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Happy Dogs make Happy Homes

I firmly believe that happy dogs make for happy homes. So do you know if you have a happy dog? And how does one figure this out?

The key is in taking a step back and looking at and understanding your dog. And once you get that part under control, making sure that you are providing him with what he needs. Now please understand that every breed is different and their needs differ accordingly. So part of the key also lies in understanding your breed of dog.

Spend a little time reading up on the breed. The internet, doggie books, breeders you trust who can give you an in-depth insight into the breed are good options. Now with the new level of awareness you have gained as a backdrop, take a good long hard look at your own dog.

Every Breed has a Purpose

As pet owners very often we forget the basic premise that every breed has a purpose. Each breed was created and bred to hold to certain specifications. And these specifications were based on what was required of that particular breed. It was the duty and job of the breeder to uphold and maintain these specifications. Which in simple terms basically means your dog’s behavior, needs and personality are completely ingrained. His genetic codes dictate a lot of things in his life.

To demonstrate what I mean: gun dogs like labs and goldens were bred to go on hunts with their masters. They were required to pay particular attention to and take cues from their master. And deviations from this were unacceptable (unless you want to be the one rummaging around in the waist high grass for the bird you just shot!). Hounds like beagles were required to hunt in packs, scent, find and chase their quarry over great distances. Dachshunds were required to find and flush the game from burrows hidden in the ground and river banks. So the gun dogs were bred to follow commands and the beagles and dachshunds were bred for their independence and intelligence. So does this give you a better understanding of your dog now?

Breed Standard

When we (breeders) talk about breed standard we talk about adherence to these precepts. And dog shows are a testament to breed standard. The best dog in a show is not the one that does the best tricks or looks the best, but the one who most closely adheres to the breed standard of a breed from a physical, mental and behavioral perspective. And breeders of course take great pride in this. Well, come on. After a lot of thought, planning and research you decide a golden is the best breed for you. You get yourself a golden expecting him to be a happy friendly dog and then he turns out to be an aggressive difficult dog. Now, this isn’t what you signed up for, is it? Who are you going to blame? The breeder or the breed?

To all those people who have read this far and are now with hackles raised growling and shaking their heads at the screen – my intention is not to tell you whether you have ‘good’ dog or a ‘bad’ dog. It is to help you get a better understanding of your dog and what drives him. And therefore be able to ensure that you provide for him in the manner that he needs.

Breeders and Puppies

A little side note to people who are looking to buy a puppy. Please ensure that you do your background checks on breeders to ensure you get the right dog. The right dog from the right breeder can make a world of difference in your life. (Please read ‘Choosing the right puppy’)

However remember that once you have taken your puppy home now you are responsible for your puppy’s upbringing and behavior. Like they say – you can take the best dog in the world and make him into the worst or vice versa.

So now you have a fair idea of what to expect from your breed of dog. You just need to spend a little time observing your own dog and the two of you can take it from there. Remember that breed standard gives you a general framework but there will always be individual differences.

So now your training, discipline, play and feeding is far more focused and therefore that much more effective.

Some general things to keep in mind with all dogs:

  • Dogs are social animals. In nature’s scheme of things rules are defined by the pack. With single dogs it is important to ensure that you give him rules. A dog without rules is a confused, frustrated and therefore an unhappy dog.
  • Ensure you give your dog the kind of exercise he needs. Exercise promotes good physical and mental health. A good long walk or run can be quite calming.
  • Devise games that are tailored for your dog. For e.g. hounds – scent and find games. Or with gun dogs, fetch games. (You get the general idea.)
  • Spend time training your dog. Remember that training is a way of establishing a platform of communication and one-on-one interaction with your dog. As you work with your dog he will start to get that you are trying to tell him something and this behavior will carry over to other aspects of your interaction with him.
  • Ensure the right diet for your dog. Bad dietary habits can lead to unwanted behaviors (like stealing food of your kitchen counter, rummaging in the garbage bin, begging at the dining table)

And of course love your dog and let him know that he means the world to you. Just let him know that he belongs!

What breed of dog do you have? Are there breed specific things that you have learned that could help other doggie owners. Do write in with your experiences and stories.