Best friends: Tips to keep that tail wagging

Feb 4, 2013 at 3:00 a.m. ET

Owning a dog can be one of life's great pleasures as long as it remains happy in the home.

Dog kissing woman

Keep that tail wagging with these helpful tips for dog owners everywhere. The reward of a friendship with a dog is worth the investment.

The friendship between a dog and its owner is unlike any relationship in the world. When the friendship is nurtured, a dog can rise from the position of household pet to companion and partner in just a few short days.

Rules and structure

When you think about it, dogs and children are not terribly dissimilar, and children are happiest when they have clear boundaries, a set schedule and know what to expect. Dogs thrive in environments in which healthy rules are enforced. It's part of their pack mentality. While every family has a different schedule, your dog will do best when he or she has a general idea of what the day will look like. Ideas to create structure include:  

  • Celebrating your dog with a treat when he obeys commands
  • Walking your dog every morning before work
  • Feeding your dog at the same time every day
  • Firmly reprimanding your dog during the act of disobeying

Purposeful living

How do you feel during hour twelve of a Keeping up with the Kardashians marathon? Pretty bad, especially if you're covered in Cheetos, right? Dogs are no different, because they are happiest when they are given a purpose. If you puppy is left alone all day and then ignored when you come home, she will start to feel pretty miserable and fairly destructive. Some tips to create purpose in your dog's life are:

  • Teach your dog tricks like shaking hands.
  • Consider giving tasks to your dog that are consistent with her breed. For instance, German Shepherds are sometimes fitted with backpacks so they can carry supplies during a hike.
  • Volunteer with your dog at a hospital or nursing home.


If volunteering with your dog or whittling a specialty backpack for her sounds like too much of a time commitment, exercise in and of itself is a wonderful way to provide purpose for your pet. Furthermore, exercising with your dog is a key component of his overall happiness. Ideas include:

  • Taking your dog for a walk every afternoon, even if it's just around the block
  • Playing fetch with your dog at the park
  • Kicking a soccer ball with your dog and the rest of the family
  • Allowing your dog to swim and fetch in a lake with you, as long as he's a strong swimmer

Grooming and care

A day at the salon has a way of lifting spirits. And although the grooming needs of humans and dogs vary according to their breed and temperament, regular grooming is important to ensure that your dog remains healthy. A few important grooming tips are:

  • Keep your dog's nails well-trimmed.
  • Keep his breath fresh with dental chews and, if necessary, a dental cleaning.
  • Regularly shampoo and condition your pet to keep her skin healthy.
  • Follow the grooming recommendations for the breed of your dog.

Most importantly, enjoy your pooch! There is nothing like the friendship you are cultivating with him or her.

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