Tag Archives: living with dogs

5 Things to Learn From Dogs

Dogs and people have a lot in common. That’s probably why they’ve chosen to live with us. And every single day, we’re grateful we have dogs in our lives. They’re wonderful listeners, also great at being quiet. They’re clowns when you’re feeling silly, and empathetic cuddlers when you’re low. We feel badly for people who don’t have dogs. Especially since they may not figure out the great things we can learn from dogs.

#5: Eat with Gusto!

We know that there are finicky dogs, but we’ve been lucky that all of our dogs eat heartily – whatever we put in front of them. They’re always eager to dive into their food, even if we think it’s a disgusting, smelly bowl of glop. The added lesson learned from dogs here is that we should be grateful and appreciate whatever we’re given. It’s kind of a hassle when the dogs crowd around when you’re fixing their meals, but the happy faces and wagging tails (for dogs with tails!) make us smile. Most families seem to have a meal-time ritual, and a phrase that cues everyone to run to their designated meal spot. Ours is “Who want to eat?” And our advice is to stay out of their way when they hear it!

#4: Notice Stuff

Dogs notice anything new in their surroundings. Just yesterday, Simon proved the point. We’d put a brick on the lid of the outside “poop bucket” because heavy winds were expected. And the last thing anyone wants is the lid of the poop bucket flying off! But he hadn’t seen it before and was absolutely fascinated. At first, he approached with caution, did some sniffing, and decided it was harmless. But he noticed. 

People aren’t quite as good at being aware of their surroundings. Lots of people walk their dogs down our block. Most of the people have the leash in one hand and are looking at their phones in the other. The dogs are checking the area, sniffing, watching, listening, and sometimes even glancing at their people. We will admit that the people do seem to pay attention when their dog stops to make a deposit. And we’re grateful they’re good about cleaning it up. 

But it’s not all about the nasty stuff. Dogs stop and sniff the flowers, watch the butterflies, and stand at attention to follow squirrels with their eyes. 

#3: Expect Treats Regularly

Dogs have to be considered optimists. They’re always hopeful that good things are coming their way. Even when there’s no reasonable expectation it will happen. Of course they do have incredibly powerful weaponry with those puppy-dog eyes. It’s hard to resist the hopeful expressions and rapt attention. And it usually works. When they look at you with the absolute conviction that you’re wonderful, it’s awfully hard to say no.

#2: Show People You’re Delighted to See Them

Picture of happy dog running to illustrate second thing people can learn from dogs.

Even if all we’ve done is take out the garbage, the dogs are truly delighted to see us again. It doesn’t matter if we’re gone for five minutes or several hours. They’re just happy we’re there. Even if you get annoyed by the dog jumping on you, or getting in your way, it’s still flattering that someone’s so thrilled with your presence. Everyone could use an ego boost now and again. Dogs are great at supplying it, just when you could use it. 

#1: Live In The Moment

It’s probably the most important lesson to learn from dogs. Dogs don’t worry about what may or may not happen. They don’t regret things that have already passed. Dogs live in the here and now being happy as they can be. This quality is particularly noticeable with dogs who have some kind of disability. They don’t agonize over it, they just get on with life. We saw this when our Brussels Griffon Razzmatazz suddenly went blind. We did get him a “hoop” harness so he wouldn’t bang his head on stuff. And when he realized what it was for, he ran around just as if he could see. He delighted in banging that hoop against our shins to let us know he’d appreciate one of those treats now. And he usually got it. 

Learn from dogs

We know dogs don’t have the same life experience people do. We define their world for them. But we can still take a hint or two from the way they live, full-on, enjoying what they have and not worrying about what they don’t.

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What happens to the dogs of war

We remembered a poster from our childhood this week – “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” Very true for the dogs of war, too. 

Reality slapped us in the face with the image we’ve seen over and over on social media. It’s a picture of a man, holding his French Bulldog on his shoulder, sheltering in the Kyiv subway tunnel. It’s been a sad and sobering week for anyone paying attention to the news. 

We’re seeing this particular image because we have many connections to French Bulldog people. 

We’ve also seen posts from breeders in countries surrounding Ukraine offering housing and shelter to fellow breeders needing a place for them and their dogs. One Poodle breeder posted a photo of her property, waiting for any Ukrainian breeder who needs a place for their dogs. In addition to the worst of humanity, we’re also witnessing some of the best.

Members of the family

Thousands of civilians are fleeing Ukraine. Encouragingly, despite the huge traffic jams we’ve seen and backups at the borders, the news we’ve seen so far indicates that the countries accepting refugees are also welcoming their pets.

This conflict will be played out with witnesses around the world in real time. Vietnam may have been the first war televised in color. This one will be the one we all see on social media, as it happens, if we pay any attention at all. 

The pictures and videos we’ve seen run the gamut – shocking, heartbreaking, and encouraging. When every single person has the ability to broadcast to the world, it’s powerful. Especially so when the neighborhoods, the people, the families, look like they could be somewhere familiar. 

Close to home

Festival of Cultures Flag display

The community we live in prides itself on diversity. The local school district’s children speak over 60 different languages at home. We have significant Russian and Ukrainian populations. And we’ve gotten to know lots of them through their dogs – either from seeing them in our shop over the years or teaching obedience classes. There’s no difference in the love people have for their families. Including their dogs.

Best way to bond with your dog

What’s the best way to build a bond with your dog? And why would you need to?

