Alexandra Horowitz, PhD, associate professor and senior research fellow at Barnard College in the U.S., heads the Dog Cognition Lab, where her “pup perspective” findings have garnered new insights in understanding canine wants and needs. She’s also the author of “Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond” (a tome we’ve quoted from before!) Here are 10 ways we can add more happiness in the lives of pups:
“Only when you understand what it is like to be a dog will you truly be able to enhance your dog’s happiness.”
Watch your pup and see them as truly separate from yourself.
Watch someone else walk your pup. Watch your pup navigate your home. Remember that pup perceptions are different from ours. The more we see our pup as an individual, the happier and calmer they are likely to be.
Let your pup stop and sniff other dogs and outdoor objects.
Remember, those walks are for your pup—and one of their favourite things in the whole world is smelling stuff. They’re not getting what they need when we assume there’s nothing to smell just because we can’t see it. Our pup’s noses are uber-sensitive—up to 100 million times more sensitive than ours!
Give your pup choices.
If their entire lives are spent hanging around waiting for us to decide everything (when they go out; when they eat; when they can relieve themselves; when they can play with other pups), how dull and boring would that be?
Let your pup tell you when to go on a walk and where they want to walk. Let your pup choose their own toys.
When it’s safe to do so, unleash your pup outside.
Don’t force your pup to be tethered to you every single minute of every single day. Instead, take them someplace where they can wander but still know where you are and vice-versa. If possible, let them roll and chase something, smell the air and run free.
Make it easy for them to play at home using their primary senses.
To enhance your pup’s sensory experience indoors, try filling boxes with different scents and hiding them. Scents can range from your dirty sweatshirt to a sweet-smelling natural soap. From the safety of home, all pups love to explore with their noses.
Have your pup work for food.
Our pups may be pampered pets, but all pups are natural hunters. Sniffing, searching and strategizing to find food will provide a taste of the wild and strengthen their minds.
Let your pup feel comfortable about their sleeping spot.
If they’re crying for hours because they are being kept away from you, there just has to be another way! Even if you don’t allow your pup in bed with you, provide a sleeping place where they can come and go as they please.
Don’t expect your pup to be like a person, know all the house rules or be perfectly polite.
Sure, you don’t want them sniffing crotches or leaping on folks. But they should be able to indulge their instincts by digging into a blanket or messing up a bed.
Gear life to the needs of your individual pup.
Some people worry about their pup being “only child pups”. But did you know that some pups get really stressed out by other dogs? For them, being an “only child pup” is one of the great benefits of puphood!
Some pups prefer a walker for an hour a day vs. doggy daycare for 8 hours a day.
To help them stay happy, respect them as the animals they are.
They’ll love you for it!