The connection we have with our dogs is a special one. We can't see it, yet it's so tangible and we often depend on it to get through life's challenges and celebrate the wins.
But, like with any special relationship, we need to also look after the bond we share with our furry friend. Nurturing that 'space in-between' you and your dog will lead you both to a happier, healthier and more fulfilled life, says Karen Uden, author of Beyond the Backyard, 10 Best Ways To Live An Active Life With Your Dog By Your Side.
Also Director of Barx Active, which runs fitness training programs and activities for people and dogs in Victoria, Mrs Uden has launched the book to help people nurture the bond they share with their dogs, so that they can live an active and extraordinary life with their dog by their side.
"We love our dogs intensely, but our everyday routine can interrupt quality time with our dogs," she says. "Dogs thrive on new environments, challenges and activities, so we owe it to them to create the space in our lives for these things. We all know that a tired happy dog is a much less mischievous one!"
Experiencing a new adventure, mastering a new skill or taking the time to 'just play' with our dog will refresh and strengthen the connection that we share, she continues.
"Nurturing this bond magnifies all the benefits of the human/dog connection. Our mental state is better, our health risks are lower and our dogs tail will wag more than ever," she says.
How To Nurture The Bond You Share With Your Dog
Mrs Uden suggests 10 things to do together with your dog to nurture your bond:
- Take a hike - explore new places each time.
- Do some exercise drills - run a zig zag pattern side by side or have your dog weave a figure 8 through your legs while you squat.
- Change the way you move - go for a bike ride, swim or jog.
- Go camping - enjoy the great outdoors at dog-friendly campgrounds or caravan parks.
- Take a class - try out Doggy Dancing, Agility, Nosework or Flyball.
- Walk your errands - why not take your pooch with you to the cafe to meet friends?
- Plan a pet-friendly holiday - so many to choose from!
- Set a goal - maybe a lifestyle change? (Can you last one month without your favourite treats?)
- Form a pack - consider joining a dog walking club or a dog friendly fitness class.
- Enter a pet-friendly event - there are so many great causes to fundraise for, such as the RSPCA's Million Paws Walk.
Personal Experiences With Tux
Mrs Uden also practices what she preaches with her dog, Tux. Together they discover new places to hike around Victoria, from Mt Macedon to the You Yangs, and the Warburton Trail to Mornington Peninsula Beach trails.
"I have found no better feeling then finishing a long hike knowing that I have had lots of exercise and new scenery, Tux has had lots of exercise and new smells, and that we achieved it together," she says.
Camping is also a favourite Uden family activity. "Tux loves to muscle in on our sleeping bags and, well, let's just say you haven't bonded with your dog until you have peed alongside him in the great outdoors!" she says, laughing.
Then there's learning obedience, Flyball and Agility, but they have the most fun together doing fitness classes with Barx Active. "Doing 'Barxercise' is a great workout and challenge for us both, so we both earn our visit to the cafe afterwards," she says.
Going on a holiday with Tux to stay at a dog-friendly accommodation is the ultimate guilt-free getaway for Mrs Uden as she doesn't need to feel sad for leaving him behind.
"I can only imagine how exciting the intricate layers of smells from 'all who stayed before us' must be to my darling boy - no wonder he sleeps so well when we are away," she says.