Is Your Dog Happy

Seriously have a think about this from their perspective. In your mind, be your dog for a day. Now, what happens from the moment you wake up, until you go to bed at night. How do you tell if your dog is happy and his needs are being met. Some people complain that we keep captive animals in Zoos or aquariums, but I can tell you some of these have happier lives than some of our captive dogs. OK dogs have been domesticated for hundreds of years. But that does not mean they can be happy without some of the things they would do in the wild. Are street dogs happy or are they just in survival mode. I am not going to try and answer these questions. Just provoking thought.

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Have you heard of the five freedoms, this is worldwide www.aspcapro.org/sites/pro/files/aspca_asv_five_freedoms_final_0_0.pdf
• FREEDOM FROM HUNGER AND THIRST. by ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor.
• FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT. by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
• FREEDOM FROM PAIN, INJURY OR DISEASE. …
• FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NORMAL BEHAVIOR. …
• FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISTRESS.

Let’s assume 1 to 3 you are OK with. It’s the other two I am more concerned with. Some dogs are happy just to sniff around in their backyard and then sleep and eat for most of their days. But not that many. Dogs like to explore, (go out on a walk) to sniff out where others have been, (to hunt) but we have to be somewhat restrictive there and have them on lead so as to protect the fauna. We can substitute some of their hunting prowess with games. Get to know what games really turn your dog on, some will enjoy tugging others like ball games, some may enjoy finding things. Most pet owners have no problem seeing that their dog is happy while engaged in a game. But what about when the 5 year old is doing something or the adult visitor is looming over your dog like a giant. Have a look at all parts of the dog, start with ear position, facial expression, eyes (shape and pupil), which way the head is turned, the weight and position of the dog on front or back end, and the tail. Dogs should be free from fear and distress, and that’s a tough one, as we cannot always have that for ourselves, however we should not be the cause of the fear and distress (beware, some training techniques use intimidation). If you have an over sensitive dog (and some are) then even a family dispute will upset the dog. Be mindful of how your dog handles situations, you may need to adjust the way you interact, or train your dog. A big part of what I do as a trainer has to do with education of the owners, to be more in tune with their dog. We have to be aware before we can change.

Together we can improve the lives of animals.

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