As dog owners we have a very special responsibility to maintain and protect our dogs’ health and quality of life. To ensure that our dogs can enjoy a life of good health and comfort we have to provide them with sound nutrition, immunizations, routine vet exams, parasite control, a clean habitat, proper grooming, and exercise. Smart dog owners know that all of these things are basic to the health, happiness and longevity of their dogs, but sadly, many owners often tether or kennel their dogs for long periods ignoring the importance of companionship to their dogs. These owners just don’t get that being their dog’s best friend, his trusted companion, is just as important to the dog’s welfare as any of the factors above.
Companionship is a relationship between two individuals that is based on trust and the yearning to be together. It is all about giving of yourself to your dog and being rewarded by his love, trust and devotion to you. Properly raised, non-abused dogs want to be with humans and, more specifically, they want to be with their human. But, when a dog is ignored or simply taken for granted he will become bored, depressed and anxious. This is a bad thing that will lead to chronic behavior and health disorders. So ask yourself now, how much quality time do you devote each day to engaging in activities with your dog? Be honest….the key words here are quality and activities so this doesn’t include watching tv while the dog sleeps! Is your answer 10 minutes? 20 minutes? An hour? All day?
If your answer is high then congratulations, you are your dog’s best friend! However, many of you have just realized how little of yourself you actually give to your best bud. If you’re in this group there are many things you can do with your dog to improve your companionship….even when your time is tight. Remember, it’s the quality of the time you give that really matters.
Here are just a few quality time activities you can enjoy with your dog:
- Make your dog’s meal time a fun time. Don’t make it a chore and don’t just throw dry dog food into a bowl and plunk it on the floor. Dogs need variety in their food the same as people, so mix it up with a small portion of quality canned wet dog food and splurge a couple of days a week with a small added treat. Salt-free, water packed canned tuna works great as a treat. Also, when preparing your dog’s meal engage him with talk, praise and a good ear rub.
- When you walk your dog, talk to your dog. Let him know the walk is all about him. Pay attention to what he’s looking at, sniffing at and gets distracted by. Keep him leashed at all times during walks and praise him by voice and pets when he follows your commands. It’s always good to have a couple of doggie treats in your pocket too!
- If you’re a morning jogger and your dog is young, healthy and a breed suitable to keep up with you then take him along. Dogs want to have a job and protecting you on your jog is the perfect one for many of the mid to large breeds.
- Set aside some playtime. Dogs need to have fun and be challenged the same as us, so get out and play with your dog. Fetch toys, squeaky balls, baseballs, and safe pull toys are great for playtime exercise and nervous energy release.
- When it’s appropriate and safe, take your dog with you when you go out on errands. All dogs want to be their owner’s “go with” friend. Just remember your dog’s safety and your own while driving. Always restrain the dog properly in the vehicle with plenty of fresh air ventilation (more on that subject another time).
- When you own a companion dog sharing yourself also means sharing your environment. You can’t be a clean freak who won’t let your dog in the house. If you are one of those then please buy an aquarium, raise pet fish and forget about owning a dog.
- Get wet and messy washing your dog. Don’t make it a chore and don’t be prissy about it. Bathing and grooming times should be a fun, laughing and bonding time for both you and the dog. Expect to get wet and covered with shedded hair, you can always reward yourself afterwords with a soothing shower.
The fun companionship you share with your dog is healthy for the dog, it’s healthy for you and it’s just as important as the nutrition and veterinary care you give him. Safely exercise your dog on a daily basis and challenge him both physically and mentally with playtime activities. And remember, always use a leash and be aware of traffic and other hazards when walking your dog away from home.