We all want our adorable dogs to be happy. But what do they like and dislike? Each dog is different, and there will be exceptions to general dog preferences. But wouldn’t it be something to repay even part of the love and happiness that they give us? Here we take a closer look at what a dog wants.
Pats and Rubs
Dogs love being patted, but they generally don’t like that kind of attention on the top of the head. Each dog is unique; experiment with different areas to find their own favourite spot – but avoid patting them on the head. Try patting the shoulders and flanks, and stroke their withers and along their back. A popular spot for a good old scratch is just above the tail, as well as behind the ears or under the chin. And although the common thought is that dogs love a good belly rub, go for the chest instead, where the rib cage gives their body support.
Also bear in mind that dogs don’t like hugs. Rather than feeling a warm, loving embrace, they feel restricted and trapped, and they may bound away from you at the first opportunity. Be content with patting, stroking and scratching to give a dog what they want.
Routine and Rules
Believe it or not, dogs want routine and clear rules. They learn and remember their own home’s routine, and they dislike unclear rules. Feeding at the same time every day, a regular bedtime and consistent pee-breaks. On weekends, avoid variation if you can help it.
Have a good think about their boundaries, and commit to them. To help them get to know their limits, put up temporary or permanent barriers, such as baby gates in doorways and fences around their outdoor space. And stick to these boundaries. Scolding a pooch for going somewhere they once had access to, or suddenly giving free access to a previously forbidden area will confuse and unsettle your dog. And it could result in changed behaviour.
Be the Leader
Along similar lines, be the leader. Always. Dogs want a leader, and if there isn’t one, they’ll take up the position. And if your dog is the leader, and you decide to pull him into line, you may meet with resistance. Dogs instinctually need to feel part of a fully functional pack. Think: I am the leader, I protect and care for my dog, and my dog knows their place. Enforce this always as a matter of course, and both you and your dog will reap the benefits. Rather than an act of iniquity, it is a gift; they will feel secure, relaxed and happy. If you have a partner, a family, or other dogs, extend this pack idea to them, too. Go out for walks altogether, and your dog will love this outing as a pack. It’s what a dog wants.
Don’t Take Their Smell Away
Smell is a big deal to dogs. Their sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than ours, and it’s a big part of their identity. And they want their own bed smothered in their smell. For this reason, don’t try to change your pup’s smell with sprays, powders or colognes. If they’re dirty, give them a wash. Otherwise, let them keep their smell. It’s important to them.
Let Them Read Peemail and Sniff Butts
Unless you own a couch-potato pup, your dog already loves you for taking them on walks. But they also want time to read peemail. This term, coined by Dr. Marty Becker, refers to the messages dogs read from smelling the markings of other dogs. Give them time; it’s an instinct they should exercise. Dogs derive information from sniffing, such as when the peemailer was there, their sex, and whether they are desexed or looking for a reproductive partner. And dogs will want to wee over peemail, to show how great they are. A bit like a selfie on social media, really.
Give them time for butt-sniffing too. Restricted to the bottoms of other canines, this is a doggy manner of greeting. Rather than the face recognition we rely upon, your dog will pick up another dog’s unique scent, and they will know if they’ve met before. Yeah, it’s a bit gross. We probably wouldn’t do it. But let them have a good old sniff. It’s what a dog wants.
Don’t Push Socialising
On the subject of other dogs, they’re not all social. If your pup is a bit on the shy side, slow to socialise, or just disinterested, don’t force it upon them. You may have an active social life, and love taking your beloved pup to dog parks and cafés. If you do, monitor how they behave in the company of new dogs. If they don’t like it, don’t force it. Preserve the trust and safety they have in you.
Avoid Walks in the Summer Sun
Like most dogs, yours no doubt springs to life with excitement at the rustle of their lead. But take care on hot days. Opt for an early morning or evening walk in summer, and look for a shady path. Dogs temperatures rise much quicker than ours, and they take longer to cool down. Black tar roads and footpaths get really hot in the sun, and can burn their paw pads.
Dogs do suffer heat stroke, so be mindful of outdoor temperatures, and make sure they stay well hydrated.
Yes, you know it; dogs love your attention. On the flip side, they don’t like being ignored. We’re not talking about ignoring as a training tool – to not reward naughty behaviour. We’re talking about your pup staring longingly at you while you’re busy on your phone, or reading a book. Some dogs even learn to give you the puppy-dog-eyes look. They want your attention. Sure, we all have things to do; we can’t pat or play with our dogs all day long. But acknowledgement can go a long way, or find a spot where you can sit together.
If you have got the time and aren’t sure what to do with your pooch, train them. An old dog can learn new tricks, and young ones love the stimulation. It’s a wonderful bonding activity, and it can reinforce behaviours you expect from them, as their leader.
Give your precious pup what a dog wants. There’s nothing like a happy canine, it’s a definite win-win.