Be Consistent in How You Behave and Communicate. Being a responsible human partner to your dog is accomplished by learning to understand how your dog thinks so that you’re not doing things that can confuse and frustrate your dog. Being consistent is key, just as unclear messages often result in the dog having undesirable behaviors that you may have caused. Don’t make something okay some of the time and then not okay at other times. For example, you can’t give him bites off your plate sometimes and then expect him not to beg other times. You must be clear and consistent with your messages.

Give Your Dog Immediate Praise. Dogs are very willing creatures who want to please their owners, so when they do good things that you would like them to repeat in the future, we need to immediately capture that behavior with treats, love, hugs, etc. This praise must be immediate because a dog only thinks within the moment. If he does something good and you leave the room to get a dog cookie, it has now become a reward for doing nothing because he’s completely moved on in his mind. Whatever it was that you were rewarding him for is no longer connected to that behavior.

Give Your Dogs Treats and Toys to Enjoy. You can certainly give your dog treats to enjoy but be aware of the type of treats you are giving your dog. Don’t give him/her things that could ultimately harm them. For example, if your dog is a big chewer, don’t give him soft plush toys that he’s going to destroy and possibly swallow which could lead to potentially serious medical complications. When you’re choosing treats, read the labels very carefully. Choose treats from brands that you trust. Remember that colorful packaging with cute pictures is made to market to the human, not the dog. Some products come from China that are known to kill dogs. You want to be a responsible human counterpart by researching these products to find out where the ingredients were sourced from, where they are manufactured, etc. The best thing to do is to make your own treats – that way you know exactly where they are coming from and what’s in them.

Don’t Kill Your Dog with Kindness. Loving your dog and being kind to your dog also includes keeping him healthy. One of the biggest problematic issues in the U.S. with pet owners is letting their dog become overweight. Being overweight can make put them at risk for conditions such as cancer, heart issues, putting extra stress on their joints which can lead to early arthritis, etc. Dogs should always have a visible waistline. When you touch their ribs, you should be able to feel them, not a layer of fat. If you can’t feel their ribs, then it is a sign your dog may be overweight. You can check their weight by looking down over their back and looking for an indentation between the ribs and hips. If this area goes straight back without indentation or balloons out, your dog is likely overweight. Don’t love your dog to death; love your dog correctly. This means feeding them the correct portions appropriate for their activity level or lack thereof, not overfeeding them treats, and ensuring they get enough exercise.

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we hope you and your dog have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! To learn more about our mission to help veterans and others with disabilities, visit our website today!

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