Holistic Dog Care: Pt. 1

If you look at my Instagram feed  you’ll see a lot of my darling puppy, Beans. We walk together every single day and have developed a very loyal bond. If I leave the room, he leaves the room. If I go to the bathroom, he comes right along, too (lol). I adore the closeness and have come to realize that Beans is a comforting constant in the wake of an unpredictable world.

I feel a keen responsibility to give him the best care I possibly can, so I thought I’d share some of my adventures here. And why keep something so darn cute away from my readers?

Today, I’m going to talk about two tips that have had the biggest impact on Beans in our day to day lives:

  1. Physical Exercise.

All dogs need a decent amount of exercise, but the breed and size impact how much. Beans is a 25-lb Australian Shepherd and he's made to run and herd. I try to gear his exercise toward his strengths and inclinations. I take him up into the woods so he can run off-leash, which is his favorite thing to do. It's also the quickest way to exhaust him.

Beans is basically a superstar-in-the-making frisbee catcher. We practice all the time and he is getting better at catching it in mid-air from a long range. He’s also a great running buddy (much to my surprise, but I do need treats to keep him focused). The dog run is a fantastic place to go socialize, but I'm bit more careful about going there. We first check to make sure there are dogs we know and trust before going in.

The truth is, Beans thrives working one-on-one, so we orient his playing, training, and exercise around that about 80% of the time.

      2. Mental Exercise.

Just as important, but often forgotten, is the task of mentally exhausting your pup. Some people believe that letting your dog run amuck is liberating them and allowing them to 'just be a dog', but in my experience with Beans, he likes/needs to have a job to do and feels best when he's mentally tired.

So, this can mean practicing recall, crate games, teaching a new skill (useful or useless -- both are fun), or putting kibble in a kong with peanut butter or yogurt so they have to work a little harder to get it out. I usually don’t free-feed beans in a bowl. Instead, we hike to the woods and practice off-leash recall training first thing and I use his breakfast kibble for rewards.

In the evening we play fetch and his success is reinforced with kibble treats, aka dinner. I love the idea of giving Beans choices, but like human children, if they make all the choices they want anytime they want, chaos and rude behavior will ensue. When he makes good choices, I show him that I love it. It’s as simple as that.

Training also enhances the bond between us, which is a major source of joy in my own life. :)

I’ll end this by reiterating that I’m still working on all these things. Different things work for different people, so you do you. Like every dog, Beans still has his crazy moments (understatement of the year, HA) and that’s okay. So do I. ;)

I'd love to hear your thoughts! How you keep your animals physically and mentally thriving?.