Many of us have dogs in our lives who we love to the moon and back. But do you really know your dog? Do you know their likes and dislikes, their quirks, or who their best friends are? If you haven't had your dog for too long, you might feel like you're still in the "getting to know you" stage. It takes time for you and your dog to understand each other. But even if you have had your dog in your family for a while, you might still want to get to know them better than you do now.
The good thing is that there are lots of different ways you can spend time with your dog and get to know them. You can have a whole lot of fun by trying out new things and watching your dog carefully to get a real idea of their personality and their foibles. Here are some of the fun things you could be doing together to learn more about your dog and maybe let your dog learn more about you too.
Find Out What Motivates Your Dog
One of the best things to learn about your dog is what gets them most excited. What motivates them to do things? Finding this out can be a lot of fun, and it's also really useful when it comes to training your dog. Knowing what excites them and gets them to pay attention is really handy because it helps you to get them to respond to your commands.
Generally, dogs are motivated by one of a few things. Some dogs are very motivated by food (ok, most dogs), while other dogs can be very motivated by play. Some dogs are also motivated by praise and attention, such as petting. What motivates your dog could depend on a couple of factors, including their breed, age, and individual personality.
You can try experimenting with different things while you're playing or training your dog. What really excites your dog and encourages them to want to do things? To find what motivates them, you need to show them the positive nature of different rewards. Playing with them often will show them that playing is fun and a worthy reward. Giving them lots of affection can make praise and affection into a motivator too.
Try Out Some Different Foods and Snacks
Experimenting with different foods and snacks can be a really fun thing to do with your dog. You've probably seen videos of people giving their dogs different foods to try – some of which are not received very well by the dog! You can try out different foods and treats made for dogs, and there are also some "human" foods that your dog might like to try out. You could discover your dog is a secret lover of broccoli or that they like munching on a carrot.
Just remember to be safe when you're trying out different foods. Check that it's safe for dogs before you give it to your pooch. And include any food or treats you give them in their total calories so that they don't get pudgy from the extra snacks.
Spend Time with Other Dogs
Taking your dog to spend time around other dogs can be a really fun way to get to know your dog better. You get to see what your dog thinks of others in their species and how they interact with them. All dogs are different, and some may be very sociable while others are more shy and would rather stay back. Giving your dog a chance to socialize can be a good way to teach them good behavior while allowing them to have some fun.
You could help your dog make some friends in a few ways. If there's a dog park close to you, visiting could give you an opportunity to say hello to some other dogs and their owners. However, this might be risky if you don't know the other dogs there. A slightly safer option could be to have your friends with dogs meet up with you. As you know them better, it's easier to judge whether both dog and owner will be friendly. If your dog goes to a doggy daycare, it can be another good chance for them to meet other dogs. Many daycares have cameras set up so you can watch your dog and see how they get along with others.
Take a Doggy DNA Test
It might not mean much to your dog (because they can't read) but a doggy DNA test is a fun thing to do for your own amusement. Not only is it fun, but it can tell you some things about your dog that you didn't know. You might begin to understand their personality more or get an insight into their health by seeing what their test says.
DNA and genetic testing can tell you what breeds might have come together to make a mixed-breed dog. It can also tell you things like how likely a dog is to develop a certain genetic health problem, which is really useful if you want to be prepared for any potential health issues that could arise in the future. There are some common tests for certain breeds of dogs that are very useful, especially if you're thinking about breeding your dog.
Teach Your Dog Some Tricks
Engaging your dog in some training is always a good way to get to know them. It can reveal a lot of things about your dog, from what motivates them most to how stubborn they are. Some dogs can be easier to train than others, while some can require a bit more persistence if you want to teach them something new. And even when they've learned a new trick, some dogs will still only decide to do it on their own terms.
