If dogs could tell you what they want in a happy home, the top item on their wish list would be inclusion.
Part of the Team - Dogs are highly domesticated, having lived with humans for thousands of years. Their nature is to be with people. Dogs are miserable when left behind, closed off in a room, or kept outside. Your dog doesn’t mind where he lives, as long as he is included as part of the family. In the wild, dogs live in packs that are highly structured. They follow their ‘alpha dog.’ If your dog is following you everywhere, you’re his Alpha. Use clear commands and visual cues to help him be part of the team.
Love and Loyalty - Your dog thrives on attention and affection. He wants to bond. Hugs and cuddling make him feel protected. Making prolonged eye contact with him releases the hormone oxytocin, in his brain to make him feel safe. Take time daily to acknowledge him and play with him. A dog will love you forever.
Assurance - Dogs need to feel secure in their home, especially if they have been abused or spent time in a shelter. These pets may be fearful of making a mistake and being sent back. You can help to assure your dog that he has a permanent place by giving him his own bed, bowl, collar and leash, and toys. Tell him often how much you love him and that he has a forever home.
Routine - Anticipating what comes next is important to your dog. If they were people, dogs would have schedulers. Predictable waking, feeding and bedtime hours help him ‘go with the flow’ of your family’s life. Use little rituals or visual cues so he can prepare for the next thing. For example, always refreshing the water bowl before a meal cues him to take his place for dinner. If there is more than one pet, keep the feeding order the same each time.
Physical Care - Proper nutrition with species-appropriate food for his stage of life, routine vet care and attentiveness to illness are vital to helping him to live a long and happy life.
Safety - He needs a fenced yard if possible, and a home where safety measures are taken with regard to live electrical cords, toxic plants and foods, prescriptions and anything else that might harm him. When he is frightened, comfort him and give him a ‘safe zone’ where he can hide from the vacuum cleaner or fireworks.
Praise - At the end of your dog’s list there is most likely the phrase they all love to hear: “Good Boy!” (or Girl). Being proud of your dog makes his day.