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Knowing your companion

Doing what's best for your animal companion can be tricky. As humans, we expect our animals to behave as all others of the same species do. Often I hear people saying, "he doesn't act like other dogs", or "she isn't as snuggly as others". Well, simply put, they are not like others. They are individuals. Yes, there will be similar traits for each species, but each individual has their own personality with likes and dislikes.

The best way to do what's best for your companion is to understand their personality and appreciate them for who they are. Some companions may need more physical activity than others. Some may prefer a more leisurely lifestyle. One thing is consistent, however. They all want to be loved and accepted for who they are.

Spending time with your companion every day is important. We tend to get caught up with our to-do list and brush past them with a quick hello without really spending time with them. I would ask that everyone who has a companion evaluate how they spend their time. Do you watch TV for at least 10 minutes? Do you read a book or newspaper for 10 minutes? Do you play games on your phone or chat with a friend for 10 minutes? If the answer is yes to at least one of these questions, and there are more i am sure, then you have at least 10 minutes to spend with your companion. So, what can you do in 10 minutes?

Sit facing your companion in eye to eye contact. Touch them if they let you. Talk to them as you would a good friend. Ask them how they are feeling or how they spent their time. Even if you don't hear a response, know that your companion hears YOU, and that is enough for them to feel validated and included. Play with them for a few minutes and watch how their excitement grows.

We love our companions, and want them to be happy. If your companion is laying around looking "depressed", the truth is, they are probably feeling bored and left-out. Include them in conversations. Meaning, even if you are alone with them, talk to them. Engage with them.

I also caution toting them around with you to places that may not be suitable. That's not time well spent. Your intentions may be good, but does your companion enjoy it? I know of a couple who brings their companion with them to establishments that have live music. I'm sure they feel they are spending time and including their companion. But, the dog is miserable. He doesn't like the loud music, the loudness of voices talking, the "busy" feeling of the place. For him, it is sensory overload and it makes him anxious. Because they are not home, the dog has no where to go and hide to help himself feel better. He is stuck there waiting for his humans to leave.

Honoring your companion with love, time, and species appropriate activities is the best way to make your friend feel happy, loved, and respected.

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