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My message today is that just loving your dog is not enough. The reason I wanted to share this is that I see more people are getting new dogs for the first time. This is something that all of us have to learn, sometimes the hard way.

This doesn’t always come naturally to us. I meet people all the time who love their dogs yet their dogs are suffering. They are:

  • Overweight
  • Anxious
  • Panting all the time
  • Can’t settle
  • Can’t listen
  • Doing this manic behaviour like manic jumping
  • Out of their minds
  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Barking
  • Running away

All of those behaviours are not for lack of love. Most of us don’t have a problem purchasing anything and everything for our dogs online.

For most dogs in my area and even my own dogs, they have:

  • Orthopaedic memory foam dog beds
  • A million different types of enrichment
  • Puzzle toys
  • Many squeaky toys
  • 3 different kinds of food
  • 10 different kinds of treats
  • Blinged-out collars
  • Harnesses
  • Booster seats for the car so they can see out the window
  • Specially filtered water fountain bowls

Basically everything under the sun…

If it exists, we’ll buy it for them because we love them so much. But the question is, is that helping our dogs?

You could do all of that and your dog still won’t be well-behaved or happy. I see it all the time. It can be so confusing from a human perspective…


It can be easy to think, when I buy him everything, is he somewhat happy? I sent him to puppy daycare, he has everything under the sun and a wardrobe that’s bigger than mine. How is he not happy?

Or worse, they don’t even realize their dog is not happy, so they think he’s so cute and this is just him and how he does him.

You know that those are the hardest. How do you tell somebody that their barking, overweight, panting, whining dog is not happy? But I see this happen commonly with the working breeds.

I have a German Shepherd and I see people get German Shepherds. I see people get Australian Shepherds, Border Collies and Poodles.

Poodles are a working breed – very athletic and very high energy. Also, Golden Retrievers, I see this happen to them all the time…

I think if we have any regular exposure to dogs, we’ve probably all known the overweight, old lab.

That’s such a common stereotype of a dog because people get these really active labs and they overfeed them till they get overweight. It probably helps the owners because it regulates their energy levels a little bit. But it’s really sad to see.

There’s a bunch of other ones; collies, hounds, huskies etc. I know a bunch of smaller breeds like Boston Terriers, a lot of the little terrier type dogs, they have quite a bit of stamina.

If you have a working breed, it doesn’t matter if you’re paying for human-grade, fresh, organic dog food to be delivered to your house each week and they’re getting special subscription boxes of toys mailed to them… That’s not going to do it for them.

Love is not enough.

You can’t buy your way to your dog’s happiness. It would be nice if we could, but unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

I’m going to give you a brief overview of what will work.

First, walk your dog. I know this is common advice.

I wish I had something more complicated to share with you. But I don’t. Just walk your dog. I think if there’s anything that coronavirus has taught us or taught me is that you have to get out of the house.

If you stay in your house for 24 hours or 48 hours straight, it messes with your mental health. It’s very important to walk your dog because they are trapped inside your house.

Letting them out of the backyard is not enough. You need to get your dog’s harness and leash or whatever else and get out there and just walk.

If it’s cold, put a jacket on yourself, put a jacket on your dog if you want to, and just walk. Try to do like 30 to 45 minutes in the morning and another 30 to 45 minutes in the evening. Build up you and your dog’s stamina from there.

Get out in the sunshine. It’s going to do you both a lot of good. That is the biggest and the simplest thing that you can do for your dog’s happiness. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s very straightforward.

If your dog pulls on the leash, get out there and walk your dog even more. It will get better, I promise.

If you’re doing 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the evening after a week or two and it doesn’t get better, come to the Savvy City Dog Facebook page and post a video of it and show me. I’m going to tell you how to make it better.

Second, I want you to give your dog structure.

This can be a confusing one. Sometimes it’s called leadership other times it’s called boundaries. This can be confusing because it’s not really clear when we say that as dog trainers.

