (in addition to using the above tips):
- What I have found works best for my dog is to keep him in a small room where he feels safe and/or in a kennel. I run a fan or some form of white noise to block some of the noise. My big dog immediately runs to her kennel (safe place), and she is then fine.
LOTS of fun exercise also helps to make my dog so tired that he simply doesn’t care what happens! Dogs need daily exercise, and more vigorous exercise is helpful on a day when the fear-producing noise is likely to occur.
7 – Mega Doses of Daily Love
Most dog owners have their own ways of spoiling their dog. Healthy spoiling (yes, it’s a thing) helps build a bond between a dog and it’s owner, and it’s fun for both!
Try out some of these ideas, and you’ll discover what works best for you and your dog.
- Lots of treats (for any reason)
- Toys! Toys! Toys!
- His own comfy dog bed (one for each room, ideally)
- Lots of playtime
- Belly rubs
- Butt scratches
- Homemade dog cake and on his birthday
- TV or radio on when home alone
- Furniture rearranged for optimal outside viewing
- Treat like a child, commonly includes baby talk
- Road trips (car booster seats for those who are too little to see out the window)
- Just plain good loving!
Mostly, dogs just want to be with their human family members. What wonderful creatures they are, and we can learn from them.
Dog behavior can sometimes be very puzzling to us owners, so drop me a comments with any tips that have worked to help you care for your dog.
More Good Pet Reading:
- My post Dog Adoption & Rescue: a family tradition is about my dogs, and my children’s dogs.
- Check out my Pets & Animals board on Pinterest for everything from cuteness overload to training tips.
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