Doing this one thing will make you a better dog owner, according to an expert

Dog looking happy next to owner
(Image credit: Getty Images/Westend61)

As loving pup parents, we'll do anything to keep our dogs happy and healthy. Whether that means braving the bad weather for their daily walk or making sure they have everything they need.

You might have bought them the best dog toys and a comfortable bed, but there's one thing you might not have considered before. Award-winning dog trainer Lisa Burton talks all about this in her latest Instagram post. 

She says that "agency in dog guardianship is profoundly significant" and is crucial for their welfare. In fact, it's one of the 32 ways for improving your relationship with your dog. To find out what this means and how you can include it in your dog's daily routine, keep on reading: 

If you're wondering what agency is, Lisa explains that it's when an animal has control over their life, and can make their own choices.

Whilst we can't let our pets call all the shots (if we did, they'd probably just eat the best dog treats all day long), we can let them make small decisions. She explains that if our dogs don't get to do this, it can have negative consequences on their physical and psychological wellbeing. 

Lisa says: "Understanding our dog's needs and providing them with choices (under the safety umbrella) wherever feasible can help instill a sense of empowerment and control in them. This sense of agency can improve our dog's wellbeing and help you to establish a lasting bond."

However, she notes that we shouldn't put them in uncomfortable situations and then punish them for their behavior. Instead, we should choose the right moments and situations to give them a sense of agency.

Lisa says that one way to do this is by giving them a designated space to rest and retreat, like the best dog bed. You could also give them multiple enrichments at the same time, and a choice of toys to play with. If you want some tips on how to make an exciting dog play area, this useful guide can help. 

Dog choosing a toy out of cart

(Image credit: Getty Images/alexei_tm)

When it comes to walk time, let them sniff where they want to (even if it's slightly annoying and holds things up). Lisa also recommends letting them go where they choose and allowing them to approach or get away from people and animals.

It goes without saying that safety comes first and you should never let them do this if it will put them in danger. However, when the right moment comes, your dog will appreciate their new sense of freedom.

Lisa says: "This approach proposes a more nuanced and individualized understanding of dogs, taking into account variations in personality, social support, and relationship styles. It underscores the importance of advocating for a mutually sustainable partnership between you and your dog."

For more dog tips, check out our features on 32 ways to build more fun into your dog’s routine and 32 things your pet is trying to tell you.

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Megan Milstead
Staff Writer

Megan is a Staff Writer on PetsRader, covering news, features and buying guides. She has a wealth of experience looking after animals, having grown up with dogs, cats and horses all of her life. She’s particularly interested in pet happiness and behavior, which she loves to research in her spare time. You’ll often find her watching webinars on reactivity in dogs or researching cat body language. She loves going the extra mile for her cats Chilli and Nala (who also help out with testing the best products for our buying guides). 

Megan studied BA Journalism at the University of Westminster, where she specialized in lifestyle journalism and was editor of Smoke Radio’s online magazine. She also graduated from West Herts College with a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Journalism. Before joining the PetsRadar family last year, she worked on the editorial team at Harrods and has spent most of her career writing for specialized titles, like RunningShoesGuru, Licklist and Mr. After Party. 

Megan works alongside qualified vets and accredited trainers to ensure you get the best advice possible. She is passionate about finding accurate and helpful answers to your pet-related questions.