One of the first things you should teach your dog, is to look at you on command. Luckily it is also one of the easiest activities to teach. The "Watch" game is simply a focus exercise where we teach our dog to look at our face and to pay attention.
In the dog world, staring at each other in the eye can be considered confrontational and looking away is a calming or submissive signal. Dog body language is very subtle and a lot can be communicated with a small gesture.
With this in mind the look you get from your dog will be short and you should be aware of keeping your eyes soft and non-threatening.
Being able to get your dogs attention when you need it has many benefits. Firstly the act of focusing on you, rather than anything else in the environment at the time, can assist to calm your dog if excited, distracted or anxious. By looking at you, your dog may not notice or may be able to ignore other distractions like a cat or another dog while they go past therefore avoiding an increase in your dogs excitement level.
Have you ever tried to give your dog a command when they weren't paying attention? How well did they respond? Probably not well if at all. By getting your dogs attention first you have a much greater chance of gaining compliance to the next command you give. And finally done correctly this game can help build a strong bond of trust and respect between you and your dog and strengthen your communication.
.Since our dogs can’t tell us when something is wrong we need to be on the look out for potential signs of trouble. Regular physical checks on your dog at home are good for identifying early stages of infection or developing health issues so you can notify your vet and seek the appropriate assistance. These health checks are not meant to replace visits to your vet or for DIY home diagnosis but acts as an early warning system so you catch any potential problems as soon as possible.
Done correctly, by creating a fun and positive association to the activity, these health checks can form a vital part of the relationship you have with your dog and build a strong bond of trust.
When conducting the health check it should be a relaxing and comfortable activity for your dog so make sure you use a soothing voice and make it as positive for your dog as you can. This can include offering treats and proceeding at a slow pace and stop if your dog shows signs of discomfort or of wanting the activity to be over.
For most of the health check it doesn’t matter what position your dog is in as long as they are comfortable and relaxed. Like most things with your dog, the more you practice and make the experience enjoyable for your dog the easier it will be.
Firstly we want to start by looking in the dogs eyes to check to make sure they are clear and you can gently wipe away any discharge from the corners of their eyes with a damp cotton ball.
Things to look out for:
Ear infections are very common in dogs and can cause significant discomfort and pain to the dog. If your dog is scratching at their ears or shaking their head more than usual this can be a sign that there is a problem. Make sure you have your dog checked over by your vet as soon as possible as issues with the ears will not just get better on their own.
Gently feel the main part of the ear for any unusual or new lumps, bumps or cuts. Next have a look inside the ear. A healthy ear is a pale pink colour and may have a bit or wax which is normal and the inside of the ear should be dry. You want to notice if there is an unusual amount of wax or if the ear is swollen, red or flaky.
Now take a sniff of the ear. This may seem strange but if your dog has an infection you will definitely smell it.
There are many things that can cause an infection or problem with your dogs ears including ear mites (more common in young dogs), an allergy to food or something in the environment, a bite, grass seed etc.
Remember your dogs ear is easily damaged so carefully follow your vets instructions on ear care and avoid any unnecessary attention to the ears.
Teeth & Gums:
Gently lift up the lips and take a look at their gums and teeth from this angle. Check to see if there are any broken, wobbly or chipped teeth and whether the teeth have plaque or tartar build up. Next look at the gums, are they swollen? Are there any cuts or lumps and is the colour normal for your dog (gum colour varies) but most are usually a pink colour.
To look inside the mouth you can offer your dog a nice chewy treat so you can peer inside or wait until they naturally open their mouth.
ALWAYS use caution when handling around your dogs mouth as you do not want to risk a bite by causing stress to your dog.
Dogs often don’t like their paws touched so make sure you make this part especially positive for them and you can even make it a game by rewarding them whenever you touch their paws and especially if they offer them to you.
Gently feel around the base of their paws to check for cuts or prickles and check that the nails are intact. Its super important for your dog to allow you to touch their feet incase they get something stuck in their paws or for when the vet or groomer cuts their nails.
Body & Tail:
Start by giving your dog a lovely big pat! Feel along their body for any unusual lumps, bumps or cuts that may need further attention from your vet. Continue on down the body and make sure you also include the tail, gently lifting it up as you go. This helps get your dog used to attention down that area as remember where the thermometer goes!
If your dog is particularly furry you can feel for any grass seeds, sticks etc that may be caught up in the fur or notice the beginnings of matting or dreads.
Do's & Don'ts
As a dog owner, dog trainer and pet sitter I have learnt many different tips and tricks over the years and I thought this would be a great way to share them with you. Enjoy!