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.
How does this happen? Too many hands in the cookie jar.
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).
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.
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.
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.