Five Ways You Can Create More Fun for Your Dog

What is life like as a dog?
Have you ever thought about what life is like as a dog? How they take in the world (mostly through their noses, not their eyes). We all know that some of the things they consider food are not appetizing to us at all! I just read a fantastic book, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. Horowitz is an expert on animal behavior, and her book focuses on what it might be like to be a dog. Did you know, for example, that they can smell the passage of time, which is how they know when you’re coming home (if you keep a regular schedule). If you’d like to better understand and relate to your dogs, here are some of her suggestions:

Go for a “smell walk.”

Most of us walk our dogs at our pace, considering it exercise for them and us. But most dogs do not care about making good time. They care about smelling, which is how they take in the world. A quick sniff doesn’t give them the information they need to learn about what they have stopped to smell. I still run with Lola (one of my dogs) but jog in place when she stops to sniff at a mesmerizing odor. (Before reading this book, I would tug at her leash to keep her moving.) And I let her set the pace when we’ve finished our run, stopping for as long and as often as she likes.

Allow for her “dogness”
Let your dog be a dog. Let her roll in whatever she wants every so often (preferably in the summer so she can be bathed easily!). Let her walk through puddles and the mud. When she meets another dog, let them smell each other, including their rumps.

Why does he do that?
Horowitz says that she is asked almost every day why dogs do certain things. Not every behavior has an explanation. So if your dog just lies down and looks at you, he may just be lying there and looking at you. Some behaviors are significant, and often they relate to your dog’s breed. Breed can explain why some dogs get upset when one person leaves a room or why some dogs slowly stalk other dogs (herding dog behavior). Breed explains why retrievers are happy to fetch a ball over and over. They are fulfilling their capabilities. Figure out what your dog is good at and adapt to his abilities, not the other way around.

Give your pup something to do.
If you want to see what your dog is interested in, try different activities. Lola and I have taken a tricks class, agility and nose work (she likes them all). But you don’t have to take a class with your dog. Dogs like familiarity combined with something new — they find joy in novelty, such as new treats or toys, in a safe, well-known place. For them, newness requires attention. One way to achieve this is to hide their treats. This can help alleviate boredom, as they must move around the area you’ve hidden them, using their noses, paws and mouth together. You can get this game started by using a cue, such as “seek” or “find it,” and leading your dog to the area of the hidden treat. His nose should take over from there. And praise him when he finds the treat. If your dog has a lot of toys, put some away for a while and then bring them out again. “New” and free!

Play with your dog.
Dogs are constantly learning about the world, not just when they are puppies. Games that children find fun, such as peekaboo or hide and go seek are great fun for dogs, too! Dogs are quick learners when it comes to associations — e.g., the garage door opens, mom or dad is home. You can play with that, associating sounds with events, before a walk, before going for a ride, before getting fed, etc. When playing with your dog, try mimicking what she does: slap the ground with your hands (the human version of the “play bow”); run away, looking back at her; use your hands like she uses her mouth, grabbing ahold of her legs, tail or belly. Most importantly, figure out what your dog finds fun and play!

If you’d like to get a better understanding of what dogs know and how they think, I highly recommend Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. It has changed the ways I interact with my dogs and made me a better dog mom.

Ellen Zangla Photography, Dog Photographer, Loudoun County

Ellen Zangla Photography: Pet portraits with personality!

M.Photog., Certified Professional Photographer

Professional Photographers of America: 2017 Bronze Medal Photographer of the Year

My pets, two dogs and two cats, are an integral part of the fabric of my life. I absolutely adore them. Like other family members whom we love, I feel that it is incredibly important to have portraits of them that capture the essence of who they are, whether they’re regal or goofy (or both!) or somewhere in between. If you feel the same way about your dog, cat or other fur or scaled kid, here’s how you can learn more about a pet photo shoot with me works. Or feel free to contact me. I am a pet photographer, specializing in photographs of pets and pets with their people. I serve all of Northern Virginia, including Loudoun, Fairfax, Leesburg, Ashburn and Reston, as well the DC Metro area, and I would love to create pet portraits for you that you will treasure for a lifetime.