September 24, 2012
By Dr. Becker
What's your dog's favorite toy?
Chances are it's the one you play with together. Runner up is probably a puzzle toy he can work on when he's bored, or a chew toy that gives his jaws a good workout.
Many pet parents feel let down when their dog doesn't show much interest in the toys they carefully select, purchase and bring home for them. There's usually some initial excitement when you first unwrap a new toy and present it to your dog. But when you turn to leave the room, he drops the thing like a bad habit and follows you instead.
This, of course, is a clear sign that for your devoted canine companion, it's not really about the toy. It's about you. The toy is only as appealing as what you and he might do with it together. If you take yourself out of the equation, it's likely the toy will lose his interest in a hurry.
Even on days when you don't have the time or energy, you are the center of your dog's world. Everything good that happens to him happens because of you.
How Much Undivided Attention Does Your Pet Get?
If you're like most busy folks today, you're a multitasker -- even when you're interacting with your dog. You throw the stuffed toy across the room, your dog takes off after it, and you immediately turn to another task.
Or you play tug-of-war with your pet with one hand while talking on the phone or surfing the Internet with the other.
I've even seen people at the dog park sending and receiving text messages in between ball or Frisbee tosses.
Maybe you take your dog for a walk but pull her along because you're in a hurry, or you're distracted by a cell phone call, or the weather isn't ideal. She doesn't get much chance to stop and sniff (which is as important and interesting to your dog as your phone call is to you).
Try Staying Present with Your Pet
The next time you engage in a play or exercise session with your dog, try staying present with just that one activity. Focus exclusively on your pet and your interaction with her. Even if you're not really feeling it at that moment, get animated.
If you throw a toy and she brings it back to you, praise her enthusiastically each time she returns it.
If you take her for a walk, view the activity from the perspective of your pet. Focus on making it enjoyable for her. Give her a chance to sniff and dawdle a bit. Or if you're power walking together, give her lots of encouragement and praise along the way.
Savor the Moment
When you pick out a new toy for your pet, you have his happiness foremost in your mind. When you bring the toy home, remind yourself how it felt as you carefully selected it over dozens of other toys. Then, instead of simply tossing the toy to your dog when you get home, focus on creating a positive emotional connection around it.
Relish each playful interaction with your pet. If you follow his lead, your fuzzy canine companion can teach you how to truly appreciate the simple joys of life.
Watch how much fun this little dog and his human have in less than two minutes:
Now go play!