Most people teach their dogs some tricks just for obedience and convenience. Having a dog that will listen when you say to sit, lie down, or wait is definitely much easier than having a dog that won't do any of these things. But you can also try some tricks that are just for fun. Your dog doesn't really need to learn how to play dead or spin in a circle, but it's still fun to do. And you can find out what your dog thinks is fun, and what they're capable of too.
Sign Up for Some Agility or Another Sport
If you want another way to train your dog, it can be really interesting to explore agility, flyball, or another type of sport or activity. These kinds of things are especially good for high-energy dogs. You could discover that your naughty dog isn't actually naught at all, but is just lacking the right kind of stimulation.
So how do you find these kinds of activities? You could simply try out a few things at home with some basic equipment. However, there are also plenty of groups and resources available to help you out. Any dog can try out these activities, no matter what breed or how big or small. The most important thing is if they find it fun. They don't need to be a border collie or greyhound! See if you can find a local club for agility or another dog sport to try out a session. You can consider flyball, freestyle, disc dogs, and other fun canine sports. Remember it needs to be suitable for you too!
Read Up on Dog Body Language
Learning to understand your dog's body language really is one of the best things you can do if you want to get to know your dog better. It's so easy to assume we know what our dogs are thinking when we could actually be making the mistake of assigning human traits to them or making assumptions. Dogs have their own unique body language and it's really important to understand it if you want to treat your dog right.
There are lots of ways to learn about dog body language and how to respond to it, but it's important to use the right sources. Look for trustworthy websites, videos, and books that can teach you how to read what your dog's body language is telling you.
Get Different Types of Toys
There are lots of different types of dog toys, and experimenting with some different options can be a really fun way to get to know your dog. It can help you to see which types of toys excite your dog the most, which also helps you understand what can motivate your dog.
Does your dog like tug toys and playing tug-of-war? Maybe your dog is in love with balls, or they can't resist a Kong toy. Some dogs really like soft toys that they can carry around and sleep with. Some toys are great for testing your dog's intelligence, giving them the chance to work out how to get a treat or some other reward.
You don't have to get your dog millions of toys, but it's definitely fun to try out some different types as you need to replace them.
Go to an Obedience or Training Class
Training your dog on your own doesn't come naturally to everyone. It can be frustrating, especially if you're not sure what you're doing or your dog is a little stubborn. But you can make it more fun by attending a class, which not only gives you a chance to talk to other dog owners but also allows your dog to socialize with other hounds. Obedience classes are popular with people who have just got puppies, but your dog doesn't need to be a puppy for a class to be useful.
It might seem a little like a chore, but attending a training class can be really fun. It also means you can get the guidance of an expert who knows what they're doing and can give you the advice that you need.
Watch Your Dog When You're Not Around
If you get a chance, it can be really fun to watch your dog when they think you're not watching. You can do this by setting up a camera at home, or you might get a chance to see your dog on camera when they're at doggy daycare or staying in kennels. Alternatively, you might be able to catch your dog out by standing somewhere they can't see you.
Watching your dog could reveal some naughty behavior you weren't aware of, but it might also show you some other surprising things too. Maybe your four-legged friend is up on the furniture when you're not around, even though they're not supposed to be. Or perhaps you'll catch your dog waiting by the door for you just before you get home, or snuggling with the cat even though they pretend not to like each other.
Keep a Doggy Diary
Keeping a diary of your dog's days can be really interesting and helpful at the same time. It could even be a good way to practice your writing skills. It's particularly helpful when you first get your dog because you can observe the ways your dog behaves, their habits, and their likes and dislikes. If you want to keep a diary, you can write stuff down, type out some notes, or even use an app designed for tracking your dog's habits.
Your diary can just be notes about what happens each day. You can write down what your dog eats, how much they sleep, and what they've enjoyed that day. But you can go more in-depth if you want to and write more about the things you do together, what new things you've noticed or any changes. Keeping these records can help you to spot any potential issues or concerning changes in behavior.
Getting to know your dog better is a great idea if you want to improve your relationship and your dog's health and happiness. There are lots of ways you can do it while having fun.