5 Ways to Make Your Dog Happier This Fall
Autumn can be tough on our dogs. Between kids going back to school and the days (and therefore, opportunities to play outside) getting shorter, many of our pups might be longing for those dog days of summer. And we might be thinking wistfully of warm, sunny days spent lounging in the backyard, too.
However, it’s time to cheer up. Fall has its own charms to offer, and it’s up to you to take advantage of them, both for you and for your dog. With that in mind, here are a few ways to shake things up and help make your pup a little happier this season.
1. Get a handle on the fall fur situation.
Seasonal shedding is common (and particularly prominent in certain dog breeds) and when the fur starts to fly, it can feel like dog fur is taking over your home. If you haven’t already established a dog grooming habit, now is a great time to start, as consistent brushing and an occasional bath can help mitigate the situation (although, be realistic — there will still be fur). Think of it as a chance to bond with your dog. Be sure to give him plenty of rewards, like small training treats, so he learns to associate the brush or bathtub with things he loves.
You can take a few other measures to help keep your floors and furniture free of pet hair, like using strategically placed area rugs and washable slipcovers. Of course, that’s not likely to increase your dog’s happiness, but it will probably help you!
2. Make sure you’re feeding him correctly.
A healthy dog is more likely to be a happy dog, and feeding him properly can help keep him healthy. With that in mind, it’s important to know that there’s more to feeding your dog than just filling his bowl with kibble.
Some common feeding mistakes you might be making without even knowing it are free feeding (leaving kibble out for him at all times and refilling the bowl when the level of food gets low), not measuring your dog’s food, feeding him too many treats or table scraps or giving him the wrong food for his size or life stage. So, take a moment to evaluate your current feeding routine. Are there any improvements to be made? Remember, if you have any questions about feeding your dog, talking to your vet is always a smart idea.
3. Take inventory of his toy box.
Not all dog toys are safe for all dogs, so first, make sure all of your pup’s toys are appropriate for him. Any toys with sharp parts or soft, linear objects, like strings, should be avoided, as should any toy that can be potentially chewed apart or swallowed. Toys stuffed with beads or beans are best left on the store shelf, and toys with batteries should only be played with under your watchful eye. If you have a senior dog, there are additional toy safety guidelines to consider, especially if your dog has toys that encourage the kind of play that can be hard on his body (like tug).
It’s always better to have a few safe, well-used toys than loads of toys he doesn’t play with, but if your pooch is in need of something new, you might want to consider one of Vetstreet trainer Mikkel Becker’s favorites: the Kong, which you can stuff!
4. Enjoy some indoor time together.
Weather not cooperating for your plans to take a long walk with your furry friend? You and your dog can play some fun games inside, regardless of the temperature outdoors. Nose work is an up-and-coming canine sport that can be great for all kinds of dogs who love sniffing. You simply start by training your dog to find and eat treats from open boxes, rewarding him as he goes. Once he understands the game, you can begin making the treats more difficult to find by switching the location and pairing different odors with them.
Other indoor games you might want to try are: fetch with a soft toy (try it up a set of carpeted stairs to kick things up a notch), creating and running an indoor agility or obstacle course, follow-the-leader or hide-and-seek.
And, not all your time together has to be based on sport and activity — you could also give meditating with your dog a whirl. Yes, really!
5. Prep for the holiday season by teaching these six commands.
It often seems like the time between Halloween and New Year’s Day flies by at quadruple speed, which means now is a great time to solidify your dog’s obedience training, particularly when it comes to the six commands Mikkel Becker says your dog should have down pat before holiday guests come calling: wait at the door, greet calmly, shake, come when called, no begging and drop it.
These commands will help your dog interact with guests by using better manners, but the time you spend together working on his training and using positive reinforcement is really what will set his tail wagging. You could also work on these potentially lifesaving commands while you’re at it!
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