5 steps to a happier dog!

the importance of walking your dog _ walk your dog in AustinIs your dog giving you the sad puppy eyes? Here are five steps to turn that frown up-side-down!

1. Walk!

This may seem like an obvious to-do, but note that it is number one on the list. Therefore, we must stress again that it is THE most important and should ideally be accomplished before anything else your dog does in a day. A structured pack walk—even if it’s just the two of you—satisfies one of your dogs most primal instincts to work for his food and comforts.

A structured dog walk includes your dog at your side or behind you (not pulling in front). Otherwise he’s leading the walk, not you, and it can set off the balance in your relationship long after the walk is over.

Stay positive during your walk, even if he’s not doing what you think he should. Have patience. It takes time!

2. Structure at meal time

OK, now you’re back home after your walk and he’s looking at you with pleading eyes. Make sure he knows he must still work for his breakfast and any creature comforts. Nothing is for free! While it sounds harsh, dogs thrive on structure and discipline (don’t worry, it’s the good kind of discipline) and feel a sense of balance when they understand that you’re in charge. It’s like saying, “Don’t worry, dude! I got this! Just relax.”

Ask him to perform a few tricks or sit and stay before giving him any treats. When you give him his food, have him sit and wait until you give him permission to eat. This takes practice, so don’t worry if he doesn’t magically conform to your new plan on day one.

3. Routine

Dogs love routine. Give him the same signal every day that you’re about to walk out the door without him and he will feel more comfortable and know what to expect on a regular basis. For example, give him a Kong treat on his bed before you leave for work or after-work drinks. Don’t make a big deal about leaving or he will make it a big deal, too.

If you have a dog walker or other domestic help, have them come by around the same time every day. They should follow similar rules about coming and going and not making it a big deal because, well, it’s not!

4. Mental enrichment

You knew we were going to say this, didn’t you? Engaging a dog’s mind is just as important as everything else on this list. Without mental stimulation and new experiences, your dog is as bored as your kids would be if you stuck them in front of a repeating episode of As The World Turns.

There are a lot of different ways to engage your dog’s mind. Take him somewhere new, work on new tricks or commands, give him a puzzle toy or work on retrieving or sniff and find games. Your dog walker will be able help if you don’t have the time (and even if you do!).

5. Affection (and its place in line)

There it is! Everyone’s favorite thing about owning a dog. Lap cuddles, scratches behind the ear, appreciative gazes and sloppy kisses. Affection is important but it is last on the dog’s (we know, not yours!) list of priorities, so keep that in mind before you opt to give him a bear hug in place of his morning walk. The order of meeting his needs is important, and affection should never replace exercise, mental enrichment or structure.

A bonus for giving Fido some affection at the end of a long work day? It’s been known to lower blood pressure for both you and your pooch, improve mood and help you both relax! Try the Tellington T Touch method to give your dog an extra soothing massage.

Whether you are a busy-body or just not as motivated to get up and go, Gusto Dogs can help by providing a dog walker to meet these 5 methods of canine bliss.  We offer dog walks and enrichment activities in the morning and the afternoon — whatever suits you best.

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About Kristen West

Kristen started Gusto Dogs in Austin after running a pet sitting and walking business for two years in Sydney, Australia. After discovering that the dogs benefited much more from incorporating enrichment into their daily walks, Kristen decided to make it a part of every Gusto dog walk with the aim to provide a more fulfilling experience for Austin's dogs and their owners.