If you’re like most rescue dog owners, you probably do all you can to make sure your dog is physically healthy. Most pet owners make sure their furry friends get to the veterinarian regularly and take all their medications on schedule. However, there are other ways they can take good care of their pet’s well-being.
Check out the following list of the six best ways you can make your dog happier.
Increase cognitive enrichment.
To challenge your dog mentally, you can use a number of cognitive enrichment activities that engage your dog in problem-solving. For example, you can use puzzle toys that challenge your dog to figure out how to get the treat that’s hidden inside. Another option is to try K9 Nosework, a canine sport in which dogs hunt for scents, such as anise and clove, in exchange for a treat.
If you can’t find a Nosework program in your community, you can engage in simpler games, such as hide-and-seek. Tell your dog to stay in position, and go hide somewhere in your home. By calling your dog to find you, you engage him or her in a playful activity that also builds recall skills. Remember to reward your dog with treats throughout the game.
Bathe your dog more often.
You probably already bathe your dog regularly, but you’ll find that more frequent baths not only improve hygiene but also improve his or her mood. Just as humans feel fresher and more confident after a bath, dogs smell better and feel cleaner after a wash. By bathing him or her more frequently, you also help clear your dog’s coat of allergens and fleas. Lastly, the act of bathing your dog provides much-needed human touch, which has a direct impact on psychological well-being.
Give your dog physical and verbal affirmation.
Another way you can make your dog happier is to offer praise and affirmation. You don’t have to wait for your dog to obey a command or do something in particular to give positive feedback. Simply tell your dog how much you love him or her, and offer a pet to back up your verbal affirmation with physical touch.
Watch your dog’s weight.
Although it’s tempting to give your dog more food for instant gratification, excess weight raises dogs’ body temperature, makes them feel lethargic, and increases their risk for a number of medical problems. Managing your dog’s weight involves more than simply avoiding fatty treats. You need to control the portions you serve at each meal and ensure your dog eats nutritious food. If you’re concerned your dog wants more, remember that it takes time for your dog to feel full. If you serve your dog more food, he or she may keep eating despite not actually needing it.
Provide sensory stimulation.
A holistic approach to improving your dog’s well-being entails the use of sensory enrichment. While petting your dog stimulates the sense of touch, dogs need to use all five of their senses. For example, your dog’s sense of smell can be stimulated if you add spices or herbs, such as mint, to dog toys. You can also engage his or her sense of smell by purchasing special bacon-scented bubbles. To stimulate your dog’s sense of hearing, you might buy toys that make noise or hang wind chimes outside the window.
Provide opportunities to socialize.
Dogs are social animals, and many enjoy meeting new dogs, other animals, and people. A dog park is obviously a great place to start, but if your city does not have one, even a trip on leash to a regular park may be exciting and fun for your dog. You can also research local business’ pet policies and see if you can take your dog with you on errands about town. Another option is doggie daycare—even if you don’t technically need a dog sitter, your dog may enjoy spending a few hours once a week at doggie daycare, where he or she can play with other dogs in a safe environment and get lots of attention from new, friendly people.
Make sure your dog gets enough exercise.
Research demonstrates the impact exercise has on physical and cognitive health. If you aren’t sure what type of exercise is best for your dog, you can find some activities that exercise various muscle groups or others that suit your dog’s fitness level. For example, if your dog is energetic and needs lots of exercise, you might consider Cani-X, flyball, or agility exercises. If your dog is older or less active, you might consider a simple game of fetch or heelwork with the use of music.
On days when you don’t have time for those activities, even a walk can improve your dog’s mood and provide a much-needed dose of vitamin D. If you have to leave the house for several hours at a time, consider investing in a dog walker. By hiring a walker, you ensure your dog gets regular exercise while providing additional social interaction.
With the above six tips, you can significantly improve your dog’s mood and overall happiness. As you search for additional ways to enhance your dog’s well-being, look for activities that not only prevent boredom but also provide social interaction. You may find that your furry friend finds a renewed sense of joy that you hadn’t seen since he or she was a puppy.