Get a dog, they said, it will be easy, they said. Well, in order for it to be easy you need to adopt a solid routine that works for you and your dog!
If you're ever wondering why your dog is being a pain in the ass, ask yourself how often they've been getting out. You'll quickly realize that it's probably because they're trying to release pent up energy. So consistently releasing that energy should be your highest priority when considering a daily routine.
If you're ready to be the best dog parent by adding these simple habits to your daily routine then let's dive in!
Mentally stimulating your dog is basically challenging your dog's mind in a way that burns some of their mental energy. For humans, this is kinda like when you ugly cry and then feel like a nap is due since you've drained so much emotional energy. There are also tons of less dramatic examples like.. prepping for a presentation, putting together a puzzle, or writing a chapter of your book. Activities like these all burn mental energy if you're focused and consistently working at it.
I always recommend for parents to find creative ways to burn their dog's mental energy and to do it as much as possible. You can do this many different ways, but let's go over a couple of examples..
Stimulant #1 - FOOD - Every time you feed them or give treats practice "sit" and "stay". Slowly increase the distance and time between them and the food to practice their will power. When you're ready for them to eat, say "eat!" or "okay!". This not only helps with basic obedience, it also burns tons of energy by mentally stimulating your dog right before mealtime.
Stimulant #2 - SOCIALIZE - Many people think socializing their dog means going to the dog park or having dog play dates. While that is ONE way to socialize, there's a lot more to it than just that. Socializing your dog means introducing them to new sights, sounds, smells and experiences.
So what does this have to do with mentally stimulating my dog, you may ask.. Well, introducing your dog to these new experiences drains a ton of mental energy IF you add structure. So imagine making your dog calmly walk up to a bunch of squirrels eating some nuts. Then you have them sit, stay, and calmly wait for a minute or two before continuing on your walk. You better believe that takes a shit ton of mental work for them to fight off the urge to eat them. By the time you get home, you've not only physically worked out your dog, you've also mentally worked them out as well.
Do this many times throughout the day.. but not always with squirrels. Leave the squirrels out of it haha
HABIT #3 - LEADERSHIP!
Just like kids, dogs need boundaries and leadership to thrive. If you want to be the pack leader of your house, you need to practice leadership at all times (leaders in the wild don't take days off). Here are the exact habits I follow to be the leader of my (huge) pack.
» Whenever you walk through a doorway or entrance, you should always be the first one with your dog following behind. How the hell do you do that? Before walking through an entryway, give a command for them to sit, stay or wait and then confidently walk in front. If your dog is used to doing whatever they want it's going to take practice, but they'll catch on. Like most training scenarios, teaching your dog to walk behind you requires patience, leadership and consistency!
This routine is to enforce manners and to establish your role as a pack leader. Trust me, it comes in handy when you're carrying heavy things and it definitely reduces the amount of times you trip over your dog!
» Playtime should be initiated by the human. Do not allow your dog to get in the habit of barking, nudging, or tugging at you when they want to play. Only reward calm and submissive behavior or your dog will quickly start calling the shots. A submissive dog is in a relaxed, confident state which is perfect for playtime!
» Never respond to your dog's whining or barking because you'll encourage this bad behavior. Instead, wait for them to quiet down and relax and then you can proceed to let them out or give them attention. You have to be consistent, because even if you give in once your dog is going to whine or bark thinking maybe it will be that one time you'll do it again.
This will help with immensely with puppies, with crate training and with dogs that struggle being separated from mom or dad.
That's it people!
If you add exercise, mental stimulation and leadership to your daily routine your dog family will make everyone jealous. Don't worry.. it won't take forever. If you're consistent, you'll both feel more balanced throughout the day in no time.