Updated: Jan 13
I'm sure all of us that love and value our canine companions occasionally get the "bad dog owner" blues. I certainly do and yesterday was definitely one of those days for me. This was my Saturday schedule:
11AM-Noon: Puppy Class
*hastily eat lunch and get ready for work*
2PM - 9PM: Veterinary clinic
On the surface of things, that doesn't look so bad, right? I mean I was only really gone for about 8 hours. Don't forget the added hour of travel time as well. Considering I woke up at 8AM, all this really didn't leave much time for my dog.
On any normal weekend this wouldn't be so terrible of a schedule, but this was not a normal weekend. My partner was out of town so our dog's care was all on me. I took her for a walk before leaving a second time, put down pee pads just in case and opted to give her dinner at 1PM rather than make her wait until after my shift ended.
Does this sound familiar at all? All of us have obligations and our dogs are just one of them on a long list. While the majority of us are taking care of our dog's basic physical needs (shelter, food, water, veterinary care), it behooves us to consider their mental and social needs as well.
For the majority of our history, dogs would spend the day working alongside us. Some are still lucky enough to do so - Border Collies working on sheep farms and German Shepherds working in police K-9 units are a couple of examples. Most modern day dogs, however, are the equivalent of "latchkey kids."
They sit at home for 10 hours a day awaiting our return. When we do return it is often to rest and sleep (not to entertain them). This is generally the status quo except for those 2 precious days a week we call the weekend. But when the weekend comes the laundry and dishes have piled up and we're still playing catch up on the sleep we so desperately need.
So what's a dog owner in the 21st century to do (other than move to France where they have a more reasonable "work week")? Here are my suggestions:
1) Break up the day with a dog walker. This not only gives your pup the opportunity to use the bathroom, but also to get a bit of exercise and mental stimulation.
2) Feed all meals from work-to-eat toys. All dogs need a job (yes, even the little ones). Work-to-eat toys are my favorite way to engage a dog without requiring a lot of effort on the owner's part. I recommend using the Kong Wobbler.
3) Buy all the toys! Okay, maybe not all of them (unless you want to). Having a wide array of toys that you can rotate in and out will help keep your dog happy and engaged.
4) Try trick training. You can get a lot of bang for your buck with sessions that only last a couple of minutes!
5) Take your dog on a decompression walk. Don't feel obligated to go on a 3 mile walk when you're already tired from work. Instead, go out the front door and let your dog take her time sniffing as she pleases - she'll love it!
6) Try the #100daysofenrichment challenge. It's generally the first thing I do when getting home from work each day, so it makes for a great change of pace into "home time." Each challenge only takes a few minutes, and provides a boost for your dog's cognitive health.
7) Take your dog with you to run errands. If your dog loves car rides, just pop them in the back seat and off you go (be sure to use a seat belt). Seeing new sights and sounds will do them good. Remember, only do this when the weather is appropriate. Never leave your dog in a hot car in Summer!
8) If you're going out to dinner, try to find pup-friendly places. Many restaurants have outdoor seating where dogs are allowed. If you're going out for ice cream, some places even offer free "pup cups." Be sure to only bring your dog if she's comfortable out in public.
9) Get a room with a view! My dog loves to lay and look out the window. If you can provide your dog with a comfy spot to watch the world go by, give it a try!
10) Try doggie play dates. If your dog loves to play with other pups, see if there's anyone in your building or neighborhood whose dog could use a similar outlet. New friends for everyone!
I would love to hear the ways you keep your dogs happy and healthy on a day-to-day basis. Please share them in the comments below!