Leading a healthy, enriched life.
What do dogs really need?
I’m passionate about the behavioral wellness of all dogs.
What does your dog really need to thrive? I’d love to speak with you about your increasing your dog’s behavioral wellness and improving your life and relationship with your dog in the process.
The Four steps to behavioral wellness
Just like humans, dogs have basic needs that must be met in order to ensure they are living healthy, happy, well-balanced lives. This is especially important for dogs who have behavioral issues such as reactivity to humans and/or dogs and anxiety.
Many pet dogs spend much of their lives sitting at home bored and way under-stimulated, while their humans have work long hours and are engaged in activities outside the home in which our dogs cannot participate. In our modern, fast-paced, expensive-to-live-in society, this is hard to escape. So, what can we do to help our furry friends live a happy, more joyful life?
This is where dog trainer Sarah Stremming’s Four Steps to Behavioral Wellness come in. Nutrition, exercise, enrichment, and communication between a dog and their human are all equally important and must be met for our dogs to live a life that creates good health both mentally and physically.
Modern, highly-processed dog food has helped to create generations of dogs with many of the same health issues that plague humans such as increased rates of cancer. This highly-processed food also contributes to poor physical and behavioral health in dogs just as it does in humans.
Many of us humans grew up eating microwaved meals that seemed like a good idea for busy families at one time. We have since come to know that approximately 98% of nutrients are lost from food when cooked in this way. When we feed our dogs highly-processed kibble, we are also feeding them food with low nutritional value that is not easily digested. (Does your dog poop out huge piles of very smelly poop?)
We can help our dogs live longer, healthier, happier lives by feeding them a fresh, whole food, raw diet that takes into account each dog's individual nutritional needs. We can also make healthy homemade treats for our dogs in a snap for positive reinforcement training and games (a silicone pyramid mat turned over allows you to make 500+ treats in about 20 minutes!).
Dogs need to get out and stretch their legs and bodies. They need to not only walk, but run off-leash out in nature if possible. This type of exercise keep their bodies in great physical condition and helps all systems of their bodies work the way they should, including their minds.
This is where decompression walks come in. Getting your dog outside off-leash where they can run and sniff to their hearts content will help them as much as it helps human bodies and minds to hike on nature trails. Off the cement. Away from urban and suburban noise and stress. Have you ever noticed just how incredibly noisy it is where you live? Just imagine how it must be for your dog with her highly-attuned hearing capability. And, think how it must be for your dog when the other dogs in her neighborhood are “screaming” at her whenever she walks by. Plus, she cannot escape anything that scares her because she’s attached to a leash. She has no choice but to react and let the other dogs know to stay away. You tense up, maybe pull the leash tight or even jerk the leash as a way to get your dog to stop reacting. This is not relaxing for you or your dog.
Let’s get them back out in the world! Check out trainer Casey Coughlin’s Real Life Reactivity online subscription course. Step-by-step help for reactive dogs. Yes, it feels scary to think of getting your reactive dog out in the world, but isolation does not increase resiliency.
We all need to do things that enrich our lives. For you, that may mean reading, taking a class, doing a crossword puzzle, picking flowers, mountain biking, you name it. Humans have countless ways to enrich their lives. But our dogs are limited by what we provide for them to do.
Mental exercise can tire out dogs out as much as physical exercise. One of the best ways to provide this enrichment is by giving our dogs things to chew, such as stuffed Kongs, raw bones, and bully sticks. We can also provide them with food puzzles to actively engage their minds and problem solving capabilities. Some dogs love to shred paper, so providing them with “legal” shredding opportunities, such as cardboard boxes or junk mail that drives us all crazy, actively engages their minds, and helps with our recycling efforts to boot!
Enrichment can also be had on walks. Dogs primarily learn about their world by sniffing. So, allowing them to sniff things even when we find them to be disgusting (poop, anyone?) gives them a chance to figure out what’s going on around them. Dogs also love to roll in really smelly stuff. Why not let them? Give them a chance to be dogs on a regular basis. Baths are but a small price to pay for the pure joy you will see on your dog’s face. It’s worth it.
Games and positive reinforcement training also engage our dogs’ minds and increase the bond and trust between dogs and their humans. Go have fun with your pooch!
Dogs don’t speak English and understand very little of it. (Chaser the Border Collie with her 1,000+ word vocabulary is a rare exception!) What they do understand is body language. In fact, they are masters at reading humans and other dogs. Taking the time to learn what your dog is “saying” with her body language, as well as learning how to communicate in your dog’s language, is paramount to having a wonderful, close relationship with your dog. Check out iSpeakDog to begin your dog language education.
Ready for a new relationship with your dog?
Contact me to start a new and different phase of life with your favorite furry friend!
Services, rates, & Policies
Behavioral wellness consultations
One-hour meeting where we look at the whole of who your dog is and what their needs are. We start with the basics: nutrition, exercise, enrichment, and communication.