Life is really an ongoing set of evaluations and negotiations affecting those that are part of our lives, be it a child, friend, parent, and even our pets.
If reaching a consensus where all parties get something they want or need is difficult, imagine when there is one silent partner “sitting at the negotiation table.”
That silent individual is often our pet! Many times we make decisions that are convenient for us, sometimes, they might be necessary, but either way, they affect our pets negatively. Okay, sure, life is anything but perfect, but still don’t we owe the same consideration to our “silent” partner the way that we would for a family member? Or a beloved friend? When making changes to routines, lifestyles, and the like?
In my professional work, I interact with lots and lots of different clients in a myriad of different situations. I see at times how the client’s needs clash with the needs of their dog. I think that sometimes this happens just because clients are not professional dog people who might not know how to solve a given situation. They might not be able to come up with a solution that satisfies the situation in a way that both parties win. The good news is that many times, I see my client’s face light up when an idea that I produce seems to fit the bill. So it is not that people are selfish (some of the time at least) 🙂 but finding solutions where everyone wins is not always easy.
So the pressing question is: How can we make sure that when we need to solve a problem or make changes in our lives, those changes support also the day-to-day needs of our dog(s)?
I strongly believe that education about who dogs truly are is really at the core of answering the above question. In my view, the only way that we can even have a chance in taking their doggy needs into consideration.
Here are some examples of a situation where I see people’s needs not always matching the well-being of the dog:
Long hours at work… dog is taken to daycare every day for the whole day! Can you even imagine how taxing this is for many dogs? While some dog & dog interaction is really good for most dogs, the daycare solution as a way of life, is for most dogs, really not that good. This excess of over-stimulation can really wreak havoc on the nervous system of the dog.
Finding the “happy-spot” of mental and physical stimulation for our dog is really an exercise in close observation. Dogs, just like people, are individuals and so are their needs for social interaction. Some like a lot of it and some don’t. The same goes for dog parks. I have known of dog owners that continue to take their dog to the dog park even when their dog is clearly afraid of interacting with dogs because they enjoy the social interaction they get with other dog owners.
One solution would be to mix and match the day-to-day activities of our dogs when long hours at work demand that they stay alone – basically in boredom or long hours of social isolation. The idea would be that the dog is taken to a reputable daycare (if he enjoys the company of dogs) once or twice a week on short days at work for us. The rest of the week, again a reputable dog walker can come by and give the dog some at-home play or go for a walk. Also, leaving behind an interactive food toy will help almost any dog pass the longs hours with at least something interesting to do.
What about on-leash walks?
For the most part, these barely scratch the surface of the daily physical as well as mental stimulation our dogs need! There is nothing wrong with this activity either but there must be some thought as to the real benefit our dog is getting:
Does your dog enjoy the activity? If so, how do you know? What can you observe that tells you your pal really looks forward to it?
Once on the walk, does your dog get ample opportunity to engage in the environment in the form of sniffing, peeing, etc?
Is your dog constantly being jerked around on the collar because he never learned not to pull on the leash? Can you imagine being taken out on a “date” and receiving this kind of treatment? Yes, your dog is the one that is doing the pulling one can argue, but in all fairness, can we take the time and effort to teach him how not to do so, this way both parties can really enjoy the walk?
Perhaps you LOVE dressing your dog in “cute” outfits enhanced with a matching hair-bow and nail polish. Again, perhaps there is some benefit for this outlet. It means that the dog is being handled when the outfits are being put off and on – same for the hair-bow and this could be enjoyable for both parties. Nonetheless, we need to make sure the dog is comfortable with the handling which means that the pup was taught that handling feels good.
When you leave town on vacation is your dog also having a good time because you have made sure that whoever is in his care really is doing a good job and nothing less than you do for your dog on a regular basis instead of just looking at the expense of the sitter? Yes, pets are expensive and that should be considered before acquiring one.
Sometimes, of course, we need to do “things” to our pets that don’t feel good, and yet they are still necessary. Say a visit to the veterinarian for some blood work, or remaining immobile because of an injury, however, the issue is hardly avoiding all “bad things” for our dogs as this is impossible. Yet we can still slow the decision process enough that we take into consideration how our decisions will affect our dog. True, this requires honesty and even generosity because, at times, the best solution for our dog might not be the first thing that comes to our minds or the cheapest, easiest, etc.
Once a friend asked me who my client was: The person? Or the dog? The answer is that the client is the one who writes the check- and so far, no dog has done so. However, even though the person is always the client, my professional ethic requires that I advocate for all the dogs that I work with and frankly I think of this duty as an honor. As I see it, my job is enriched just by the opportunity I’ve been given to speak on behalf of the dog. What a privilege this is!