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Dog Wellness – The Importance of Challenge

Sally Gutteridge
It’s so easy to want to meet our dogs’ needs, all of them, but how can we be sure we are not affecting their quality of life when we do?

We consider what they have to work at, and make sure everything isn’t easy for them.

All animals have evolved to need some challenges. With that in mind, a life where we don’t face challenges can leave us unfulfilled, as it can with our dogs. Dogs are domesticated, but then humans are domestic too, and we still need some way to challenge ourselves, work at something and succeed. If we don’t have challenges, we can become bored and listless – and so can our dogs.

Succeeding Through Challenge 

If we take away challenges, we take away our dogs' sense of purpose. 
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Viktor Frankl
Simple things such as having a bowl of food available can take away the opportunity for success for our dogs. We can change that easily by putting one meal a day into a challenge scenario. Dogs are scavengers by nature, and less hunters than their wild cousins, so expecting them to catch their food isn’t fair. Yet to work out a puzzle and get their meal, that actually makes their life better! 

The Challenge of Learning & Problem Solving 

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
It can be easy to say, “I don’t teach my dogs anything - we just live-in harmony” and living in harmony is a brilliant thing. Yet coaching through positive reinforcement is an easily crafted opportunity to present our dogs with a challenge. Canine coaching provides a simple learning opportunity for our dogs. Learning something new reminds them that they are capable of succeeding within which can easily boost their self-esteem and make them feel like winners.

Problem solving to a successful end is wonderfully enriching for our dogs. Admittedly most of the time it’s a good idea that they problem solve and get a reward, because it gives them something to think about and the motivation to actually tackle the problem. An example would be a bit of food in a tied-up sock. The challenge would be getting into the sock and the motivation would be the food.

Why Not Make Their Lives Easier?  

Dig deep enough in every heart and you'll find it: a longing for meaning, a quest for purpose. As surely as a child breathes, he will someday wonder, What is the purpose of my life?
Max Lucado
When we love someone, we want their life to be as easy as possible don’t we? But sometimes that can cause more problems than it solves. Setting and creating challenges will empower your dog to use different areas of their brain. To build their self-belief and to remember how capable they are. Challenge helps dogs to live more fulfilling lives, and that’s part of our role.

People in prison get a safe bed, an exercise walk and presented with regular meals. Don’t our dogs deserve so much more than that?

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