Don’t let your dog dictate your day. Don’t be relying on your dog to motivate you. Set up in your schedule and do walk your dog at the times that you planned. That is being a leader for your dog. If you plan to walk at 8:00 a.m. every morning, do it.

If your dog or your puppy is out of control every morning at 7:50 a.m. because he knows that a walk is coming, tell your dog or your puppy what to do at that time.

You tell your dog to go lay down on his dog bed and keep enforcing that while getting ready to go for a walk. That is how to provide that sort of super high overview of giving your dog structure or leadership.

I think we’re all guilty of it at some point. You don’t need to rely on your dog to motivate you to do things throughout the day. You don’t want your dog to dictate your schedule throughout the day because that leads you to a dog who throws their ball at you, and barks that you to throw the ball back and all kinds of other problems.

And that can deteriorate into all kinds of stuff like separation anxiety, guarding you, leash reactivity and barking at visitors who come into your home. All kinds of problems can devolve from that.

It seems like such a simple, harmless little thing that you’re doing, but it’s all actually interconnected and very important. Love your dog, but also walk your dog and give him structure.

The third tip that I’m going to give you is, train your dog. Dogs don’t speak English so the more we teach them, the more vocabulary we give them to communicate with us.

The more we can expand their brains and help them think, learn and grow, the more we can teach them to:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Leave it
  • Place
  • Wait for your food bowl
  • Wait politely at the door
  • Wait at the top of the stairs
  • Don’t knock me over as I’m walking down the stairs
  • Don’t knock my kids over when they’re walking down the stairs

All those great skills are going to give your dog some really great mental stimulation. He’s probably going to benefit a lot from this especially if he’s any of those working breeds, a younger dog or an active dog.

It’s also going to make him a better companion. It’ll make him a more enjoyable pet to have around.

I’m always a big proponent to train your dog. It’s going to help everybody to be happier.

My last tip is to give your dog a life outside of you.

This one may seem strange at first, but the happiest dogs I see, they have a life outside of their owners. They have a purpose.

This could be getting your dog some dog friends. If your dog does like going to doggy daycare, that could be a great way to enrich his life.

It could just be that your dog has one dog friend down the block or your sister’s dog and your dog get along really well and they do playdates. But having a dog friend can really help with your dog’s quality of life.

Giving your dog a hobby e.g agility or scent work can be really great too. That could be a way to give your dog a life outside of you, especially during this pandemic.

There are tons of free videos on YouTube for teaching your dog agility or scent work. I’m sure there are lots of great courses that you can join online for either one of those things.

Both of those hobbies can both be done right in your backyard or in your living room. Those are really great, especially the set work. You can really do it anywhere and it’s deeply satisfying to most dogs.

One other tip to think about is to teach your dog some helper tasks. If you’re looking for ways to give your dog a life outside of you, give your dog a meaningful job within your home.

This requires a lot of effort for me. It’s actually not that helpful, but a meaningful task around your home. When I was pregnant, I didn’t have as much time to exercise my German Shepherd.

His job became to pick up all the laundry around the house because I didn’t want to bend over and over again to pick up laundry off the floor. To this day, he’ll help me out with that depending on the day or if I just want to give him extra enrichment.

That was a meaningful and helpful task that he could help me out with. I think he got a lot of joy and a lot of pride out of doing that job and I got a lot of joy and pride out of him doing that job for me.

That was a really great thing that boosted his quality of life and just his overall wellbeing when I wasn’t able to do as much exercise.

This is the magic combination that I’m going to leave you with. Obviously, we could go way deeper with all of these topics. But this was to give you some ideas of what to start thinking about.

You’ve got your love, hopefully, if you don’t have that, you do need love to have a happy dog. If not, definitely love your dog… and these are four other things you can do that are going to make your dog even happier. You can:

  • Walk your dog for 45 minutes, twice a day
  • Give your dog structure
  • Don’t allow your dog to dictate your daily schedule
  • Train your dog
  • Give your dog a hobby!

Let me know in the comments if you know a well-loved dog who just maybe needs a little bit more.