Turkey, treats or toys.This Thanksgiving, what would your dog be thankful for?
November is a month we focus on gratitude and all the things we are thankful for. For dog lovers like you and I, that includes recognizing the value our canine friends add to our lives.
Granted there are occasional nuisances. Cleaning up muddy footprints or gathering the shreds of a destroyed pillow might elicit a groan from time to time, but overall we know that our days would just not feel the same without our dogs in the routine.
There is a long list of the obvious reasons to be grateful for our dogs. They help us in a myriad of ways, whether as a field companion, a service animal, a working K9, or a pet that props us up on days we need a bit of emotional support. Regardless of the title they carry, they all provide companionship and a sense of security.
We laugh when their inquisitive nature gets them in a tight spot or chuckle because we’re able to elicit the “head tilt” by making strange noises.
I’m sure we can all list many reasons we’re grateful for our dogs, but I wonder if our dogs could speak, what would they say about us?
What would their gratitude list look like?
Besides the meeting of their basic needs for food, water, and shelter, I wonder what they might say.
As a professional trainer I hear a lot about what people want from their dogs. But, it is rare that I hear anyone express concern about providing for their dogs. I’m not talking about toys, or clothing, or the most expensive bed. I think if our dogs had a choice, they care far less about those things than we might think.
I’m talking about psychological fulfillment.
I’m talking about remembering that they are dogs and what that actually means. Domesticated yes, but predators at heart and bred with purposes in mind that are still very much a part of who they are. Whether for hunting, herding, pulling, chasing, or guarding, dogs still feel the draw of their DNA and I believe our pets would be most grateful if we would find some way to acknowledge and honor that part of their existence.
If you have a Border Collie, you may not have sheep to herd, but you can teach them to move a large ball in your yard. You may not hunt with your retriever, but there isn’t a good excuse that you can’t throw a few retrieve dummies or a ball and allow them to fetch it for you. Your guardian dog or your terrier may never have to engage a human or a rat, but you can learn a safe way to play tug and provide the stress relief that this mock fighting game can provide.
At the very minimum you can get your dog out into the woods to explore the terrain they were born into. Every dog, from Chihuahua to Mastiff, will benefit from being allowed to run, sniff, and explore the natural environments. For a small amount of time each week get your dogs out of the concrete jungles and out of the dog park. Go find dirt, grass, woods, and solitude. You will open a part of their being you may never have experienced before.
This deep appreciation of exactly what dogs are is what brought me to e-collar training so many years ago. I wanted to provide dogs much greater freedom, but I needed to feel confident it could be done with maximum safety. My learning to use an e-collar was the solution that allowed them to more fully experience all the joys of “being a dog.”
If my dogs could speak, I suspect they would say they are grateful for this gift of freedom far more than any joy a treat or new toy could provide.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your canine friends!