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The Comfort of Dogs

As I write this, it’s a cold (9 F and dropping!) Minnesota Sunday evening. The fireplace is roaring, the furnace chugging away and my dogs, as ever, are here with me. I just gave Sonagh a good belly rub and she’s gone to join Sadie on the dog bed by the door. We have two dog beds, but more often than not, I find them curled up together on one.

As I watch them snuggle together I’m reminded once again of the comfort my dogs bring me everyday. The big head resting on my lap just wanting to be close. No other reason. Sadie sleeping behind my chair everyday in my office as I work. The simple act of patting a head or scratching an ear as I pass by during my day. All give me a sense of peace and comfort that’s hard to put into words. When they bark at unseen things, I know I’m safe and well protected. I sleep a deeper and more restful sleep knowing my fierce (LOL!) protector dogs are always on the job. Only my husband and I know how sweet they are; would be burglars don’t.

With all the comfort my dogs bring me, it begs the question “Am I making THEM comfortable?”

What do dogs need to be comfortable? In truth, not a lot compared to what we humans feel we need. But, what they need more than anything else may surprise you; they need a leader. They need you to be the pack leader so they don’t have to be. Just the simple act of taking leadership (okay, it’s not always simple, but well worth the effort!) gives your dog psychological comfort.

And here’s why. Dogs are pack animals and happiest as a member of a pack led by a strong leader – you! With you as their pack leader, all other comforts become secondary. I highly recommend reading Jan Fennell’s book ‘The Dog Listener’ and Cesar Milan’s book ‘Cesar’s Way’. Both help you understand how dogs think, why they need you as their pack leader and, most importantly, how to become the pack leader.
I particularly like Jan Fennell’s methodology. I’ve used her methods and the change in our dogs has been remarkable!

Okay, so what else does your dog need to be comfortable?

To start with, a good balanced diet and plenty of clean water are essential for a healthy, long-lived dog. Now having said that, beware of grocery store brand dog foods. Take the time to research the food you’re giving your dog, because you wouldn’t believe the disgusting things put into dog food and how harmful it is, short and long term, to your dog.

Next is exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog. Take the time to walk your dog. And, by all means, take the time to play. We have been known to throw stuffed toys down the hall for a rigorous game of indoor fetch. (Like I said earlier, I live in Minnesota. We don’t play outside very much in the winter; too darn cold!) You can also exercise your dog’s mind by playing a game of ‘Hide the Toy’. Tell your dog to ‘Stay’, leave the room with their favorite toy and hide it somewhere in the house. Then release them to go find the toy.

Let’s not forget training is critical. Make sure you’re consistent in your commands and actions. Because a dog that knows what’s expected of them is a happy and contented one.

Okay, now where is your dog sleeping? Their bed should be away from drafts and preferably tucked into a quiet corner where they can observe the goings on of the family. Now if the best place for the bed happens to be in a drafty area (like the dog bed I have by the sliding glass door) make sure it has some sort of bolster to protect your dog from cold drafts. The same is true if your dog sleeps in a kennel. Once they’re past puppyhood, a cozy mat in the bottom of the kennel and away from drafts makes winter sleeping a whole lot more comfortable. In the summer, make sure your dog’s sleeping area is cool, well ventilated and comfortable.

Yes, the list really is that short. Ours is a quiet (most of the time!) symbiotic relationship. I provide leadership, food and shelter; they provide safety and affection. I believe I have the better side of that bargain.

Though not always the most memorable, some of the best moments in life can be found in the quiet companionship and comfort of one’s dog. I wish you the comfort only a dog can give.

About the Author: Edie MacKenzie is the author of The Definitive Guide to Labradoodles. You can learn more about this ebook at:

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