four Steps to a Happier Pup
It's easy to forget that most pets need our help to be their best selves! With Down Dog Rx, we've broken down the four most effective (and doable!) routine changes to improve your dog's behavior and well-being.
These are your first steps towards correcting behaviors like leash-pulling, over-activity or anxiousness, and getting into mischief at home. They also lay the groundwork for dealing with more challenging behaviors. Even if you don't have any specific issues to address, you and your dog will both benefit from incorporating some or all of these steps into your daily routine! Tackle them in order or in a way that works for you and your family. If you need extra support or have a specific behavior or issue to address, contact us about behavioral coaching.
#1 Use the right leash
The right leash can make a big difference! A short, static leash helps your dog feel more engaged and tuned in to your feedback. On the other hand, when your dog is on a retractable leash (or a too-long static leash), he’s able to forget you’re there. He may pull or wander and he's less likely to respond to your cues. A static leash is also easier to control if your dog takes off suddenly. When it comes to material, nylon, cotton web, and leather work great. Try a thinner, lightweight version for smaller dogs.
#2 Do five minutes of brain training (one to two times a day)
Just a few minutes of brain training will give your dog the mental stimulation he needs to unwind after his walk and get ready for a relaxed, mischief-free day. After your walk, take a small handful of kibble and give your dog a cue. We like using different combinations of sit and stay--it doesn't have to be fancy. Once your dog becomes familiar with the cue, treat randomly to reinforce the response. As an added bonus, when you treat by hand, your dog builds positive associations with paying attention to you. He'll learn that good things come from listening, and he'll love you for it! Any member of the household can (and should!) participate in brain training.
Afterwards, let your dog hang out with you while you get ready for the day. He’ll still be somewhat hungry but will feel relaxed and happy to wait for the rest of his breakfast. Feel free to give him a favorite toy or a bone to chew on while he waits. Make sure he’s allowed to see and be with you – crating or separating him at this point will increase anxiety and make him feel bad. When you’re ready to leave, give him the rest of his breakfast (which we'll get into in step #3!) Brain training can also be done after your dog’s evening walk before he gets the rest of his dinner.
#3 Feed from a Kong (one to two times a day)
Give your dog his meal in an interactive slow feeder, like a Kong, and let him work for his food. When you give your dog a job to do, he won't need to find other, less ideal ways to exert that energy. Chewing on a slow-feeder is mentally stimulating and releases endorphins. Before you leave for the day, fill the Kong with kibble. If your dog is crated, put the Kong in his crate and let your dog go in for the rest of his breakfast. Keep in mind that the crate should be a safe space where your dog can feel calm and content, rather than punished. This teaches him to feel confident and relaxed when you're not around. While your dog happily chews on the Kong, close the crate and go.
#4 Go for a focused 20-minute walk (one to two times a day)
Now that you have the right leash, it’s time to get the most out of your daily walks. Start your dog’s day (and yours!) with an active, focused walk that's at least 20 minutes long. If you're up for a longer walk, go for it! The longer the walk, the better. Allow your dog to stop and sniff for the first five minutes, then insist on a continuous walk for the rest of the time. When you stay focused, your dog will be more engaged and active, and the rewards will extend well beyond the walk itself.