Each Tuesday, I post a new tip on SideKick Dog Training's Instagram and Facebook pages; they're training tips, tips for socializing, advice about safety concerns with your SideKick, etc. They cover a wide range of topics and I sincerely hope that every follower gets something out of each tip I post!
I recently got to thinking, though...With all of the tips I provide, which ones are the most important? Could only 10, 15, or even 25 tips really cover everything it takes to be a good parent to our pets? Probably not. Having a fur-child is way more complex than they ever tell you...
BUT I eventually decided that a decent number of the tips I offer on Tip Tuesdays can be boiled down into one of the following five categories or overarching kernels of wisdom: 1) Allow your SideKick to just "dog." Dogs sniff and explore the world with their noses; they bark; they dig; they chew things. Sometimes they stalk, hunt, and chase things; sometimes they get the zoomies. Dogs do a lot of "dog" things and I encourage you to allow your dog the opportunities to do those things on a regular basis:
Let your dog sniff trees and bushes and grass while on walks.
Let your dog chase a rabbit or squirrel every now and then.
Let your dog dig a hole (preferably not in the middle of the yard where grass grows over it and you're going to twist an ankle next Spring...that's not safe or fun).
Your SideKick will be happy and have fun if given opportunities to do what comes naturally to them (particularly if it's something their breed has historically been bred to do); and you'll have a little more control over the where and when if you're able to provide your SideKick the dog opportunities.
2) Be patient. The human world is hard to navigate: there are rules and guidelines and boundaries that cannot or should not be broken, ignored, or crossed; and it's hard to figure that all out as a human; imagine your SideKick trying to weave and dodge through all of that!
As mentioned in my first point, dogs do dog things and those dog things don't always jive with what is socially acceptable in our human world. Take time to teach your SideKick the ways of the world and what you want/like to see and be patient. Patience (and persistence) will get you and your SideKick far!
3) Do things with your SideKick. Take your SideKick with you to the store, to outdoor cafes, to get the mail from the end of the driveway, to your friend's end-of-summer BBQ. Anywhere dogs can be, take your SideKick with you!
Give your SideKick the gift of experiencing new sounds, new places, new people, new dogs and animals, new textures and surfaces, new situations. If this sounds familiar to you...you might just be thinking of socialization - something we usually talk about and stress for puppies. However, socialization doesn't end when your puppy matures! At any point in your SideKick's life, it's a good idea to appropriately introduce them to new things and make sure those experiences are gooduns.
4) Pet-proof your home. It's no secret at this point in this post that exploring through smelling, licking, eating, jumping or scratching is totally normal for puppies and dogs. So, a lot of headaches can be prevented and a lot of hazards avoided if you adopt some small management techniques in your home: ensure that all the dangerous and valuable stuff — chemicals, cleaning agents, clothes, shoes, grandma's china, etc. — are either out of the house or completely out of reach for your SideKick.
This might mean locked cabinets, cleared floors and counter tops, and securing cords and wires. It might mean blocking off access to certain rooms with baby gates and/or closed doors; and it might mean that you're doing this for the rest of your SideKick's life! We're all usually aware of puppy-proofing a house just like we would for a new baby, but a 10 year old dog is different from a 10 year old human child in that the dog may still eat crayons if given the opportunity...
5) Train with your SideKick. No matter what form it comes in, training and interacting with your SideKick is invaluable to your relationship! Teach your SideKick tricks; learn a dog sport together; play in the yard; go to dog manners classes; teach them things you like to see around the house. Learning to communicate clearly and effectively through training with your SideKick will serve to further your relationship with them, encourage harmony in your household, and make training that much easier!