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5 Tips for Dog Loving Families

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Keeping up with the family, the dogs, and everything else in life can certainly pose a formidable challenge at the best of times. These challenges can manifest into mountain-like obstacles if your family isn't working together as a team.
Here are 5 essential tips for dog loving families - follow these simple rules and watch the mountain shrink into a mole in no time.
 
1. Always Ask Permission
Many dogs are not raised in family-friendly environments, so it's natural that excited children running up to an unfamiliar dog may be seen as a threat. Over stimulated children and unfamiliar dogs can often result in a bite.
Even this rule is a no-brainer for many families, children must understand the risks that come with unfamiliar dogs.
Encourage your kids to use calm mannerisms and ask the owner for permission before making any advances towards other dogs - regardless of the dog's size, breed, or appearance.
 
2. It Takes a Village
Dogs are products of their environment, so in family households it is important that everyone follows the same sets of rules when it comes to their pets. Dogs may easily develop behavioural problems when inconsistency becomes consistent in their day to day life.
Rules that are enforced (always use positive reinforcement) by some members of the family but not by others - you can imagine how confusing this must be for a dog living every day in this environment.
Remember, if your dog has developed behavioural problems, don't get angry at him - he isn't behaving badly on purpose.
Repeat the mantra: consistency, consistency, consistency. It will pay off huge, and you will have a well balanced dog as a result. This is the single most important word every pet owner needs to learn.
 
3. Portion Control
More than 41% of dogs in North America are overweight - 5% of them are considered morbidly obese.
 
How does this happen? Too many hands in the cookie jar.

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Families need to communicate their pets' feeding schedules to prevent over feeding. Since many dogs will consume their meals in short order, it's easy for others to assume the dog hasn't been fed - so another scoop of food goes into Fido's bowl.
The same rule should apply to treats and table scraps, otherwise there is no way to measure your dog's daily caloric intake.
Overweight dogs have considerably shorter life spans, and are at increased risk to many health problems (diabetes has become a major problem - you don't want to give your dog insulin injections every day, believe me).

4. Maintain Pack Order
Since dogs are pack animals, they are always competing for rank in the family - some dogs compete harder than others. Dogs need to understand (though positive reinforcement) that the human members of the pack rank higher than they do - otherwise Fido will challenge family members and take advantage of certain situations.
This mentality should begin from puppyhood, but don't fret if you have an older dog - the same rules apply.
Dogs will usually take advantage of the weaker/smaller members of the family first (children especially), since they are generally seen as lesser competition.
How do you establish pack order? Take the advice from Tip #2. Always positively reinforce your commands with consistency.
Let's say you're watching your favourite TV program and you tell Fido to lie down so he's not standing in front of the TV - but he does not comply. If you don't get up and positively reinforce the command with Fido, you're losing his respect and your commands lose their power.

5. Have Fun!
This is what having a dog is all about! Pack play time is a constructive and healthy activity for all members of the family.

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Dogs, like humans are social animals, so positive and respectful play time is not only good for putting a smile on everyone's faces, it strengthens the human-animal-family bond.
Follow these 5 simple rules and I guarantee you will have a healthier, happier pack; humans and pets alike.
Brandon Forder is a Pet Health Professional and Pack Leader at Canadian Pet Connection.

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