Have you ever considered giving your dog more choice in their day-to-day lives? It's probably not a question many dog owners ask themselves.
More professional dog trainers are embracing the trend towards dog empowerment, by allowing dogs to make choices, not only during their early training but also in everyday activities.
We spoke to Vicky Carne, The Dog Coach about the importance of giving your dog choices. She told us how being able to make choices develops an animal's confidence, their feelings of safety and improves their emotional wellbeing.
The lack of choice in a dogs’ life can be a contributing factor to increased stress resulting in behavioural issues.
Here's Vicky's video guide she produced for us on this subject.
We focus our training on teaching dogs to adapt their behaviour, to learn the skills they need to fit in with our lives, often with little thought to the choices our dogs might want to make for themselves.
We start with a great advantage: our dogs’ willingness to adapt their behaviour to suit us. After all, it’s been thousands of years since early dog decided to hang around the encampments of early man and our lives began to intertwine.
In the more recent past, dogs were either kept to work or were generally free to roam and come home when tired or hungry. Today, our pet dogs have almost no control over their own lives, which are in many ways far more regimented than they've ever been.
So, how can we safely give our dogs the opportunity to make choices?
Do you have a new puppy? Read Vicky's guide on caring for a new puppy here.
Five ideas to help empower your doggy best friend
- Affection: Don’t assume your dog always wants to be petted or cuddled. There will be times when even the most affectionate dog isn’t in the mood or has other things to interest them. Give your dog the choice of moving away and you’ll soon discover what they prefer at the time.
- The choice of a safe place: Their bed or crate where they won't be disturbed if they want a nap or have simply had enough of the kids for one day!
- Going for a walk: Why not let your dog choose which way to go?
- Games and toys: Put some toys out and let your dog decide which game to play with you.
Dogs can sometimes find grooming appointments and visits to the vet stressful. If this is a situation you've experienced with your own dog, you can help them by teaching them the 'Bucket Game'.
The game is a way of giving your dog a voice; a chance for them to tell you when they're ready or if they need a break.
Firstly, teach your dog to focus on the pot or bucket containing treats and reward them for doing so. Then you teach them that while they are looking at the bucket you will carry on with grooming, claw clipping or an ear examination. However, as soon as they look away, you will pause until they once again look back at it.
This game was devised by behaviourist Chirag Patel, and it gives your dog a way to communicate with you. Of course, there will be times when this won't be possible but don't we all feel slightly less nervous when the dentist tells us we just need to raise a hand to pause the drilling?
Choices in life help us all feel more secure and in control. Once you begin to think about offering your dog choices, I'm sure you'll find plenty more ways to do so.
To find out how to teach your dog The Bucket Game, visit thedogcoachonline.com
You can learn more about Bought By Many pet insurance here. We have policies for all dog owners, from £15,000 of vet cover to cover for pre-existing conditions.