It’s Pet Appreciation Week!! Did you know that? It’s an entire week to appreciate those furry, feathered and finned friends that make our lives so much more fun!!
And this made me think about how we really do say “I appreciate you” to our dogs! Typically, I think when we show appreciation to our dogs, we do so by buying them a new toy, or giving them an extra snack, or some additional loving. Those are definitely ways to show appreciation, but keep in mind that our dogs have no idea what we mean. They simply think, “Oh boy! A new toy!” Or “Oh boy! I really love hamburgers!” They don’t know that we appreciate them through those things. They simply enjoy the special perk, but I don’t think that they make an “appreciation” connection!
So how CAN we let our dogs know that we appreciate them?! We love our dogs, and we want them to know we love them and that we care!
In my heart of hearts, I think we do that by giving them a job….so that we are letting them work for those things, and then they’re getting a reward for having done a job! There’s an immediate connection of reward for work, and that accomplishes several things:
- Dogs were bred to work! They love it and thrive on having something to do!
- It increases the likelihood that our dogs will want to work again, if they get a great, well timed reward.
- It prevents “spoiled” and “entitled” behavior which none of us want in our dogs. Who wants to live with a brat?
- It’s building relationships between you and your dog by bonding you together as you learn new tricks, commands, puzzles, etc.
At the end of the day, it’s always about relationships for me! I train dogs to help dog owners learn how to have better relationships with their canine buddies. When we buy our dogs a toy, or give them a snack, that does nothing to build a relationship. It’s simply a gift, and that’s not bad, but in my mind, as dog owners, we can do better. We can spend time with our dogs…giving ourselves to our dogs with that undivided attention that makes them feel just great! I always provide lots of coaching and encouragement to Rugby, so he stays focused and knows I’m proud of him!
Think about small jobs that your dogs can do for you at home. Rugby closes cabinet doors or regular doors for me, he brings in his piggies from play outside, he carries his supper dish for me, gets his leash for me, etc. Those aren’t big jobs at all, and yes, I could easily do those things for myself. But by asking Rugby to do them for me, I have daily opportunities to bond with Rugby, to give him a well earned ear scratch, a reason for a little special nibble, etc. I wouldn’t trade those things for the world! That’s what forges a relationship…time spent together….interacting with each other….deepening trust and love with each other. And really, isn’t that the very foundation of appreciation?