How to Create Quality Pet Time, Even if You’re Crazy Busy
By Dr. Karen Becker
In case you hadn’t noticed (and how could you not?), you are the center of your dog’s universe. You are the sun, the moon and the stars to your canine companion. Given their lifelong devotion to us, we often wonder how we can ever repay our dogs for their unconditional love — especially when, in terms of time and energy, we’re already stretched to the limit.
Most of us have experienced periods in life when the days, weeks, or even months are just one long, busy blur of work and other commitments. Eventually it occurs to us that we haven’t been paying much attention to our precious furry companion, and yet there he sits — accepting, patient, and ever hopeful.
Unlike a cat who tends to get right up in your face (literally!) when she wants some attention, your dog is more likely to lie quietly at your feet when he can see that you’re busy, or simply sit and wait till you acknowledge him. And let’s face it — there are few things more guilt-inducing than realizing you’ve been ignoring the one friend in your life who would happily follow you off a cliff.
The good news is you don’t need to carve huge chunks of time out of your already overscheduled day to give your dog the undivided attention he needs and deserves. Instead, consider making a few minor adjustments to your usual routine that allow you to include him. With a little imagination, you may be surprised how much quality time you can spend doing things with him that let him know he’s the best dog in the whole wide world.
12 Inventive Ways to Improve Your Dog’s Life in a Hurry
1. Greet the day together — Try waking up 5 or 10 minutes early each morning to cuddle or play with your dog before you get out of bed. Most dogs are wildly happy in the morning and getting a few minutes of cuddle time with you will get your pup’s day off to a delightful start.
2. Be present — This is really just about remaining aware of your dog’s presence and observing his actions, behaviors, and emotions. Your pup is always communicating with you, and he feels loved when he knows you’re tuned into him. When you have two minutes to focus on your pup, really focus.
3. Include her in daily rituals at home — No matter what you’re doing around the house, try to make your dog a part of it. Talk to her in soothing tones as she follows you around or plays with a favorite toy while you get ready for work. Invite her to sit on your lap or lie at your feet while you work, read or watch TV.
4. Take 5-minute play breaks — Look for opportunities to play a quick game of tug while you’re doing chores or getting ready for work. Play hide-and-seek with your dog while you’re doing housework. Roll a ball down the stairs and have him retrieve it. When you bring home a new toy, make it extra-special by spending a few minutes playing with it with your dog.
5. Break out the brush — Many dogs really love to have their coats gently brushed. Be sure to avoid the face and go easy on the tail and the tender skin across the belly.
6. Make like a masseuse — Try spending 30 to 60 seconds gently stroking and massaging alternating areas of your dog’s body, avoiding the paws, tail, and backside. You’ll know he’s digging it when his body relaxes and his eyes close.
7. Do 5-minute training sessions — This is a great way to reinforce or refresh your dog’s obedience or trick training and provide her with mental stimulation as well. It’s also an opportunity for you to give her praise, affection, and a few yummy treats.
8. Take speed walks — Dogs absolutely love walks, so even if you only have 5 or 10 minutes to spare, the more often you can take your dog out for a walk, the better. Of course, when you have more time, it’s important to take longer walks to allow him to sniff, pick up his pee-mail, and do some exploring.
9. Take him along — Whenever possible bring your dog with you — to work, when you’re running errands, on road trips, and in any situation where he’ll be safe and welcome. This will not only strengthen the bond you share, it’s also an excellent way to maintain your dog’s socialization skills.
10. Minimize her time alone — Even the easiest going, non-destructive dog will feel isolated if she’s left alone for long stretches several days a week (not to mention she needs the opportunity to relieve herself). If you can’t get home to walk and play with her for a few minutes during the day, I recommend enlisting a friend or neighbor to do it. Another option is to hire a dog walker or consider a few days a week at doggy daycare.
11. Exercise together — If you can’t make the time every day to get your own workout in, much less exercise your dog, consider becoming workout partners. Dogs today don’t get nearly the exercise they need, and like us, they require an incentive to be physically active.
The best way to make sure your dog gets moving is to provide her with the companionship and motivation she needs to stay active. Healthy dogs should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes or an hour is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three.
12. Beat back boredom — Most dogs have a strong “work mentality,” but in today’s world, we don’t give them fun and engaging “jobs” to do. Boredom is especially a problem for dogs left alone for long periods of time (which as I mentioned earlier, isn’t recommended). Bored dogs can develop annoying or destructive behaviors, for example, gnawing on furniture or chewing holes in carpet.
The very best hedge against boredom is lots and lots of exercise. Dogs who are well-exercised every day typically don’t get bored. Some great activities to consider doing with your dog include hiking, jogging, swimming and fetching a ball or playing Frisbee. Obedience training, nose work and interactive toys are excellent ways to keep your dog challenged and mentally sharp.
Improving your dog’s quality of life today can pay both immediate and future dividends in terms of his health and well-being. As an added bonus, you can shed those feelings of guilt that you aren’t doing enough for your furry best friend.