There seems to be a trend happening during these historic COVID times. Humans have been forced to upend their lives, which is putting pressure on everyone: emotionally, physically, and mentally. We’re all feeling the pressure in our own unique ways, and each of us needs to find our new normal to feel balance in our lives again.

Some people thought rescuing a dog or adopting a puppy would be a great answer. Someone to care for, cuddle with and to keep us company on long walks through quiet neighborhoods. Just thinking about it is calming to the soul. However, it’s rather like saying that it is a great time to have a baby or adopt a child, when you really never thought of doing so before. Yes, there’s great bliss in adding a member to the family, but every coin has two sides.  In the beginning of COVID there was a grand rush to get a dog or puppy and make our ‘stay at home worlds’ meaningful. Now there seems to be a rush to abandon those very dogs and even euthanize them for poor behaviors in the home.

We all get frustrated with our dogs – even the dog training pros. Get a puppy!!! What were we thinking? We, in fact, got TWO! A 10 month old feral male who was very sickly, and a brand new 8 week Aussie puppy who was bred to take on steers from a very early age. We’ve had them 10 months and 7 months, respectively. Are they perfect? By no means. Are they frustrating, yup, sometimes they are. Are they going to be great dogs? Absolutely, but right now they are happy go lucky idiots at times. Sometimes they bark when we would rather they didn’t.  Sometimes they race around too hard. Sometimes their joy exceeds their good sense.  Sometimes we ask “What were we thinking?”

This is what we want everyone to remember – dogs want to be great dogs; they just need our help to get there. Dogs are truly no different than we are. They need a healthy balance in life to keep them well-mannered and happy. They need a world that is more than lounging on the couch disrupted by chaotic walks around an over stimulating neighborhood. They need you to set them up for success. Your dog’s day needs to be a balance of: engagement, relaxation and recess. It’s sound advice for our dogs and for us. We all do better with structure and balance. 

Engagement means working on skills and manners, asking your dog to do lots of things, and being sure you both end on success. This builds a strong bond between you, and gives you great opportunities to connect.

Relaxation means your dog needs to know how to self-entertain and relax without requiring your presence. This helps prevent separation anxiety which is rampant during these unusual times. We highly recommend your dog is crated/or separated from you for at least 1-2 hours a day whether you’re home or not. Always working within your dog’s limitations and moving towards appropriate lengths of time. This is a valuable skill for many reasons and should be maintained for life. 

Recess means time to explore, play, race around and be a dog. We all need time to do as we please and kick up our heels. Dogs need recess to be themselves and get a little dirty. This is a very healthy outlet and helps to keep their emotions, body and mental state in balance.

Giving your dog purpose in his/her days might just help you have greater purpose in yours. Don’t forget you need your alone time, your mental workouts and physical outlets as well. Let’s get through these historical times together with our dogs by our sides.