Dogs are the best, and anyone who says otherwise is either some weirdo cat person or some awful, black-hearted hater. But as for the rest of us, dogs rule. They make us healthier, happier, and provide us with the closest thing there is to unconditional love. So in appreciation of our furry little friends, here now are 11 ways you, the loving dog owner, can return the favor.
11. Create Rituals
Dogs are experts on human behavior. We control their schedules, so they spend their days attuned to our every move. They learn putting on a coat precedes a walk and opening the pantry means it’s time to eat.
You can use your dog’s association skills to create fun little rituals. Give him a treat when he comes in from the bathroom or an after-dinner bone when he finishes his kibble. When you’re ready to leave for a walk, say, “Walk, boy?” and watch him lose his damn mind. Daily doses of fun and excitement strengthen the bond between man and mutt, but maybe the most important ritual of all is saying hello.
10. Say Hello
When I come home, guess who’s most excited to see me. HINT: it’s not my wife or daughter.
Studies show that when caretakers return home, a dog experiences bliss-fueled energy and a desire for physical contact. His happy feet and thundering tail are signs of his excitement; he’s so elated he could run around the block. But he contains himself in favor of a physical greeting with his human. I know there are a million things to do between returning home from work and going to bed, but make time for a proper greeting. Your dog has been waiting for it all day.
9. Scratch His Favorite Spots
Researchers have long known that when humans pet a dog, it floods our brains with endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine — chemicals that make us happy and promote love and bonding. However, more recent research suggests that touch can have a similar effect on our dogs.
Dogs even have preferred touch zones and will move to position these favorite spots directly under your hand. In general, dogs like to be touched on the sides of the head, base of the tail, around the ears, and on the belly.
8. Train Using Positive Reinforcement
Dogs are not wolves, and the theory that a dog believes he is part of a wolfpack is not only incorrect but toxic to the human/dog relationship. The dog does not consider you his alpha male and will therefore not challenge your rank if you fail to display dominance over him.
When it comes to raising a happy and obedient dog, positive reinforcement beats punishment; punishment only beats the dog. Dogs aim to please, so make training a happy time filled with lots of praise and treats. Now, WHO’S A GOOD BOY?
7. Let Him In the House
A dog is domesticated; his natural environment is with his family in the home. He shows an attachment to his caregivers that, according to some researchers, is strikingly similar to that between an infant and its mother. A dog has social needs just as he needs food and water. And remember the need for physical contact? An owner’s return home must be torture for the poor boy tied to a tree in the backyard.
6. Let Him Stink
Dogs and humans have different definitions of what smells ‘good’. For example, a just-bathed dog still fresh with the scent of his Creme de la Coco doggy shampoo is a smell us humans might find favorable. But to a dog, an animal that will willingly roll in a pile of shit and be glad he did so, artificial scents can be overwhelming. If the dog is gonna be in the house, obviously he will periodically need a bath. But a dog’s sense of smell is millions of times more sensitive than ours, so remember that before you cover him in fancy shampoo.
5. Let the Stinky Boy Sleep in Your Stinky Bed
Dogs aren’t the only creatures that stink; humans stink, too. Our breath stinks. Our feet stink. Our armpits and genitals — they stink. We leave a trail of our unique scent wherever we go and it collects in our favorite places. To a dog, an expert sniffer and master of association, our stink is us. And our bed, where we spend hours every night snuggled between layers of sheets and blankets, reeks of us. To him, there’s no place more comfortable than a soft flat surface soaked in the scent of his human. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Sealy or a Serta.
4. Play P.S. I love You
For those who don’t know, P.S. I love You is a chick flick starring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank. When Butler’s character is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he masterminds a series of surprises that will be delivered to his widow (Swank) once he’s gone. The little gifts help Swank escape her loneliness and the accompanying letters eventually lead her to a rediscovery of love.
Anyway, dogs need stimulation and that need doesn’t stop just because you’re at work for 10 hours. So take a page from The Book of Gerard, and surprise your dog while you’re gone. Doing so will prevent loneliness, boredom, and property damage that often goes hand in hand with a bored pup. Here are a few ideas (click links to see on Amazon):
- Hide treats throughout the house
- Fill a kong with treats
- Buy him this food dispensing treat ball
- Or dog chess
3. Build Him A Hangout
Give your dog his own place. Put his bed or crate somewhere off the beaten path but still in earshot of all the action, maybe an office or sitting room adjacent to the main living area. Add a blanket or some of his toys to make it ‘his’.
This is especially important if you have kids. As any honest parent will tell you, kids are often very annoying. They can be especially irritating to a dog — tugging his tail, taking his toys, etc. Over half of all dog bites occur at home with dogs that are familiar to us. Providing the dog with a safe retreat, and of course keeping kids out of said retreat, gives him an escape when he’s not in the mood to have his ears pulled.
2. Take a Walk
Regularly scheduled walks are probably the best thing you can do for a dog. They provide physical and mental stimulation, promote bonding, and offer plenty of fun items to sniff. In fact, dogs love walks so much, we’ve dedicated an entire post to it: Why Dogs Love Walks: Inside the Mind of Man’s Best Friend.
1. Remember He Depends on You
Life is busy and dogs are a lot of work. With the demands of our jobs and kids and whatever else, it’s impossible for us to give the dog everything he wants. But we should do our best because to a dog, we’re his world — the provider of his physical, social, and emotional needs. We make his days and therefore his life.