Whether it's more time spent playing with the best dog toys or enjoying extra-long walks together around your neighborhood, there are so many things you can do to help add more sparks of joy into your dog's day.
You're probably already ticking all of the obvious dog-duty boxes, but did you know that outside of training, tasty treats, and looking for ways to have more fun with your dog on walks, there's a really simple thing you can do to improve your dog's life?
Well, according to Christie Catan, a certified dog trainer and co-founder of Tails of Connection, there is — and it's not what you think!
"One of the easiest ways to improve your dog's life is to give them LOTS of ways to opt in and out of interactions and events in their life," says Catan. "This can be done in big events like vet exams or simple interactions like petting."
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In the Instagram video above, Catan uses the consent test before petting to illustrate her point of how you can let your dog opt in and out of interactions.
To do this with your own dog, try pausing when you're petting them and see whether they opt back into the interaction or not.
If your dog continues to want to be close to you, nudges you with their head, paws at you, or gives other signals that indicate a 'yes', continue to pet them.
However, if they move away, curl up, or don't engage with the petting, take this as a 'no' and leave them be.
"Behavior is incredibly powerful," explains Catan. "I’ll be honest: I cringe a bit anytime someone refers to a dog as “voiceless.” Dogs come into this world being able to use their behavior to produce desired outcomes (that’s what behavior is for). We just have to pay enough attention to their behavior that we don’t steamroll right over it."
Catan stresses that giving your dog control is a kind thing to do — not only does it empower your dog, but it helps build trust between the two of you, which goes a long way in strengthening your bond.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past three years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with a very mischievous Cocker Spaniel and a super sassy cat, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.