Pet your dog!

It may sound absurdly obvious – but do you pet your dog? Do you know their favorite spots to get scratched? Where they hate being touched?

We’re unabashed people-watchers, especially in places where dogs are allowed. Honestly, we watch dogs more than people, but we do focus on the interactions between them.

Many people don’t seem to pet their dogs, at least not in public. Like in the waiting room at the vet’s office, some days we’re the only ones petting our dog. Even if the other dogs seem nervous or anxious, their people are looking at their phones and not their dogs. We wish more people would engage their dogs in little training games to reduce their anxiety.

Comfort for both

Sometimes that makes us a bit angry. Especially if their dog’s tension is rubbing off on the other dogs in the room. And even more if it’s a little dog. Is it asking too much to hold your dog in your lap and pet them? You can even keep scrolling – just hold your dog while you do it!

Most dogs love pets. Not everywhere, but somewhere. Favorite pet zones for most dogs include: dogs behind their ears, their jaws, and at the base of their tails. Questionable areas include the top of the head, the paws, and for some, the tummy. Belly rubs aren’t a universal pleasure for dogs.

Respect your dog

Picture of a smooth, black Brussels Griffon dog to illustrate pet your dog
Whimsy liked being petted anywhere but the top of his head.

Years ago a non-dog-owning friend insisted on petting our Brussels Griffon Whimsy on the top of his head. He hated it. She kept doing it, saying that a dog shouldn’t get to decide what she could do. Consequently, Whimsy avoided her. We didn’t blame him. 

As evidence that karma is powerful, that friend later became a dog person. And her first dog loved the top of his head being stroked. Her second dog hated it. And she learned what all dog owners know – it’s more satisfying to pet your dog where both of you enjoy it.

Behind closed doors

We hope that the non-public-petting people are actually private dog petters. It’s good for both of you. Studies have shown that dogs rely on touch to connect with others. That’s why your dog leans on you, or reaches for you. Your dog really loves your touch.

Petting your dog is good for you, too. Just a few minutes of stroking a dog reduces the stress hormones in your system. And it helps you connect with the wonderful little being who loves you unconditionally. 

.

How much should dogs sleep?

Is your dog a sleepy head? Are you worried about it? The truth is that dogs sleep more than people do. 

The average dog needs between 10 and 15 hours of sleep every day. Puppies need even more.

Not lazy at all

One of the concerns we hear from our dog training students is their dogs are “bored,” and sleep out of boredom. The truth is a bit different. After a training game, or any kind of exertion, dogs need a nap. That’s the way most predatory animals are built. They have periods of intense activity, then dogs nap. 

When you think about it, it makes sense. Intense activity uses lots of calories. For predators, this would be hunting. Then eating. Then napping. As if every day were Thanksgiving!

For dogs, that could be playing fetch, going for a walk, or even playing dog-training games. Asking our dogs to think is just as tiring as physical activity. Remember when you were in school and were really tired after tests? Same thing, but training games are lots more fun.

Let it sink in

Boston Terrier Dog sleeping
Booker (Boston Terrier) napping

Dogs sleep for both physical and mental rest. They need the down time to process things they’ve learned. That’s one of the reasons puppies need so much sleep – up to 20 hours a day. Growing takes a lot out of a pup. So does thinking.

Research has shown that dogs learn more, retain that learning better, and are more confident when short training sessions are followed by longer breaks. 

Let sleeping dogs lie

There’s no reason to be concerned if your dog sleeps most of the day away. They don’t need constant entertainment or stimulation. 

That’s why we’re not huge fans of the doggy day care concept. Dogs don’t need to play all day. The constant activity and excitement floods their systems. That makes it even harder for them to relax. 

If you do need to use a day care, try to set limits on the amount of time your dog is expected to be active, especially with other dogs. Some “down time” during the day will help him learn to settle when at home with you.

Old dogs sleep a lot

Older dogs, like puppies, may need more sleep. And they sometimes give us a fright when we try to wake them. Either they don’t hear as well, or they sleep deeper, but it can take some doing to wake an old dog from his nap. 

When your old dog does awaken, give him a moment to get oriented and figure out what’s going on. Whatever dreams they were having, it may take a bit to get focused. That’s where we are with 13-year-old Tango now.

That contrasts with young, healthy adult dogs who can startle from sleep into instant attention and barking. We’ve got that, too. Simon (3) and Booker (9) our Boston Terriers can go from snoring to watchdog-at-attention in nothing flat. It can be startling if you were napping, too!

.

Celebrating Dog Moms (and Dads)

Thank you, Dog Moms and Dads! You never hear it from your dog, but we’re letting you know – we think you’re terrific!

We know dogs aren’t easy or convenient. You choose to structure your days so your dog’s needs are met. You opt for all the messy chores; feeding, bathing, grooming, pick-ups. 

