Choices and Happiness

Eileen of Eileen and Dogs recently wrote a piece on giving dogs choices and Patricia McConnell wrote one on what makes your dog happy?. They’re both of a similar tone and it made me think about what makes Betsy happy.

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I often feel sorry for dogs – they’re at our mercy in most ways: We control their food, their water, when they get to go to the bathroom, and when they get to leave the house. We force them to have good manners and prevent them from doing all sorts of “fun” things, like chewing on furniture and chasing the cat.

So I do my absolute best to give Betsy a lot of opportunities for joy, because I know much of of her life is just following rules and waiting around for me to do something.

So what makes Betsy happy?

  • Playing with me. Tug is her absolute favourite, and the happy grin she gets on her face after a game of tug just melts my heart.
  • Going to the beach
  • Visiting my parents and their dogs
  • Going to agility class
  • Doing nosework, either in class or around the house (she really seems to love love love searching for stuff! I bet drug sniffing dogs love their jobs a lot)
  • Running off-leash in a forest, sniffing things
  • Practicing obedience (likely because of all the delicious treats and fun toys involved)
  • Getting a massage, preferably while holding a ball in her mouth
  • Snuggling in bed
  • Enjoying a frozen kong or food toy

Interestingly, I wouldn’t list, ‘going for walks,’ as one of her top favourite things. I think she likes going for walks, but I wouldn’t say it’s her all-time favourite activity. I know some dogs go crazy when the leash comes out, but Betsy isn’t one of those dogs.

Betsy on Mt Doug

That said, I do my best to make her walks as enjoyable as possible, and it’s one of the few places where I give her some autonomy.

I don’t generally enforce what we do on walks. If she wants to stop and sniff a bush for 20 minutes, fine. I do my best not to force her to keep walking with me (ok sometimes I get impatient and do but I try to remind myself that this is her walk, not mine.) If she wants to go one way and I want to go another, unless I have a good reason, I’ll let her choose. I think this can be tricky for some dogs and can result in a dog that will stubbornly insist on going the way it wants to go, but giving Betsy this choice hasn’t resulted in any problems so I continue to allow her to choose 😊

Writing this post has made me realize how few choices Betsy gets in life, sadly! I suppose off-leash time on a hike gives her a chance to be her own person, and it’s true that when we play fetch she often chooses to cut the game short and lie in the grass and chew on her ball instead… and while I used to get annoyed and pester her to keep playing, more recently I’ve decided to respect her when she’s had enough and let her just enjoy her ball.

Still, I think I can probably do better.

Something for me to work on in 2016!

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