What are your dog’s mental needs and how can you respond to them?
Like people, our dogs have different needs that we have to fulfill if we want to keep our pets happy and well-behaved. As you may already know, dogs aren’t terribly difficult to care for.
In fact, dogs can be one of the most practical pets to keep because a healthy canine will rarely get sick and is capable of adapting to different diets. That’s why people from all parts of the world take care of dogs: they don’t ask for much and they’re happy to be a part of a human pack.
A big part of a dog owner’s responsibility is ensuring that the animal’s various needs are taken care of. I’ve met many dog owners who initially thought that all a dog needs is food and water and the dog will somehow take care of his other needs.
I always try to advise new pet owners that their pets need more than just food and a place to live: animals need stimulation, social structure and a genuine connection to their owners.
What are the essential mental needs of a dog?
Fulfilling your dog’s mental needs will help facilitate obedience training and improve the overall effectiveness of your teaching methods.
A mentally fulfilled canine will be active, inquisitive and open to learning. Inversely, a dog whose mental needs have never been truly fulfilled will not be responsive to any kind of obedience training in the first few sessions.
The minimum training frequency for adult dogs is at least three times per week. If you can push this number to five or seven, expect even better results. Dogs are more likely to succeed if their “parents” are apt teachers and are willing to go the extra mile for them.
Here are some tips to help you fulfill your dog’s mental needs:
- Dogs Love to Learn
Dog have a natural love of structure and learning because they are genetically inclined to follow the examples of the pack leader.
Teaching your dog continuously is an investment in your pet’s happiness in the future. A well-behaved dog that knows many essential commands such as “come” and “sit and stay” can be brought to different places and can be exposed to other people without posing a risk to anyone.
If your dog eventually reaches a point where it can be brought everywhere without a fuss, that is the time that you know that you’ve successfully trained your dog. A well-trained dog will resort to training at all times and will even suppress instinctual urges because of its desire to follow the pack leader.
- New Skills Means Better Brain Health
Like humans, dogs crave knowledge and new skills. Teaching a dog a new command or skill every few weeks will help keep your canine’s brain health in top condition.
Whenever a dog’s brain is challenged, its brain shifts to high gear and performs the same mental processes that your dog may have used if it was living in the wild.
Wild animals get tougher and smarter as they age because they are always encountering new situations and learning new survival skills. If you can give your dog this type of mental benefit then it will remain alert and intelligent even in its “golden years.”
III. Intelligent Dogs Need More Training
If you happen to have an intelligent and active dog at home that is always keen to learn new things, you definitely have to make an effort to teach it new skills every month. If you have plenty of free time on your hands, you can try to teach your dog a new skill or command every two weeks.
Intelligent dogs need sufficient time to learn new skills, so don’t rush your dog even if it seems to be more receptive than other regular dogs.
How does training duration affect a dog’s retention of new skills?
New behavior patterns need at least two weeks of continuous training to make an imprint on the dog’s memory, so don’t move on to the next skill or command unless you have spent at least two weeks focusing on the most current one.
Animals can also experience social isolation and boredom. Boredom can force a dog to resort to negative or destructive habits just to stimulate itself. “Cabin fever” can also occur if your dog sees the same four walls of your home, day in and day out.
Dogs need plenty of exercise with their owners out in the sunshine and open air. If you can’t make time for a daily walk, an experienced and patient dog walker may sound like a good recourse. Of course, before you hand your pet to a dog walker, you have to be sure that you have already imprinted on the dog that you are the pack leader and not the dog walker.