As many of you know, I spend a lot of time with dogs. Not just mine, but other people’s! It’s such a blast, and being able to watch and learn from these amazing animals has really made a difference in my life.
I’m in the process of starting a dog blog, but in the meantime, I wanted to share my thoughts on making our dogs’ lives more green. And I’m looking at it not only for the impact on the environment, but I truly feel I can help you make a difference in your wallet as well (and save you having all the crap in your house).
To me, there isn’t anything more “green” than nature. By having dogs in my house (I have 2 dogs), I live with nature every day, even in downtown Toronto. We are on a very dangerous trend, in my opinion. The trend of the explosion of human products adopted for dogs. Dog owners spend billions on these things every year, and I find it all unnecessary. I’m the first one to make sure I have quality stuff for my dogs, but the excesses and the things that they don’t need really boggle my mind. Dog strollers are the first thing that come to mind. Ugh!! You can even paint your dog’s toenails.
Take a look at your dog. His needs are really quite simple. Sleep, exercise, play, food, buddies. And time with you. Quality time is the most precious thing we can give to our dogs, and it costs nothing. What do you think – is the popularity of all of these dog products covering the guilt that owners have because they don’t spend enough time with their dog? Definitely a possibility.
My dogs love their dog beds and that’s their place to chill and relax. A comfortable dog bed that fits your dog is key. Look for eco-friendly dog beds if you can.
Get out and walk with your dog every day. Take your dog to as many places as you can. Use benches, trees and poles to make your own obstacle and agility course and give your dog mental stimulation. Mentally stimulated exercise is the best way to exercise your dog – much better than an hour in a dog park.
Get on the ground and play with your dog. Play with your dog without toys. Play with your dog with safe toys. Keep away from tennis balls (they will file down your dog’s teeth), stuffed toys that come apart easily, balls that are easily chewed. Keep toys simple. Choose eco friendly toys to make sure that the materials and stuffing is safe.
Your dog doesn’t need 100 toys – he only needs a few. Keep a couple in a basket and leave 3 toys out. Rotate the toys and it’s like your dog has a new toy!
Don’t believe that your dog only needs a few toys? Try this experiment. Take your dog to a park, and bring a ball. Now put the ball on the ground next to a stick and see which one he prefers. If he’s like mine, he’ll choose the stick any day! Something doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy for your dog to have fun!
We’ve just come to my hot button. Feed your dog a good quality dog food. If you buy it from the grocery store, vet store or big box store (there may be the odd high quality food there), it’s not a good quality dog food. Don’t believe me? Check the Dog Food Analysis website which ranks dog food quality. Most small companies use higher quality meats and less filler in their foods. Orijen and Acana are two of my favourite.
But, for the highest quality food you can give your dog, feed raw. That’s what I feed my dogs (before I switched from Orijen). Feeding raw is one of the best things you can do for your dog’s health, in my opinion. I will be getting into details of a raw diet on my blog, so will save them for later. In the meantime, if you have any questions about raw, please feel free to contact me.
Notice that I did not mention treats. Your dog doesn’t need treats. Used to be when you wanted a treat for your dog, Milkbones were about your only option. But in the past couple of years the treat market has exploded and the options are endless – there’s even “energy bars” for dogs. You feel guilty when you’re in the pet store thinking your dog needs a treat. Well, he doesn’t. Look at how many FAT and unhealthy dogs there are! There aren’t treats in nature, and there aren’t fat dogs in nature. You don’t need treats to train your dog either.
I give my dog raw bones every once in a while for recreational chewing – that’s helping their teeth, jaws and mind. Keep the dental sticks and dental flossies in the store and save your money. Find the beef bones in the grocery store (usually for $1 or $2) and let them chew away. Hours of fun!
Dogs need socialization, just like we need socialization. So use the dog park to meet your dog’s social needs. Educate your dog on how to meet and be with other dogs properly. When you find a dog that your dog just clicks with, make play dates. Go on hikes with your dog and find other dog owners to go with you. Hiking and moving is a great way for the dogs to bond. If you’re in the Toronto area and looking for owners to hike with, please contact me. I go hiking with my clients pretty regularly. Sometimes trail hikes, and sometimes fun little urban hikes!
Dogs learn from other dogs, so keeping your dog away from other dogs is stunting their growth and development. Start socializing puppies right away – they learn more from their furry buddies!
Diesel, my older dog, has a boyfriend (an Akita) that we meet up with regularly. Jake is like the Walmart greeter in the dog park, and must meet as many dogs as possible. I have to get them out and socialized regularly to keep them happy and balanced. I have the added advantage of my classes and can bring my dogs along where they mix and mingle with my clients’ dogs (and teach them a few things!).
Dogs are pack animals, and love nothing more than spending time with their pack. Find ways to incorporate your dog into your everyday life. The more different experiences you can expose your dog to, the more well adjusted he will become and the stronger your bond will be. Your dog should be your best buddy. Imagine having a dog that you can take anywhere! How amazing would that be!
Take time to understand your dog. Observe your dog. Find out what he loves (and what he doesn’t!). When I ask that question in class, most owners have no clue. Or give me a self serving answer. Every dog has something that really turns their crank, so spend time figuring out what that is and find creative ways to incorporate it into your dog’s life.
Training is so important here. Notice I didn’t put training as a separate category. Training should just be part of your everyday life with your dog. Everything you do is an opportunity for training. To me (and not because I’m a trainer), training is the one area that you should invest in your dog. Go to a trainer that helps you understand your dog and helps you develop that bond. That is going to pay back in a lifetime of love and companionship with your dog. I have a stronger bond now with my dogs than I ever did. They trust me, and I trust them. They know that I get them, and know I am looking out for them. They really are special animals.
Of course they also have a leash and collar (and I use high quality Martingale collar and 6′ leash). But as you can see, their needs are pretty basic. And my dogs are having the time of their life!
So the next time you’re in a pet store and see those cute baubles, t-shirts, toys, ask yourself if your dog will really be happier by having them (and be honest). And then go home and spend an uninterrupted hour with your dog. Bet he loves that more!