Have you ever heard this phrase: “Happiness isn’t having what you want but wanting what you have”?

Profound, isn’t it?

I’m willing to guess a lot of us would love to be able to say that we live a happy life grounded in the contentment that we’re delighted with what we have and not consumed by wanting things we don’t already possess. The flipside of this statement might read something like this: “Have enough of everything, but not as much as I’d like.”

Dogs. They’re a generally happy sort, aren’t they? So how do they do it?

Before we ask ourselves, is my dog happy we must first understand what it is to be happy, as a dog would view it.

There is a strong case for the point of view that all a dog needs in order to survive is access to food, shelter and water. There are millions of dogs around the world for whom food, water and shelter is just about all they can expect. Survival does not equal happiness and todays domestic dogs are generally fit and healthy, so the question is are they are happy?

Dogs are pack animals and generation after generation of selective breeding has lead to a domesticated species that thrives in the company of people. Dogs, in short, love human company. According Butcher’s Pet Care manufacturers of the more natural dog food, Butcher’s Lean & Tasty and their Healthy Happy Hound report the most popular ‘modern pack’ in the UK today for a dog consists of two adults and a child, and for over a third of dogs their pack now includes a cat!

So if we start from the position that we’re comfortably providing the basics of (good) food, access to water and shelter then we’ve actually got a very good chance of making our dogs happy simply by spending time with them. But let’s go further. What about mental stimulation?

The most common blight on a dog’s mental health is a state of anxiety – of which there are many forms , the most commonly talked about is separation anxiety, where the dog is anxious about being left on their own but the most common type is simply from not being exercised physically or mentally and therefore they are left to their devices and entertainment.

Click here to see our feature as part of Fit & Fun Dog Month sponsored by Butcher’s Lean & Tasty on separation anxiety for advice on how to combat the problem.

So if we start from the position that we’re comfortably providing the basics of (good) food, access to water and shelter then we’ve actually got a very good chance of making our dogs happy simply by spending time with them. But let’s go further. What about mental stimulation?

The most common blight on a dog’s mental health is a state of anxiety – of which there are many forms , the most commonly talked about is separation anxiety, where the dog is anxious about being left on their own but the most common type is simply from not being exercised physically or mentally and therefore they are left to their devices, entertainment for example.

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Anxious

A healthy dog isn’t just physically fit, but is mentally happy too.

Most dog owners strive towards making their dog happy and healthy. Many assume that physical health is the key to a happy dog, and it’s only when problems arise that an owner will question their dog’s mental wellbeing.

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Brought To You By Fit & Fun Dog Month 2013

‘Still as Fit as a Butcher’s Dog’

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When dogs do not receive the correct level of interaction it can cause behavioural issues such as, destructive behaviour, hyperactivity, lack of interest in general goings on and obsessive compulsive behaviour.

Most of these behavioural problems will occur when the dog feels that it is not being interacted with and will show signs of life when it’s feeding time or walk time. The key here is to find what interests your dog and step up this interaction – but be warned not to spend 24 hours 7 days a week, with your dog as then separation brings its own anxieties.

If your dog chews furniture and objects, barks excessively, runs at speed without being provoked, whines or shows no interest in anything, the chances are your dog is anxious.

What Causes Anxiety?

Dogs are pack animals; they thrive on companionship and interaction, but when this is taken away and they are not provided with other means of entertainment, anxiety can set in. Because of the lack of mental and physical activity, the dog will start to find new ways to entertain himself, which could be destructive behaviour or excessive barking. They are simply looking for their own way to burn off energy and exercise their brain.

Some breeds of dog are naturally more energetic than others and needs lots of mental stimulation, like the Border Collie, Siberian Husky, German Shepherd Dog and Dalmatian. Most high energy breeds were originally designed to work for long periods of time without tiring and are generally very intelligent with a natural desire to carry out their original tasks. Because of this they can get frustrated quite easily if they do not receive adequate amount of physical and mental activity.

How To Beat this Frustration

Incorporating different activities each day can help to beat your dog’s frustration and make life more content.

Toys – Are a great mental stimulator, the secret is to have a small selection of toys that are your dog’s toys that are with them constantly (say 1 or 2 toys) and other toys that are seen as yours and not there’s and you are allowing them to play with them with you for a period of time and once that time is over, remove ‘your’ toy. Food dispensing toys like Kongs, activity balls and puzzle games can be stuffed with favourite treats such as Butcher’s tripe, providing your dog with great mental stimulation as he tries to work out how to get the food.