Reasons for strengthening your relationship with your dog may include: adopting a new dog, introducing a new family member – either human or pet, getting to know a puppy, one person’s relationship isn’t as strong as another’s, building your dog’s confidence, establishing a training relationship, overcoming reactivity, etc.

No matter the reason, this method will tighten your bond, improve your dog’s manners, bolster his/her confidence in you, not cost anything extra, and only take a little extra time.

So – how do I build my bond with my dog

It’s actually pretty easy. Ditch the bowl. Hand-feed your dog. 

There’s no actual benefit to feeding a dog from a bowl, other than convenience. In the last few years lots of different feeding tools have become popular; raised bowls, snuffle mats, slow-feeders. But there’s no better tool than your hands. 

At your own pace

Maybe the first time you sit with your dog, food bowl in your lap instead of on the floor, your dog will be confused. But it won’t take long until your dog thinks it’s the best thing ever – they get your undivided attention and food at the same time! What more could your dog possibly want?

You don’t have to feed every meal by hand. You don’t even have to do it every day. But for family members who want to build a bond with your dog, it’s a golden opportunity. If there’s someone in the house the dog doesn’t listen to, that’s the person who should try it. 

Even better bonding

Don’t just sit there and hand over food – ask the dog to do something! The basis of all training games (the best way to train!) is to get the dog’s attention. Chances are your dog is never more focused than when food is involved!

If you do have the opposite issue, a finicky dog, the problem will turn around when the food comes from your hand instead! If your dog isn’t crazy about their regular food, slip in some yummy treats every once in a while. If your dog doesn’t know that the next bite holds, there’s more fun in the game.

Bowl fixation

There are people who despair when their dogs won’t eat out of a bowl. They complain that their dog is “spoiled” or “stubborn” because they like to eat from their person’s hand.

Thinking about it, it’s really more of an opportunity to spend time together, rather than an inconvenience. No dog will purposely starve themselves. If they won’t eat, it’s either because they’re not hungry, or not motivated. 

If you commit to changing your relationship with your dog through hand-feeding, your dog will look forward to meal times with an eagerness you’ve never seen before. 

Use the food

If you feed wet food, it can get a little messy to feed your dog by hand. Fortunately, hands wash clean easily. If you prefer, you can even teach your dog to take the wet food from a spoon. Another training game! 

Black Brussels Griffon Dog Tango and Hope had to build their bond

Feeding a dog by hand can make all the difference in the world. When Fran brought Tango home, he was a terror – trying to bite anyone who wasn’t Fran, dogs and humans alike. Hope started hand-feeding Tango and within weeks, he was her best friend, too.

As a matter of fact, Tango now loves just about everyone, because Fran asked just about everyone they encountered to give him treats. 

Change your dog’s meals into a chance to build your bond. You’ll have a better-behaved, more likeable, confident dog. And a rock-solid bond with your dog. 

Dogs are like toddlers

Dogs are like toddlers. Really fast, better-coordinated toddlers. With all the good judgement and experience of two-year olds. It’s one of the reasons they’re so much fun. And the reason not to let them steer your life.

Ruling the roost

We’re huge advocates of letting dogs make decisions. It’s the basis for our dog-training-game system, 2-Minute-Trainer.com. But we also realize that you don’t ask a two-year-old “What do you want to wear today?” Instead, you pick two outfits and offer a choice: “Which one?”

Dogs are the same. If you don’t impose limits, dogs will choose the naughty option almost every time. It’s not that they’re deliberately causing trouble. Like toddlers, they just don’t have the context or experience to avoid it.

Small and in charge

Especially first-time dog owners worry that their new family member won’t like them for imposing rules. The opposite is true. Dogs love rules. And, if no one else steps up to be “in charge,” the dog will take over. And then nobody will be happy. 

dogs, even yorkshire terriers, are like toddlers

Dogs are remarkably true to their origins and breeding. Most small dog breeds were developed as “ratters.” Their job was to rid their space of vermin. The little guys worked independently of people, knew what their job was, and did it. Anyone who thinks the Yorkshire Terrier is a frou-frou little dog is mistaken. The breed was designed to rid the Yorkshire textile mills of rats. They’re smart, independent, ferocious little problem-solvers.

And that’s why little dogs can maneuver into any space, figure out how to open anything (drawers, cabinets, purses, etc.), and generally create havoc and mayhem. All while being incredibly cute.

Filling the void

With that background, it’s also true that dogs are adaptable and will happily give over control. They like rules, but don’t have to be the ones writing them. Too often new dog owners find themselves letting the dog’s needs/wants take over their schedule. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Setting the household rules can be fun – from teaching the dog to come when called to greeting visitors politely. Just like us, dogs learn quickly when they’re having fun learning. And they often take their cues from their people’s energy. If you think something is fun, your dog will think so, too!

Ignore the fussing

Dogs are like toddlers in lots of ways. When they don’t get their way, they may fuss and whine. If you give in, that’s the behavior that will continue. If you ignore it, chances are they’ll go on to something that’s more fun than fussing. And just about anything’s really more fun than fussing.

We know instances where dogs ruled people’s lives. Neither the people nor the dogs were happy, because that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. If you treat your dog like a toddler, setting limits and offering good choices, you’ll both be happier. The major difference between living with a child and a dog is that you’re allowed to spoil the dog. The dog doesn’t have to grow up to be a responsible taxpayer!