How to spoil your pet

Dog Hug

As loving pet owners, we shower our furry friends with affection and attention all year round. And Valentine’s Day is just as much an excuse to make an extra special effort for your pet, as it is for your partner - whether it’s a fun day out, a new toy, dishing up their favourite food or sparing time for snuggles on the sofa.

The grain-free pet food experts at Canagan share their top tips for treating your pet and how best to communicate so they feel the ‘puppy love’ (or like the ‘cat who got the cream’!)

Give them extra cuddles

Just like us, our pets want to feel loved. Human touch can have therapeutic effects if they’re feeling out of sorts. The lovely news is, stroking a pet is good for us too; our bodies release a relaxation hormone, helping to combat stress and lower blood pressure.

It can be difficult to devote time to your pet around a busy working lifestyle but try to set aside an evening so you can spend quality bonding time together. Relax on the sofa together until you fall asleep, or enjoy playtime, interspersed with scratches behind the ear and tummy rubs. Your body language and upbeat tone of voice can really make your pet feel special.

Treat them to a new toy

Gifting a fun new toy to your pet can brighten their day and provide hours of entertainment. Playing together will strengthen your bond and make you smile too.

Whether they’re chasing the toy along the ground or racing up a new cat tree, the exercise will keep them fit and eliminate excess energy. A squeaky or wiggling toy that they bite or grasp will also satisfy their animal instincts, stimulate their minds and promote good dental hygiene. So, the benefits go beyond fun!

Don’t worry, there’s no need to invest in expensive toys - a cardboard box or blowing bubbles will be just as appreciated. Pets also love a game of ‘hide and seek’ which doesn’t come with a price tag - if your pet is trained to ‘stay’ and ‘come’ when you call them, this will keep them entertained.

Go on a long walk

Dog owners will know how shouting “walkies” can excite a pup. Dogs are instinctively wired to go out and forage for food, and are not by nature, solitary creatures. So, the thrill of exploring the outdoors by their favourite human’s side, sniffing out new smells and meeting four-legged friends, is incomparable. Better yet, Canagan research has also proven that exercising with a dog can boost your own mood.

Of course, cats love the great outdoors too. They may appreciate a jaunt around the garden and finding a few trees to scale in the neighbour’s gardens.

There are so many beautiful spots across the UK, from cities to woodland and beaches, so mix up your usual walking route. For real quality time, why not go on a staycation with your pet? There are plenty of cat and dog-friendly hotels and pubs to try!

Go on a 'doggy date' or find a 'cat community'

Dogs are naturally pack animals, so rely on interaction for entertainment and development. If a friend or neighbour has a pooch, why not suggest a meet-up? A walk around your local area, followed by a stop at the pub, will prove enjoyable all round.

Equally, if your cat enjoys interacting with other felines, arrange a get-together with a fellow owner - you could host or suggest somewhere new, so long as both pets feel comfortable.

There’s recently been an exciting rise in community dog walks and even dog cafes! These give your canine the chance to socialise with different breeds and characters, while you chat to like-minded animal lovers. MeetUp lets you find walking groups in your area, while the Pup Up Cafe travels around the UK hosting parties for pets - complete with tasty ‘puppuccinos’. Their Frenchie pop-up café will arrive in Sheffield during the month of love on the 2nd February, followed by a dachshund pop-up on Sunday 23rd February.

Find a fun february event

Good news, dog lovers. There are lovely events taking place across the UK through Valentine’s month for you and your pup to enjoy:

  • Bark In The Park - Saturday 22nd February in Leeds: Walk through Temple Newsam on a route of either one, three or six miles, to raise funds for St Gemma’s Hospice. Your pup can have a go at agility courses and Flyball - a sport where dogs race against each other over a line of hurdles.
  • Dog Yoga - 16th February in London: Unwind with your pup at dog yoga, or ‘doga’ - the practise is said to strengthen the bond you share. Don’t be disheartened if their ‘downward dog’ is better than yours, though!
  • Run Your Paws Off: Love Your Dog - Sunday 26th February in Upton, Peterborough: Run 5k or 10k with your four-legged friend in this off-road, cross country style challenge
  • Dog-friendly screening of ‘David Copperfield’ - Sunday 9th February in Kensington, London: Sit back and enjoy this film of a Dickens classic, starring Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton

Listen to music or a pet podcast

Did you know that dogs and cats respond to TV, music and even podcasts? Nearly three-quarters (71%) of us play music to our pets, believing it relieves stress, boosts happiness and keeps them company. Indeed, one study found that playing classical music to dogs resulted in more time spent sleeping - and may help you drift off too.1 It’s even been proven that dogs’ favourite genres are reggae and soft rock!2

Cats are a little more particular; they like music that’s in the frequency range and with similar tempos, to those used in natural communication by their species.3 It’s no wonder that Spotify has set up a special portal where pet owners can create playlists for their furry friends and even podcasts. There are countless relaxing videos on YouTube too.

Turn on the TV

‘Petflix and chill’, anyone? You may notice that your pet engages with the TV, jumping off the sofa or growing fidgety. Studies show that dogs especially react to other dogs on screen.4 Initially it’s the sound that attracts them, especially if it’s familiar noises like barking, squeaks or people speaking in a certain tone.

Canine TV channel, DogTV, has launched and broadcasts in blue and yellow; reason being that dogs have ‘dichromatic vision’ so only sees colour within these two spectrums. Don’t worry if your pup watches TV alongside you, though; while their eyes are more sensitive to movement, high-definition television now is far better than it once was. In fact, Amazon Prime offers TV shows made especially for cats and dogs.

After all, cats may relish the ‘real life soap opera’ happening in your back garden but can equally be mesmerised by TV. A study has found that programmes popular with cats, depicted birds, rodents and fish - natural prey for felines. A cat with a high prey drive may therefore be attracted to quick movements across the screen, just ensure you have a toy close by in case they want to experience the chase in real life!

Whip up their favourite meal or a treat

It’s no secret that dogs and cats love food. Why not treat your pooch this Valentine’s Day with a delicious meal like venison and wild boar stew? Your cat may also lick their lips over tuna with crab. Be mindful to keep treats pet-friendly, as many of our favourite foods can be toxic to our four-legged friends.

Your pet sees you as their valentine every day, showing you unconditional love in so many ways. They don’t need red roses or fancy restaurants. They deserve so much more but, to them, just a little love goes a long way.

References

  1. Behavioural effects of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs, 2012: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787811001845
  2. Scottish SPCA and the University of Glasgow, 2017: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-38757761
  3. University of Wisconsin, Madison and the University of Maryland, 2015: https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-create-the-perfect-music-for-cats-purr
  4. Here’s what dogs see when they watch the television: https://theconversation.com/heres-what-dogs-see-when-they-watch-television-65000