With the holiday season upon us, many families want to find “just the right” holiday gift for their dog. Will it be a chew? A stuffed toy menorah or Santa Claus? Maybe a ball?
The actual best gift of all for your dog is your time. many dogs will happily play with a toy by themselves – at least for a while. If you add a human interacting with the toy, the whole play value skyrockets. Dogs are social animals and prefer to have others around them. Other dogs and animals are certainly a plus but even dogs originally bred as pack animals, like many hound breeds, will still seek out human companionship over canine company.
Most families are already quite busy. So how can you add more time for playing with your dog? Incorporate play into your daily routine. You can multitask! While you are stirring the soup for supper, gently push a ball or other toy with your foot. Your dog will quickly catch on that if he brings it back by you, you will move it again for him. You can do the same thing while sitting and watching the evening news. It is better if you actively interact with your dog but any play is better than none.
Take just 5 minutes and do some fetch or tug with your dog out in the yard every morning. If your dog doesn’t retrieve or want to tug, then simply walk around the yard with him. Watch what he sniffs at, encourage him to come to you occasionally to get a treat and try to get him to chase or play with you. Yes, just you! Many dogs enjoy bouncing at their humans or doing a little hide and seek.
Add an extra walk or simply add five minutes onto your regular walk. Make the walk more than simply an “elimination” exercise. Take your dog on a new route with new smells. Decide that each weekend or day off you will take your dog to a new park or hiking trail. Being outdoors is good for both of you. No matter where you live there are dog friendly hikes. Remember to carry water for your dog and bags to clean up after him along with a good leash and nice collar or harness to hike in. You will find a number of wonderful parks nearby and explore places you didn’t realize were available. As a side benefit, both of you will get in better physical shape!
Two or three minutes a day, a handful of low calorie but tasty treats and you can train your dog all sorts of fun tricks. Trick training will exercise your dog’s brain as well as his body. Dogs can tell that people enjoy tricks, so they enjoy performing them. There are many excellent trick books available. Look for tricks that fit your dog’s personality and physical capabilities.
Check out local dog training classes. Look for one where the people and dogs are having fun. Then sign up for a class. You don’t need to have competition goals in mind – you can do things like backyard agility for fun. Your dog will love his evening out with you and a whole hour or so devoted just to him.
Truly, time will be the best gift you gave your dog ever!