People without dogs don’t really understand it. They’re the ones who might say “it’s just a dog.” But please know that there are legions of us who get it. What we get from our dogs is so much more than what they ask of us.

Spoil them rotten

Back in the day, when our family had a bookstore, the bookstore had a resident cat. His name was Merlyn. Merlyn had quite a few fans, and would spend his days on the checkout counter, in a special bed. Or on the lounge chair next to the counter that was his alone.

One day, as one of his fans was admiring him, a shop customer (obviously not a pet person), said “He’s not too spoiled, is he?”

To which the woman petting him replied; “Why not? It’s not like he has to grow up and be a responsible taxpayer!”

And, since that day, it’s been our response whenever we’re accused of spoiling our pets. Merlyn was the only cat we’ll ever have – we’re dog people at heart. But we loved him dearly, spoiled him rotten, and remember him fondly. 

Lavish them with love

Dog Moms and Dads make sure their pets have everything they need; nutritious food, secure harnesses, proper health care. And they go a step further, giving their dogs enrichment with toys, attention, training games, and affection.

All of that can add up to a significant investment of time and money. Again, non-dog people may not understand the return on that investment. But we do.

Unconditional love

There’s a popular quote: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.” It’s by Josh Billings, a 19th Century humorist. And it’s absolutely true.

Dog Mom Hope getting licked by French Bulldog Torque

Dog people know unconditional love. There are people you love, who love you, too. But every person knows nobody’s perfect. Your dog doesn’t know that. They think you are the epitome of perfection. And their absolute faith in us helps when we’re not convinced that’s true.

Dogs sense our moods and our needs. When we’re feeling low, they either cuddle close, or act goofy and pester us until we play with them. And either one helps, although playing with your dog is bound to lighten the gloomy days.

Celebrating Dog Moms (and Dads)

Whether you call yourself a “dog mom” or “dog dad,” it is your role. You embrace the responsibilities of having a dog. And enjoy all the stuff that goes with it. 

Some of that, like the line-up of chewed-up toilet paper rolls gifted by a new puppy, is much funnier years later. Lots of it makes you look over at your sleeping dog and say “Awww, he’s so cute.” But most of all, it all feels like family, and love, and home. 

.

Changing your dog’s mind

Changing your dog’s mind about something can be challenging. Lots of people are convinced that their dogs are “stubborn,” or uncooperative, or obstinate.

“My dog hates the sound of Velcro.”

“She won’t tolerate anything going over her head.”

“He wiggles too much to step into a harness.”

We get it. Dogs have definite likes and dislikes. But you can change their mind. All it takes is a little patience and a lot of treats. 

Why not let your dog choose?

Just last week we talked about how much fun it was to let our dogs be “in charge” of an outing. And it is, on occasion, a great idea. But just as you wouldn’t let a human toddler choose all aspects of life, the dog doesn’t get to decide, either. 

If you want, or need, your dog to wear a certain type of harness, you may need to train them to accept it. If you’d really like your dog to wear the no-escape Wrap-N-Go, but your dog is afraid of hook-and-loop tape, what do you do?

Get accustomed

Dogs love routine. They love schedules. They don’t tend to like what’s new and different. So the first step in changing your dog’s mind about anything is to make it a normal part of life. 

Say your dog is an eager eater and loves nothing better than meals. While your dog is eating, play with some hook-and-loop tape. The sound will be associated with something your dog loves, rather than something scary. If your dog is so scared of the sound that he/she stops eating, move farther away. As your dog gets used to the sound and is able to ignore it, move gradually closer. In time your dog will realize there’s no threat.

Changing your dog's mind about hook-and-loop tape

If your dog isn’t crazy about meals, you do have other options for training your dog to get used to the sound. Think of something that your dog values highly – whether it’s a toy, or a chewie, or a particular treat. If you open the hook-and-loop tape while your dog is playing with a favorite toy, you’ll change your dog’s opinion. Just as if every time you rip the hook-and-loop tape open a little, you give your dog a special treat. Premium treats (Chicken Heart Treats, pieces of cheese or hot dog) will make it a sound your dog loves, rather than a source of fear.

Over the head

The same thing goes if your dog is afraid of something going over his/her head. Taking it slowly, rewarding heavily, and changing the experience into a good time makes all the difference. Just show the dog the harness and reward for looking at it, sniffing it, any interaction. Then put the harness over your arm and use that hand to give a treat. When the dog is okay with that, bring the harness closer, eventually over your hand. When your dog is okay with touching the harness to get the treat, you can gradually move it closer so it’s touching your dog. In time, it will become normal and routine.

No surprises

Dogs are adaptable and their love for you will get them to try anything you want. As long as you introduce new or scary things gradually, and never try to fool them, your dog will keep trying. 

.