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Treat Yo Self: The Dog Edition

Yesterday we took our dog Birdie for a long walk. We left Boogie at home.

We did this because Birdie is easy to walk and Boogie can sometimes be a challenge. So we played ball with Boogie in the yard, to exercise him and make him happy, then we roped up the Bird and headed out for a stroll around town.

We encountered a loose dog, a pissed off dog that was tied up in front of his house and barking expletives at us, a gang of off leash kids running to church (Easter morning), and a million other things that would have been a challenge if we had been with Boogie.

We would have had to manage him around the kids, because that would have scared him, the off leash dogs would have forced us to do u-turns, and the cursing pooch would have required some finesse to pass without a return F-bomb from Boogie. A lot of work.

But he was at home and we had Birdie instead. Birdie is not phased by much of anything, so neither were we. It was…relaxing.

Every single dog I walk is reactive. All day, every day, I’m on guard while I dog walk. So once in a while, I like to take a walk with Birdie and try to remember what it’s like to walk a non-reactive dog. Whenever I do, I’m always struck by how incredibly easy it is!

It also helps me to understand the “others” – you know – the MDIFs. Some of them really have NO idea what we’re dealing with – and that’s why they never really get why we’re running in the ocean to escape their dogs.

But that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because I want to tell you that it’s totally ok to leave your dog at home sometimes. It’s ok to take your easy dog for a walk or to the pet store or to the strip club and leave your more challenging dog at home some times.

Look, we all need a break. Working with our dogs can be really exhausting, sometimes scary (if you encounter a lot of loose dogs), and can suck all the fun out of having a dog. So it’s cool to take a day off, you feel me?

I used to feel bad about doing this. It always had to be both dogs or nothing. But then I got over it and I’m way happier. Judging by some of your emails and Facebook comments, a lot of you feel really guilty about doing this sort of thing.

So, if it helps, I hereby declare: It’s ok to Treat. Yo. Self.


Choosing to go for an easy, relaxing walk with your other dog or leaving both dogs at home, so you can take your time browsing for that perfect cable knit sweater at the dog boutique or whatever it is that you want to do and not be stressed – doing those things doesn’t make you a bad dog owner.

Want to know a secret? Your dogs told me they sleep the whole time you’re out sneaking around behind their backs. Mostly, they’re sniffing for crumbs, napping, licking their paws and leaving wet spots on your side of the couch, and napping.  They are not writing in their journals about how abandoned or rejected they feel when you leave them behind. Promise.

Seriously, your dogs love you. They’re really psyched that you love them so much. They really appreciate the food and soft bed and fun toys and the training you’ve been doing with them. They think you’re the bees knees, even when you’re picking up another dog’s poop. And they really want you to be happy. Happy people keep their dogs.

You guys are working hard. Really hard. Please don’t feel guilty or naughty for taking a break.

So go on and Treat. Yo. Self.

Look, even the kids at Parks and Recreation have your back:

  1. Sonia Marfatia-Goode #

    Thank you so much for posting this. My fearful dog Emmy is my first dog, and I’ve had to work so hard with her. And a lot of times, I think it’s not enough, and I always worry that she’s not happy or that she could be happier. We go on walks, but everything stresses her out at different times, kids, cars, anything unexpected. When we have a great walk, I’m ecstatic, but when we have a bad walk, it gets me down. It’s been 8 months since I’ve had her, and I think she’s come a long long way, but I always feel like I could be doing more to help her, to overcome her fear. My husband is the voice of reason, he reminds me that she is how she is and may never be that socially confident happy go lucky dog with strangers. We provide a good life for her, and you can see her happiness when we play in the backyard or set up doggy play dates with our friends and their dogs. So while I try to remind myself of this, I tend to beat myself up as well. This post really helped remind me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Thank you.

    April 9, 2012
    • I’m glad to hear that. You’re doing great Sonia – seriously. Emmy is really lucky to have you as her family.

      There’s no finish line to this, so giving yourself a break sometimes or finding less stressful ways to exercise her (like playing ball in the yard – my personal fave) really is ok. And if she has a bad walk, that doesn’t mean she’s a bad dog or your a bad owner. It’s just the ebb and flow.

      Give your husband a high five from me – he’s a smarty : )

      April 9, 2012
  2. This is very timely for me. Since I adopted Bertie Sue, a generally friendly, non-reactive dog, about 6 weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about taking her on some walks by herself. I don’t think she much enjoys walking with Brew because of his stop-lunge-bark-go pace. She seems to get discouraged about halfway through the walk. Plus it’s a challenge to manage both dogs at once, and I’ve actually been avoiding walks rather than taking them both at the same time. So I’ve been thinking about taking the dogs separately on alternating days. But the guilt! Oh, the GUILT! Will the one who gets left behind think I like the other one better? Will the one at home be bitter? Will he or she pee in my shoes?! Thanks for the reminder that happy people make for happy dogs. 🙂

    April 9, 2012
    • Boogie has a message to Brewster:

      Hey Little B,

      I like to look real sad when my mom takes Birdie out and leaves me at home, but guess what I do when I’m all alone? I read trashy magazines and watch reality tv until I fall asleep. It’s my “me” time.

      But don’t tell my mom I’m happy at home, because that guilt-trip thing humans do to themselves gets me a ton of extra ball time in the yard and butt scritches under the covers. I won’t tell if you won’t.

      Signing off,
      The Bigger B

      p.s. alternating walks sounds like a good plan ; )

      April 9, 2012
  3. Great post – we all need to be reminded to be kind to ourselves as well as our DINOS. I regularly take my DINOS out separately from my easy dog these days – though it brings its own challenges (both have separation issues from each other though not if left together). But it is worth it for both dogs – my DINOS gets my undivided attention – much more opportunity to train and a calmer me, my easy dog gets to play with other dogs, meet people and have his own time with me. And I am a lot calmer and get to remember that having dogs really is a lot of fun!

    April 9, 2012
  4. I know where you are coming from…….recently I had to leave Chevy at home alone because our old dog was now in a doggie cart, so it was so much easier to deal with Cole on his own. He was a happy dog (if anything he was a MDIF! – tricky with a Rotty!) loved to hear and see other dogs, nothing phased him, even when he had to master the cart. I usually took them together because Cole gave Chevy a little bit of confidence.
    Now sadly, just last week, after a very sudden illness I had to have Cole euthanased, Chevy is lost without his big brother to help him on his walks. Now I have to devise new stratagies – I have found walking Chevy in the “dark” works best with him, he is far more relaxed than in daylight hours – I suspect it is because he has poor eyesight so cant “scan” his surroundings so much (a bit like an ostrich- cant see at all so its not a problem) and usually dogs in yards are sleeping or inside so they are not scaring him.

    April 9, 2012
    • I’m so sorry for your loss Gillian. It sounds like Cole was a very special dog and lived a joyful life! I hope you and Chevy both find your way together. Big hugs to you both.

      April 9, 2012
  5. Rebecca #

    Our previous beloved German Shepherd Dutch, I always had to watch. She was a DINOS and was fantastic right up until she signalled she wasn’t going to be and I needed to step in and do whatever the situation required to keep everybody happy – lest she “fix” things herself. I always had to pay attention. It was sometimes exhausting. I still miss that big ol’ girl.

    Fast forward to our current German Shepherd Anja. A difference of night and day. Little Miss I love everydog. “They’re all here to play with me, right?!” I have been surprised at how fast I turned into a MDIF when I didn’t have to be so aware of her surroundings.

    Of course, then I found this website. Now I keep my irresponsible impulses in check. It’s what Dutch would have wanted.

    April 10, 2012
    • I have no doubt Dutch is getting a kick out of you with your new uber social dog. It’s probably her gift to you for having worked so hard on her behalf all that time ; )

      April 10, 2012
  6. Nicole #

    Wonderful post. Just had a visit with our board certified veterinary behaviorist, and she said very much the same thing. You also have to factor in the stress on your reactive dog. Many reactive dogs actually do better when they DON’T get walked every day. They need recovery time.

    April 13, 2012

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