Finding time to spend with our dogs can seem to be challenging despite the fact that we love them and view them as members of our family. In my book I talk about my first Portuguese water dog who's name was Breezer. I loved Breezer. I made sure he had food and water and saw the veterinarian regularly. I describe my relationship with Breezer as one of convenience for me. When I had time for Breezer is when he and I spent time together. I was working full time and had so many priorities that Breezer always seemed to come in last on that list. Today with Jazz and Jive in my life I find myself making time for them in ways I never thought to do for Breezer. I would like to share some of the things I do in the event they may be helpful to you.
1) Intentionally making time to spend with our dogs - This may seem obvious to some pet parents and perhaps even silly to other pet parents. If we love our dogs and embrace them as members of our family it seems only natural to respect and recognize that relationship similar to other relationships in the family. We intentionally make time to be with human family members and so we also need to make time to be with our dogs. Making time for walks and other activities you do together is helpful to do every day. Make these times special events. Remember, your dog loves spending time with you. You are his/her whole world. You have friends and activities outside the family and home. You dog has you. When you are with your dog be intentional and focus on him/her. Give them your undivided attention.You will soon develop routines for times together. Every day I do not have an early meeting is a day Jazz and Jive do some nose work hides either in the house or outside. This is quite probably a highlight of their day. It only takes 5-10 minutes but they get to do it almost every day. Find something special you can do with your dog. It doesn't have to be a long time but rather frequent and enjoyable for both of you.
2) Talk to your dog - I talk to my dogs all day long now that I work out of my home and am with them much of the day. This change in my lifestyle has made significant changes in my relationship with my dogs but I truly believe if I was working out of the home, my relationship would also be of a much higher quality than it was with Breezer. When I wake up I say good morning to my dogs. I engage them in the eyes and speak to them about many things like greeting them, asking them questions, giving them direction and much more. Engaging your dog like this shows respect and includes them in your life. As brief as it is, when you speak to your dog you are giving your dog your time. Even though we speak different languages, dogs relate to the tone of our voice and through training relate behaviors to words and phrases. Talking to your dog will build your bond and you both will become more aware of what each other needs or wants. Rambling on and on to a dog may mot be very helpful for either of you. However, on occasion, my dogs have received my opinion on something related to a human experience I have had and they only look confused. I don't blame them. Dogs need us to be to the point and clear about what we say to them, but I think humans also appreciate that. ;-)
3) Make meal time special - Make meal time special. Prepare your dog's food with intention. Smile and tell them you hope they enjoy their meal. Also, reading labels on the food you feed them is important. Feeding your dog healthy fruits and vegetable and fresh protein are the most nutritional foods they can eat. Jazz and I know each other so well, he hesitated eating his food one day and I thought it was due to a medication he was on. I added a bit of rice to his food and he ate it all. I returned to feeding him meals with no rice and he hesitated at eating again telling me he really wanted the rice again. I now add only a very small amount of cooked rice to his meals and he loves it. It only takes a few minutes to make meal time a special time. If dogs will not eat the food you give them it usually means there is something wrong with the food or the dog. Dogs are smart and they know what food they like and need to eat. They need balance and variety in nutrition. This usually means we spend more time preparing their meals which is time with them.
4) Greeting your dog - When we come home our dogs greet us with joy and excitement as though we have been gone for days. That response says how much they missed us and how happy they are to see us. No matter if you have been gone for minutes or hours or days, your dog's greeting is one of joy and excitement of the highest level. Make this time special. Spend time greeting your dog. Talk to him/her. Tell them you missed them too and that you are happy to see them. My dogs calm more quickly if I engage them and talk with them. If I ignore them they work harder to get my attention. When greeting them it helps if you do so with calm. I you feed their excitement it only makes them more excited. Enjoy the greeting and each other.
5) Relaxing time together - When our day winds down and we come together as a family perhaps to watch TV or visit about our day, it is a good time to snuggle with our dogs. Dogs have a place in the family room whether it is on the furniture or on the floor. Being relaxed with our dog and petting our dog has positive health benefits for humans like lowering one's blood pressure. There is that sense of well being we feel when we are close to our dogs. A dogs love for their human parent is like no other love. It makes us feel happy and calm and most of all loved.
6) Sleeping with our dogs - About 50 percent of pet parents allow their dog to sleep in their bed with them. This is a very personal decision. Some dogs prefer being in the same room but not in the bed. Other dogs even prefer to sleep in a crate that feels safe and cozy to them. You and your dog will determine what works best for you. Night time is time together in what ever way works for you and your dog. The important thing is everyone is comfortable and safe.
7) Canine activities - If you are a pet parent who chooses to pursue a canine activity like pet assisted therapy or a canine sport, you and your dog have some wonderful together time to look forward to. Spending time together in any of these activities requires time in training and time engaged in the activity for fun or even competition. This is a wonderful way to build your bond and your relationship as a team. The benefits are huge in building a long and loving relationship together.
May your time with your dog be meaningful and respectful for you and your dog!
Woofs & Smiles!