Games – Games not only beat the frustration, but build a strong bond between owner and dog. Spend a few minutes every day playing games with your dog; keep them varied so they stay exciting. Try experimenting with different games that bring out your dog’s natural abilities. An example of play would be to play ‘find’ with you and your dog, see previous article.  Dogs are natural foragers and will enjoy searching for things but ensure you are commanding them to ‘Find’ so that the dog does not forage under sofa’s when you are not there!

Training – Training your dog gives the brain a good work out, try to spend a few minutes on training every day.  Also look at teaching new exercises with positive commands such as ‘fetch’ with different toys and in different places. Learning new exercises with positive commands will keep things fresh and fun.

See our feature as part of Fit & Fun Dog Month sponsored by Butcher’s Lean & Tasty on 5 exercise tips for busy owner, which is full of top tips on positive training whether for a puppy, new dog to the home or an old dog that needs a new lease of life: http://www.k9magazine.com/5-exercises-busy-pet-owners/

Dog classes and sports – Dog classes combine physical and mental activity. If you want something fast paced and energetic try Cani-X, agility, working trials, heelwork to music or flyball. If you are interested in slower paced activities, you might like to try obedience classes, the Good Citizen Dog Scheme, Pets As Therapy or clicker training . Check with the Kennel Club  to find out what activities are going on in your local area.

Doggie daycare – Your dog will be looked after in a safe environment where he should get sufficient  attention and playtime, as well as the chance to socialise with other dogs. It can be costly if you take your dog every day, but once a week is a nice alternative and provides variety in your dog’s life.

Dog walker – Dog walkers come to collect your dog and take it out on a walk for you. It’s a cheaper option to the doggie daycare, ensures someone can let your dog out and gives your dog the attention and interaction he needs. It is always a good idea to use a recommended service, from your vet or other dog owners….

Walkies – Walking your dog is a great way to beat the boredom and get some exercise and fresh air. Try to take your dog out on walks in different areas to keep them fun and exciting. If you go jogging why not take your dog along too.

The Importance of Play

According to Butcher’s Pet Care’s Healthy Happy Hound report, play is a vital component of what owner’s feel make their dogs happiest with almost a quarter of dogs being given around 30 minutes of play and exercise time daily.

Believe it or not, many dog owners do not know how to play with their dogs. During the first session in most puppy classes, a good trainer makes each owner play with his or her dog for a couple of minutes so they can observe their interaction. The usual scenario seen is the puppy jumping up on the owner and the owner not knowing how to respond, or else the puppy runs away from an owner because the owner isn’t playing with her. Few owners get down on their knees and play with their puppies.

This stems from social conditioning. As adults, we don’t allow ourselves to be kids. We inhibit the childlike qualities within us. Did you ever see a child play with a dog? Kids have no problem playing with dogs; they are always willing to have some fun. People often ask what kinds of dogs are good with children.

Before buying any breed it really is worth researching the many different types of dogs, for example go to a championship dog show, go see them in action and speak to the owners who are experts in the breeds to get an understanding of the care needed and temperament of the dogs to then have a greater understanding for your chosen breed. Then once you have chosen a breed it is ideal to attend a recognised dog training class with your whole family so all treat the dog in the same way and the dog treats them all in the same way.

Children are ideal playmates for puppies because they have such natural enthusiasm and energy. Pups pick up on that. Observe how kids play – they laugh, they giggle, their actions and faces are full of animation, and their voices full of joy. Such positive energy always draws a puppy’s attention. It is strongly advised not to leave a child (under 16 years) alone with a dog even for a moment.

Using structured games also keep the activities between pups and children organized. It avoids the roughhousing that can happen between kids and puppies.

Free Running

In Butcher’s Healthy Happy Hound Report it is revealed that some 72% of dog owners either have a suitable garden for their dog to play in or they take them to open spaces in order to exercise in a free environment. There is little doubt that dogs prefer the opportunity to run around – off lead – rather than only ever having on lead walks. With this in mind, it’s important to understand how to recall your dog and condition them to be happy to come back.

Many of us have seen the fine work performed by sheepdog handlers and the exceptional level of whistle control they have with their dogs, yet whistle training is largely misunderstood. For a dog to recall either by verbal command or using a whistle, they have to be trained, it is not a natural instinct for a dog to do this.

In this guide K9 Magazine’s Ryan O’Meara examines how to teach your dog to recall on the whistle.

Remember, be sure to have fun as you train your dog. Be firm and fair, consistent and make sure your training sessions keep your dog as engaged as possible.

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Butcher’s Lean & Tasty meaty complete meals with 30% less fat is a more natural dog food, as are all of the Butcher’s products, because they contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

Visit the Butcher’s Pet Care website and use the tool to find the right food for your dog – butcherspetcare.co.uk

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