3 Keys to Giving Your Dog the Power of Choice

Let your dog make their own decisions instead of choosing everything on their behalf.

Have you ever thought about all the decisions we make on behalf of our dogs? Here are just a few:

  • Timing, variety, and amount of food and treats

  • Access to other dogs and people

  • Access and variety of activities and toys

  • Wake and sleep schedule and timing of bathroom breaks

  • Timing and amount of attention from family members

  • Ability to enjoy quiet time to relax without interruption

Just like us, dogs would prefer to make their own choices as much as possible. Here are 3 keys to embracing choice for dogs.

1: Become Observant of Your Dog's Preferences

Bring awareness to observing your dog's preferences. Do they have a favorite relaxing spot, a favorite neighborhood walk, or favorite toys and treats? Keep track of your dog's choices over a few weeks' time and make note of favorites.

2: Offer Choices

Dogs' preferences change from day to day, so offering a variety of choices is always a good idea.

  • Instead of choosing yourself, offer your dog a choice of chewies or toys. Rotate your offerings to keep things fresh and interesting.

  • Try different parks and trails and notice which ones your dog seems to enjoy more.

  • Try out different types and textures of treats. Stock up on your dog's favorites. Save the most amazing treats for efficient training!

3: Let Your Dog Choose

  • Allow your dog to choose the walking route, and wait for them when they choose to stop and sniff something. If you tend to keep your dog moving, try counting to 10 as soon as they stop to retrain your brain to pause more.

  • Allow your dog to choose when and how to get snuggles, comfort, and even grooming. If your dog likes to spend time alone, respect their choice.

  • If you have a small dog, be aware of whether and when they like to be picked up.

  • Give your dog space when they're eating or enjoying a chewie/bone. Many dogs prefer not to be bothered when eating.

Giving dogs more agency over their daily lives helps our dogs feel comfortable and confident in their homes, and leads to a better human-canine relationship. What kinds of decisions does your dog make every day?

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