Sunday, July 26, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
According to noted dog trainer Tamar Geller, every dog has seven basic needs. It doesn’t matter if you have a Yorkie, a Chihuahua, an AmStaff or a Labrador retriever. Their needs are all the same. She goes on to define a need as something a dog cannot do without, and misbehavior can happen from only one of their seven needs being neglected. Sounds like several people I know.
A dog’s seven basic needs are: a sense of security, companionship, understanding the hierarchy, surprise/excitement, food and exercise, mental stimulation, and love and connection. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Dogs need to know that their human companion will be there to give them a toy, treat, hug or some love when they do what we want them to do. Just as we need structure and a certainty of how our lives are going to progress, so do our dogs.
Dogs are pack animals and need to be social; only in this way and by using cooperation with others can any canine (wild or domesticated) hope to survive. It doesn’t matter whether I am inside or outside the house with my dog, she won’t be too many feet from me. And if she walks away she will be back within a few minutes after she has gone potty or checked out something that she feels the need to investigate.
Dogs also need to know who the pack leader is. You need to be the alpha dog and make sure that your dog knows it as well. The alpha dog gets the best parts of the kill, the best sleeping spot. Everything comes to the alpha dog first, and your dog needs to know that is you. If this is not done, you could find yourself fighting with your dog for your rightful place in your own bed. It’s OK for your dog to sleep with you, they just have to know that it is by your invitation only, and it can be rescinded at any time.
Dogs need stimulation and change in their lives, so surprises and excitement will help keep your dog from getting bored. A surprise could be a trip in the car, a day at the beach, a walk or even a simple game of catch the ball. Skye loves to go for rides in my truck; she never knows when I am going to travel but she loves to go when I invite her. Ms. Geller suggests giving your dog at least one surprise a day. Put yourself in your dog’s shoes – wouldn’t you love a surprise every day from your significant other?
Every living creature needs food and water to survive. Exercise is a great way to let your dog blow off steam and get rid of excess energy that could be used in a more destructive manner if not dealt with. I can’t tell you how much destructive chewing I helped my customers cure, just by giving their dogs a different focus for their energy. I try to get Skye to exercise with me at least fifteen minutes every day. It may not sound like much, but it does her a world of good, even if I do have to call a halt in this summer weather to keep her from overheating.
The next item on the list of a dog’s seven needs is mental stimulation. Every time Skye is in the truck with me, her nose goes right to the air vents. It makes me wonder what exotic things she smells that I can’t even begin to decipher. I actually taught Nimber to fetch my “Gremlin” slippers (a huge pair of stuffed slippers with a “gremlin” head and big ears). I used to tell him to go get my “Mogwais” and he knew what I was talking about. I even made a game where I would hide them in different places (instead of my closet floor where they were kept). Nimber never chewed them up, but he had a blast trying to find out where I put them. Games help keep your dog stimulated and help keep them from getting bored. Teaching them words can help stimulate them as well. Like us, dogs are capable of learning until the day they pass on.
Last but not least is love and connection. Your dog needs to know he is loved and has a connection to you as the alpha member of your pack. I remember moving vehicles in the driveway where I used to live when I owned Nimber. I parked my car, got out and went into the garage. Nimber had jumped into my friend’s truck and when my friend started backing his truck down the driveway prior to parking it, Nimber almost went through the windshield to get out of the truck. He thought he was being taken away from me. We loved each other and were lucky enough to have a connection to each other as well. I would take him visiting with me and if I went into the bathroom, it was a sure bet I would trip over Nimber when I came out. Skye is the same way and I am blessed, though her devotion is sometimes a bit overwhelming.
By being willing to meet our dogs’ seven basic needs, we can have a wonderful life with a loving, fun companion for many years to come. I will see you soon – Skye and I are going outside and test out her new glow-in-the-dark ball.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently