Sometimes I have a really good week. I structure my schedule well that week, have time on Sunday to plan my coming week and get focused on my goals, and am able to give my dogs everything that they need. Sometimes I am able to be the owner and trainer that my dogs deserve. But, I have to be brutally honest with you guys (as usual), those weeks are definitely not every week.
I have three dogs in my house now. They are three high energy dogs with big brains that need to be worked. One has behavioral issues that require a certain constant level of management, one is a super high strung adolescent, and the other is actually pretty easy in comparison but because she is easy she tends to get forgotten. When my dogs do not get what they need and deserve, our life is harder. Oliver becomes harder to move, Adelaide just screams and runs across the house at the slightest twitch that you MIGHT be moving towards a door, and Allie, if ignored long enough, starts to shred blankets.
When they get enough they are better. Don’t get me wrong, they still aren’t perfect. It’s honestly pretty impossible to give Adelaide “enough” unless we are camping and hiking, but even when we meet a minimum requirement things are better. So, what is enough?
It’s a hard question to answer and is best found by experimentation. Our experimentation is constantly ongoing as our schedules change, and so do our dogs. Our current standard minimum is that each dog gets at least one solo off leash decompression walk a week, Adelaide gets two. Oliver and Allie get 15 minutes of training 2 to 3 days a week, and Adelaide gets 30. Adelaide also gets one public outing per week. That’s the minimum. If we cannot meet that minimum then life isn’t super pleasant. Our ideal is that each dog gets two off leash decompression walks a week, each dog gets a public outing, we do one on leash group hike per week, and each dog gets training 4 to 5 days per week. We don’t manage to hit that mark very often, but it is amazing when we do. Recently we have started some experimenting with this schedule by adding in puzzle toys at feeding times and running during Adelaide’s off leash hikes.
We live with dogs at the high end of the spectrum in terms of their needs. Your dogs minimum and ideal may look nothing like this, and that’s perfectly ok! The important thing is that you know these limits. You know what your dog needs and deserves to have their ideal week, and you strive to meet those needs. You may not hit ideal very often, but at least you are trying!
Because really, that’s what it comes down to in all aspects of life. Trying to be the best version of yourself that you can. Not fitting in to a box, but maximizing your potential in the aspects of your life that are important to you. As long as you are trying and working to meet your dogs needs and give them what they deserve, then you are doing right by your dog. You are not a horrible owner if you don’t meet their ideal every week, you are not a horrible owner if you don’t even meet their minimum, as long as you are trying.
As humans we tend to get stuck in the “I suck” mindset. We fixate on the things we aren’t doing quite
right and get so bogged down in shoulda woulda couldas that we forget to celebrate what we did. Sitting in this mindset also makes it nearly impossible to step forward. Don’t spend your energy beating yourself up for what you did “wrong” today or yesterday (or last month, or last year!). Take a deep breath, remember the good things you did, think about how you can improve the things you aren’t proud of, and make a plan for tomorrow. Wake up each morning planning to do your best, instead of dwelling on what didn’t go right the day before.
If you need a pick me up, remember that you have the world's best four legged cheerleader living with you! Your dog will never stop believing in you! Neither will we. It’s one of the reasons we are so proud of our Day Training and Dog Walking services, because it enables us to help you give your dog their best week.