What are your dog’s needs? [Your guide to ‘biological fulfillment’.]
Over thousands of years, dogs have been bred to enhance their instinctive behaviours for human purpose. For example, the Golden Retriever was bred to hunt waterfowl, the Kelpie was bred to herd livestock, the Maremma was bred to guard livestock, the Dachshund was bred to hunt badgers and the Husky was bred to pull sleds. All these breeds and more were developed for a human purpose, that enhanced the dog’s natural ability to perform a skill. These skills are instinctive behaviours which are hard wired into our beloved friends, so it’s our job to make sure we enrich their lives, so they feel fulfilled and can truly live their best life.
With these instinctive behaviours in mind, it is clear that our domesticated best friends have biological needs which need mental and physical exercise with sensory stimulation in order to feel fulfilled. And no matter what size, shape or breed your dog is, it still has the fundamental drive to satisfy these needs. As such, if we do not satisfy these needs, we have a bored and frustrated dog which is more likely to suffer from problem behaviours, as they look to satisfy these needs within their environment. Que destructive digging, barking, chewing, tearing up your furniture to name a few.
So in order to satisfy your dog’s instincts, here are some suggestions and if you tick most of these, then you are sure to have a happy, healthy and satisfied dog.
Just like us humans, our dogs need exercise too. Daily walks of at least 30 minutes for your average adult dog, (more for higher energy breeds) is critical to ensure your dog has a sense of freedom and adventure. And if it’s one thing that we have learned from COVID lockdowns, getting out of the house is critical for our mental health and there is no doubt this goes for our furry pals too. Getting your dog out daily enables your dog to avoid that cabin fever, stimulate their mind seeing the world and getting their body moving with a good stroll. Furthermore, heading out for a hike or to the beach enables your dog to naturally explore and satisfy their curiosity. Plus, encouraging them to sniff and ‘smell the roses’ has so many more benefits, which leads to our next point.
As humans, we have on average 5 million scent receptors in our nose. Dogs on the other hand have on average 220 million scent receptors in their nose with 10% of the dog’s brain dedicated to scent. That’s a big difference! But what are the benefits of sniffing? Dogs use scents to understand and navigate the world. When a dog is sniffing, it lowers their heart rate which has a calming effect and helps relieve stress. So when a dog is sniffing, it’s processing a whole tonne of information and calculating what it means. In performing the process, it is reducing it’s heart rate and becoming calmer, which is great for particularly anxious or wound up dogs. As a result, your dog is not only calmer, but it is satisfying it’s sensory capacity and fulfilling it’s biological needs.
Ditch the bowl
As trainers, we are big advocates for NILF – nothing in life is free, which includes free meals. We encourage our dogs to work for half their daily intake through training and the other half through items such as puzzle toys, snuffle mats, scatter feeding, Lickimats and Kongs. These interactive toys enable your dog to naturally forage for their food, problem solve, and mentally exercise their brain. In turn, these activities improve your dogs independence and confidence whilst also increasing their focus and concentration. Plenty of research highlights the act of licking and chewing is calming for your dog. So a Kong or a Lickimat is a great way to wind your dog down after a big day.
If you can find a compatible play mate, play dates are excellent way for your dog to de stress, enjoy themselves and have fun. It improves their physical sense of their bodies, socialisation and canine communication skills. But play dates, don’t have to end there with other dogs. You should play with your dog every day too. A game of fetch, tug or hide and seek in the house is a great way to improve your dog’s mental well being, engagement and to satisfy their biological needs. Plus it adds more value to you as the handler and improves your relationship with your dog.
Teaching your dog new tricks and behaviours is a fantastic way to tap into their intelligence, improve their confidence and problem solving abilities. It improves your relationship and leadership with your dog so you have a more engaged dog who’s keen to work for you whilst mentally exercising their brain. A good short, sharp training session of no more than 5 minutes twice a day will improve your dog’s intelligence and will mentally wear them out. It’s a fantastic way to tire your dog out, without too much physical effort.
All of the above activities are an excellent way to enrich your dog’s life. In essence they allow your dog to dog (verb) but legally allowing them to dig, run, sniff, swim, forage and explore. Which are all natural instincts for your dog. The flow on benefits include:
- Feelings of fulfillment
- Reducing unwanted behaviours
- Stimulates and assists with brain development
- Improves problem solving abilities and intelligence
- Develops confidence and social capacity
- Improves your dog’s well being
- Increases focus and concentration
- Enhances your relationship with your dog.
By fulfilling your dog’s biological needs you are able to have more well rounded and happy dog and avoid unwanted behaviors.
Your Family Dog Trainer
Can’t decide which enrichment activities are best for your dog? Have a session with one of our qualified trainers who can show you activities best suited to your dog and you. Contact us here or call 040 638 9506.