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Happy Puppy: Is My Puppy Happy?

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We should think about our pets’ happiness every day, not just on special occasions, and it doesn’t take much to treat them with love. It’s important to remember that pets are individuals with unique personalities. They’re like furry snowflakes, with no two alike. Thank heavens they don’t melt, although the shed fur makes its own statement. I share my home and heart with Seren(dipity), a Siamese wannabe, and with Magic, a black German shepherd. So for me, white cat fur is a condiment, and black dog fur a fashion statement.

Above all, your love makes puppy happy. And that can involve any one or all of the topics listed below, plus so many other ingredients specific to your special animal companions. It may simply be lap cuddling each evening, or sharing a pillow on the bed at night. A walk or run in the park for dogs, or a car ride to Grandma’s house. What a gift! Now, go pet your pets! May all your furry loves fill your heart and world with joy.

Grooming Makes Puppies Happy

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Grooming can make your pets happy. Not only does the comb/brush feel good like an all-over massage, it keeps fur matt-free, skin clean, reduces furballs, and serves as a bonding session between you and the fur-kids. I personally like the Furminator de-shedding tool (nope, I don’t own stock but sure wish that I did!).

Shorthair pups enjoy an all-over petting with grooming “gloves” to pull off the loose fur; for a no-cost version, use a pantyhose footy slipped over your hand. Spend extra time on the “sweet spots” like the chest and tummy that gets his hind leg kicking. Find out the specific thing that floats your pup’s boat and makes her wag with delight. For instance, Magic adores chasing water from the hose—fun for him, and a clean dog for me!

Treats Make Puppies Happy

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Treats can make your pets happy. At my house, Magic know that word—I now must spell it, and eventually may need alternative spellings. Pets pay exquisite attention to the details of their lives, especially those that impact them personally. The chow-hounds race to greet you at the rattle of kibble hitting the bowl or the whirr of the can opener. Treats are a wonderful way to “love” your pets because critters don’t have a choice, they ALL must eat. And while tastes vary, generally you can find something that the canine loves.

The IDEAL TREAT is tiny (a taste only, not a meal); smelly (double the pleasure with two sensory levels); unique (different than the usual fare); and rare (makes it special). Magic eats broccoli. And oranges. And Kleenex. And socks. I keep hoping this habit will pass (literally) but until then, waste baskets and dirty laundry reside on counter tops. It’s a decorating choice.

Commercial treats that don’t unbalance the diet work well—but cut those bite size morsels into two, three, even four portions. We have a population of pudgy pets. Your pup relishes the attention you give as much as the treat, so a tiny amount works as well as a whole hotdog. Yes, a taste from your own plate works fine, as long as you also eat healthy. Chocolate, onions, and nuts can poison pets.

Play Makes Puppies Happy

Play can make your pets happy. Every pet has favorite games. Magic is a ball-aholic. He plays fetch until his tongue drags the ground. Interactive games increase the bond you share, build confidence in shy pets, and take the fizz out of some overactive pet pests. Some dogs like puzzle toys that you hide treats inside because it lets them use their brain, their teeth (chewing feels good to dogs), and their nose.

Hunting dogs may actually prefer smelling stuff to eating treats. So fill up a sock with stinky dried fish, and hide it somewhere for your scent hound to sniff out. Terriers love kicking up the dirt, so build a sand box for some legal digging excavation in the back yard.

Training Makes Puppies Happy

Image © Amy Shojai, CABC

Training can make your pets happy. Dogs rarely work for a living these days. Many of them are BORED out of their skull! Think about it—we humans get to go out in the world, travel to jobs, visit over lunches out with friends, attend theater, whatever, while little Max-dog stares out the same window 24/7/365. Wait, they do get to visit the veterinarian once or twice a year (a good experience for them, right?). So we end up with stir-crazy pups who chew through sofas, bark themselves hoarse, chase the cat and find other creative ways to keep themselves entertained. What a waste of canine brains! Think of training as recreation, fun, a challenge, an opportunity to celebrate your pets’ natural skills and reward them (and you!) by unlocking their full potential. I don’t mean dog show contests or circus acts, but just an additional way to communicate that enriches your relationship.

The key to training is catching your pet in the act of doing something you like, tell the pet you like it, and reward the behavior. If you can do this, the pups will turn themselves inside out to find ways to make you happy—and that makes THEM happy. Clicker training is one of the fastest, easiest ways to communicate this lesson and you can learn how to clicker train here.

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