Enriching You and Your Dog’s Life
‘Luna, will you stop chewing that table leg?’
No, human, I won’t. I need to chew and this is all I have.
‘Luna, will you stop trying to protect us from our friends, we invited them here?’
No, human, can’t you see I’m helping?
‘Luna, that is your feline sister, please stop chasing her, she’s not here purely for your entertainment!’
In a month where there’s a lot of ‘breed’ talk, let’s look at things from a slightly different perspective, a canine’s perspective, and what we can learn from that.
How many of us have a dog that spends their days doing what their supposed ‘breed’ identity tells us they should be doing?
How many of us know what our dog’s favourite pastimes are and yet, don’t enable them to enjoy those things as often as possible?
How many of us are living in congruence with our own identity or do we know that there’s ‘more’ but don’t prioritise our health and wellbeing so that we can enjoy life?
What does your dog’s breed, or breed mix, suggest that they’re good at? As individual as our dogs are, there are breed characteristics that have been passed down from their ancestors that play a part in some of the behaviours they might display.
Dogs that have, historically, been bred for a specific task, like herding, guarding, speed or a great sense of smell often show a propensity for those activities.
If your herding dog tries to herd cars, they need a new outlet for their skills. If your guard dog wants to protect you from invited visitors, they need a new outlet for their skills. If your super-fast dog only runs away from you and is never as super-fast at the sound of their recall cue, they need a new outlet for their skills, if your sniffer-dog is digging up next door’s garden because they’re sure they smelled a long-forgotten bone, they need a new outlet for their skills.
It’s really frustrating when you have an instinctive desire to follow your true calling but everyone around you is telling you that you ‘should’ be doing something else. Right?
More often than not, there’s as much variation within breeds as there is among the whole dog fraternity. It’s important that ‘breed’ doesn’t define your dog and you look at the individual you’re living with.
Regardless of breed or breed mix, what does your dog love to do?
You have probably heard the word ‘enrichment’ before but what does it really mean and why is it so important for us and our dogs?
Enrichment activities channel our dog’s natural behaviours, regardless of breed, in a way that can be encouraged and celebrated. It’s vital for a dog’s welfare that they are encouraged to be, well, DOGS! Would you rather your dog gets their chewing fun through a massive Kong filled with nutritious and delicious goodness, or by dismantling your sofa?
Walkies, while vital for your dog’s wellbeing isn’t enough. A slow-feeder, while probably a good thing for your dog, isn’t enough. One training session, while fabulous, isn’t enough.
Enrichment is something that needs to be considered each and every day. If you don’t provide things to enrich your dog’s life, they’ll find their own entertainment or coping mechanisms and I can almost guarantee you won’t like what they come up with.
Most of the so called ‘problem’ behaviours that are displayed by dogs and cause headaches for humans are actually perfectly normal dog behaviours that need an outlet. My dog barks at everything. My dog keeps digging in the garden. My dog chews my favourite things. Dogs need to bark, dig and chew; it’s our job to provide a fun and interactive way for them to do what they need to do.
Shall we dig a little and talk about why enrichment matters to us too?
How often do you stop and consider ways to enrich your own life, ways to channel your energy into your own favourite pastimes?
In our increasingly busy lives, it’s easy to go through the motions every day and then wonder why our mental and physical health is deteriorating.
When we’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to skip lunch, miss the swim session we’d promised ourselves, cancel on our friends and stay up late to ‘just finish one more thing!’
Would we treat our dogs in this way? Have you ever been too busy to feed your dog, skipped walkies for a week and banned them from playing with their canine bestie?
What would happen if you did?
They’d be grumpy, at best!
We’re no different. Without the things that enrich our lives; working in an environment that is in congruence with our identity and values, fuelling our body in a way that supports us, exercising to release our happy hormones and getting enough sleep so that we can do it all over again tomorrow, we’re grumpy, at best.
Don’t you deserve more?
Looking after yourself isn’t a reward if you have time at the end of the day; it is part of the process in order to reach the end of the day with your mental and physical wellbeing intact.
Make a list of three easily accessible things you love doing and three easily accessible things your dog loves doing. Pick one thing for each of you that you can do today. Commit to it. Then start adding to your lists and choosing something from it each day.
Written by Marie Yates, Director of Canine Perspective CIC. Marie was a finalist in Purina’s 2018 #BetterWithPets prize and you can find out more about her social enterprise here: www.canine-perspective.com/purina