Today is the beginning of Pet Appreciation Week, a time to remember all the wonderful things that our pets bring to our lives. Not only are they are loyal companions, but they can be good for our health.
This is also the start of Pet Preparedness Month, which reminds us to have a disaster plan in place not just for our family, but for our pets — and you can show your appreciation for them by doing this right away if you haven’t already.
The best way to show your appreciation is to make sure that your dog is fulfilled, which means giving exercise and discipline first, and then affection. This is my fulfillment formula, and it will help your dog achieve and maintain a calm, submissive state.
Since dogs are first of all instinctual, exercise is very important for draining excess energy from their bodies, because that’s where instinct lives. As humans, we’re not always aware of this, but if you’ve ever knocked a glass off of a counter and caught it without even thinking about it, then you’ve experienced instinct directing the body without conscious control.
It’s something that people who work with their bodies develop — athletes, dancers and musicians, for example — and on a certain level when they are practicing their craft, they aren’t consciously aware of what they’re doing. As the renowned jazz saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker put it, “First you learn the instrument, then you learn the music, then you forget all that… and just play.”
When you throw a Frisbee® for a dog to catch, the dog isn’t doing complicated physics in his head to figure out the right speed and angle to launch himself to catch it. That’s pure instinct at work. Likewise, when you’re walking your dog, he is instinctively picking up your energy which is why, if you’re not in control, he’ll start walking you.
This doesn’t mean that there’s absolutely nothing going on in your dog’s head. Dogs are constantly trying to figure the world out, with their big, wordless question being, “What am I supposed to be doing right now?” This is where the second part of the formula comes in: discipline. The main way to provide discipline for your dog is to create rules, boundaries, and limitations — establishing what your dog can do, where they can do it, and for how long.
Playtime combines exercise and discipline, but shouldn’t replace the walk as your dog’s only form of physical activity. And exercise should always come first because it drains excess energy from your dog’s body, allowing her mind to focus.
It’s only after you’ve brought your dog to a calm, submissive state that it’s time to give affection, which is the reward for your dog doing the right thing and achieving the desired energy. Affection is for the emotional part of your dog — his heart or spirit — and for yours, too.
Of course we should appreciate our dogs every moment that they’re with us, but having a special week for it can remind us to refocus to make sure that we’re doing everything right. Take the opportunity to think of all the things that your dog adds to your life — companionship, protection, amusement, love — then thank her by making sure you’re fulfilling her needs.
Stay calm, and let your dog be a dog!