Out of all the holidays on the calendar, how many of them can you truly celebrate with your dog? Christmas and Valentine's Day, yes. But President’s Day, Flag Day, and Labor Day? Perhaps not.
One wonderful holiday to add to the "yes" list is Earth Day. It's a natural! At that time of year, the springtime weather is calling you and your dog outdoors and, with all the people and other dogs milling about, the world can seem like one big dog park.
Off to the park
Many Earth Day celebrations take place in parks. This makes sense, of course, because in urban areas parks are as close as you can get to a "natural" Earth environment. And large parks can accommodate all the people and dogs that show up to celebrate. But before you head out to the festivities, check to make sure your local event and its venue are, indeed, dog friendly.
As with any fun day in the park with your dog, be sure to bring food, water, a leash, and everything you'll need to clean up after nature calls.
Other ways to celebrate Mother Earth
Earth Day is the perfect time to consider your dog's carbon paw print. Take a look at all his toys and accoutrements—are they Earth friendly? Some of these "green" products are made from recycled plastic and easy-to-recycle materials. Some Earth-conscious companies even donate a portion of their profits to environmental organizations.
Your dog can make a powerful (fashion) statement on Earth Day by dressing for the holiday. There's a wide range of doggie clothing for sale that features special Earth Day/environmental messages. From slogans like "I'm a natural," to Earth graphics, these are the type of items that well-dressed dogs wear on Earth Day.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!