What are the benefits to your dog, and to you?
Let’s think about the average dog’s daily routine. They may have an early morning walk, some fuss and attention, breakfast and maybe even some fun playtime. We get on with our busy days and do what we need to do to earn a living, we may even take our dogs into work, or work from home so they still have our company. We might take them out to visit our friends, or a café, or have friends to visit us in our own home. Our dog’s may have fun with toys in the garden, have a training session, or be given something good to chew on. Some will have an afternoon or evening walk too, we feed them their tea, give them our attention and affection. And they love us unconditionally in return.
We are a nation of dog lovers, and we all want our dogs to have the very best possible lives. As their guardians it is our responsibility to make sure they are safe and meet all their needs. As stated in the animal welfare act this includes their environment, diet, ability to exhibit normal behaviours, to be housed with/without other animals (species specific), protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease. All of which we do as caring guardians.
However, if we return to the first paragraph, the average dog’s daily routine, every single part of that structure is decided by us. When, what, where, who etc. are dominated by our decisions; our time limits, our choices. Humans, by nature, also tend to talk too much, constantly telling our canine companions to ‘leave that’, ‘come here’, ‘no don’t do that’, ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, ‘wait’ …
Yes of course we need to be our dog’s advocate, to protect them from harm and keep them safe, much like children, yet we should also be their advocate for allowing them to make their own choices, albeit in a safe environment. When your dog gets to make their own choices, it increases their curiosity and enhances their well-being. Allowing them the time to consider and process information helps them to reach their own decisions and make choices, and as they succeed their confidence grows and in turn their stress levels and blood pressure lowers and their optimism increases.
An enriched environment, such as The Secret Dog Garden, is a safe and secure area where your dog can explore at his/her own pace and make their own choices without direction or cues from us. It is their time, their experience, unique to them.
The Secret Dog Garden is designed entirely from the dog’s perspective and includes items for the whole sensory experience; sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, and most importantly in a secure area providing a feeling of safety.
Objects are chosen to enhance the visual experience using colours in blue and yellow, (a dog’s sight spectrum), the sense of touch with varying textures underfoot including foam, natural fur, synthetic and natural fibre non-slip mats, natural sounds of bird song and the wind moving through tall grasses, plus bells and rattles for the non-sound sensitive. Different morsels of food can be discovered ranging in tastes and textures from soft pate to crunchy vegetables or dried fish skin. Scents and smells are intriguing to all dogs, it’s the main way they evaluate the world around them and the simple act of sniffing is another natural de-stressor resulting in a calming effect. With an array of old objects to investigate such as toys, boots, bicycle tyres, all of which contain a great scent history, plus animal scents to discover on old horse rugs, feathers, and brushes, provide a great olfactory workout for your dog.
As your dog moves around the area, they can choose what to investigate, what to step on or over, what to taste, what to consume or leave. Without the direction, or albeit well intended encouragement from humans, your dog can process information in their own time, and can then make their own choices.
For once, there is no time constraint, no cues to follow, no ‘no’ commands. It is their time and each experience is a unique opportunity for them.
It is also a valuable experience for the dog guardian too, to simply sit and observe your dog will tell you a lot about their likes and dislikes, and give you an insight into their character.
The video below is a snap shot of a visit by a young dog who is very wary of strangers. I was present, and as a stranger sat back out of his way with my own body posture relaxed and soft, averting my gaze from his direction. He spent 45 minutes exploring and as you can see began with a tense body posture, very unsure of the environment and checking in with mum and dad to make sure he was safe. As time went by, he became more relaxed and secure, and his curiosity grew. By the end of the session, as you can see, he was happy, calm and content in his own decision making, you can even spot a smile on his face as he casually walked out at the end.
Be your dog’s best friend and give them the opportunity to choose.
Please get in touch to find out more. Contact Lisa Edwards on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your free initial consultation, or call on 07913 482056 and leave a message and Lisa will call you back.
Alternatively, you can complete an initial booking form here: The Secret Dog Garden contact form.
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