Monday, December 27, 2010

Don't Forget Fido!

The next few posts will be things that I've written in the past and can never find on my computer when I need them. So here they are!

This list was compiled while I was confined to bed rest at the end of my first pregnancy.
My poor dog Cousteau didn’t know what to make of his mom not getting off the couch or
out of bed. I had been his primary source of fun and mental stimulation and now I wasn’t
much of anything. And, since the baby was due within a matter of weeks, I knew that
things weren’t going to get any more exciting for Cousteau in the near future. Here are
some things I did (or wished I did) to make sure my dog knew that he was still a part of
this family. Keep these things in mind whether you are expecting a new addition to your
family, you are temporarily out of commission, life takes a hectic turn for awhile, or any
reason you find yourself with less time than you’re used to.

1.) Review what your dog already knows. Not only does this remind your dog that the old
rules still apply in a new situation, but quick drills exercise your dog’s mind and can help
him relax. Don’t worry about trying to find a 30 minute chunk of time – taking a minute
or two here and there as you go about your day is just as effective. So, use that down time
while you’re waiting for coffee to brew, as your computer boots up, something cooks in
the microwave, on your way to the mailbox, or even in the bathroom to spend some
quality time with your dog.

2.) Teach your dog a new trick. Things like turning in a circle, offering a paw, rolling
over, crawling, etc. are relatively easy to teach in short training sessions of a few minutes
here and there. They are also relatively low pressure to teach and are just plain fun!

3.) Use modern technology to make your life easier. There are many devices on the
market that allow you to launch a tennis ball a great distance with very little effort on
your part. My favorite is the Chuck It which works wonders for taking the edge off of a
ball crazy dog. A Chuck It, a lawn chair (for you) and 10 minutes before or after work
may not completely exhaust your dog, but it can help. Or if it’s dark when you have time
to spend time with your dog, there are a number of glow in the dark balls on the market.

4.) Investigate the possibility of a dog walker or doggie day care. Most dogs really
benefit from the care of experienced professionals in these services. You benefit from a
dog that has had physical and mental exercise as well as companionship for a portion of
the day.

5.) Enlist the help of trusted relatives, neighbors, or friends. Asking someone to take your
dog with them on their daily walk, with their dog to the dog park, for an overnight visit,
or to come over and play fetch with your dog can really give you and your dog a break. If
you don’t have anyone like that near you, there is no shame in checking your dog into a
kennel for a night to give you a bit of a rest. Some kennels are more like summer camps
with lots of activities and play for your dog – she probably won’t even know you’re

6.) Enroll in a class. Most classes are only 45-60 minutes a week – not so much time in
the grand scheme of things. If your dog’s obedience is already pretty good consider
trying something new like Rally, agility, flyball, tricks and games, canine musical
freestyle, or a therapy dog class. Even if you never compete, it can be fun to learn new
things with your dog. Shuffling your schedule to make time can be difficult, but
ultimately worth it.

7.) Take a walk. We all know that 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week is beneficial
for our health. Combine a healthy activity with your dog’s quality time and you both win!
If your dog doesn’t walk nicely on a leash, consider using a product such as a Gentle
Leader, or Easy Walk harness to better manage your dog.

8.) Groom. No matter if your dog has long or short hair, grooming is an important aspect
of dog ownership. Not only can it help to reduce shedding, deal with mats, improve skin
condition, and make your dog look his best, but it is a nice way for the two of you to
bond. If your dog doesn’t currently like getting groomed, this can be the time for you to
work on associating the brush, tooth brush, or nail trimmers with good and wonderful

9.) Designate a co-pilot. If the weather is cool enough (less than 70 degrees) and your dog
likes car rides, bring her along while you run errands. A crate or special dog seat belt will
keep your canine co-pilot safe and confined in the backseat while still allowing the dog to
look out the window for a change of scenery. And it gives you someone to talk to while
discussing the heritage and intelligence of the other drivers on the road.

10.) Take five to cuddle. What could be a nicer way to start or end your day than taking
five or ten minutes to just sit quietly with your dog and cuddle? Studies have shown that
petting an animal helps us to decompress from stress and it is just as good for your dog as
it is for you. So ignore the phone, leave the email unanswered, or soak dishes in the sink
and curl up with your dog on the couch or with some floor pillows and just enjoy being
together. After all, isn’t that why we got our dogs in the first place?
©2005 Jill R. Miller – Originally posted at

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