We love our dogs. They comfort us, provide companionship, are our adventure buddies. They are part of our family. So you want the best for them, right? During this article I'm going to challenge you to not only think about what is most enjoyable for you or the situation, but what is really best for your dog.
First step to providing a fulfilled, happy home life for your dog - discipline. I know, I know, not snuggles, treats, and warm and fuzzies? My guess is you are probably already providing plenty of those things! What may be lacking though, is consistent discipline. Dogs in their natural environment exist in pack groups where there is a clear hierarchy and severe consequences when they step out of line. They are designed this way and thrive on clarity and consistency.
Telling your dog "no," or that what they are doing is not going to provide them with the best outcome, is the kindest way to teach them and avoid frustration. Your dog is looking to you for guidance and if you don't provide it, they will make their own way!
The next step in creating the best life for you and your dog is exercise; mental and physical. Ensure that your dog is receiving enough exercise for their given breed and energy level. Have an overweight lab who is content to snooze by the window everyday? A few times in the yard or a trip or two around the block is just fine. Have a border collie whose main goal in life is to dig through every trashcan in sight? You'll need to be a bit more intentional about making sure the exercise component is satisfied.
For those of you who may have a dog that is high energy and it seems like no matter what you do they are bouncing off the walls, be sure that you are fulfilling their need for mental exercise in addition to physical exercise. This might mean beginning obedience lessons, taking on some more advanced training, challenging them with tricks, etc. Find other ways to challenge your dog mentally here. You would be surprised to see how much faster a dog tires when they have to use their brain!
Next we'll talk about health. This means taking the time and doing your research on canine nutrition (resources here), finding a good vet, keeping your dog a healthy weight, and being cognizant of their overall well being. Do your research and be informed!
Last, but not least, advocate for your dog! This is important for every dog owner, but especially those who are dealing with anxious or aggressive dogs. You know your dog; are they uncomfortable when new people come to the house? Are they unsure when meeting a dog on leash? Do they dislike men? This is valuable information. Each of these speak to some level of discomfort or lack of confidence, so we need to build that confidence! We aren't going to accomplish that by letting everyone and their best friend pet your dog while they are out on a walk, or have your dog interact with every new dog at your favorite park. those are what YOU might like, but they are not what your dog would like if you have one of the above cases. The best way to build your dog's confidence is to advocate for them, and help them to realize that you know how they are feeling and are going to help them through it. If your dog isn't a huge fan of new people, don't let people pet them, maybe even ask that they completely ignore them. Be firm about this. Your dog deserves its space, and if you don't create that space, your dog might decide to. The best response to give to people is, "he/she is in training right now, the best thing that you could do to help is act like he/she doesn't exist." It might feel uncomfortable or rude, but your dog will thank you!