Let’s face it, life is challenging. The endless juggling of work, family, community, and responsibilities towards our dogs, can leave many of us spent. The politics and economics of our time are at best anxiety-provoking and can test the most optimistic amongst us.
In all this, we have an obligation towards ourselves first, knowing that unless we’re well looked after, we can’t fulfill our responsibilities. We can’t develop the resilience to take on the stresses of our time and the demands of a life well lived.
Writing my book alongside my many other responsibilities has been both rewarding and demanding, leaving me with little energy for the dogs who are the very inspiration for this book. Sometimes, I’ve had to force myself to prioritize myself, knowing it was to their benefit. Still, there are many ways to relax and involve the dogs. Here are 10 self-care tips, which your dog can also take part in, enjoy, and benefit from!
- Take a Bubble Bath: Deep clean your tub, take out that fancy bath bomb, and draw yourself a warm bath. Bring your dog in and close the bathroom door. Involve your dog in the experience by allowing him to smell the salts, watch the bath bomb fizzle in the water, and hang out with you while you both relax.
- Take an Earth Bath: A bath of an entirely different kind is the “earth bath,” in which direct skin contact with the earth heals us physically and psychologically. Lie down on the ground with your dog at your side and absorb the earth’s healing power, as you watch the sky, clouds, sun, and stars together.
- Take a One-Song Break: Working from home doesn’t change the fact that we’re also working crazy hours. One way to break the monotony for both you and your dogs who are watching and waiting, is to get up regularly and take a one-song break with your dog, during which you can sing or dance.
- Diffuse Essential Oils: Diffuse essential oils around the house, using different herbs or blends depending on the need or season. During the holidays, I have a woodsy blend I love (Woodland Walk, by Now Essential Oils). If I can enjoy the scents from the diffuser, I can only imagine what the dogs must be smelling!
- Play Music: Lately, I’ve been conscious of playing more music, instead of just podcasts or audiobooks – music like classical, jazz, soft rock, or instrumentals that I and the dogs can enjoy. It’s fascinating to see how their bodies and moods respond.
- Take a Nap: When things get a little hectic and we’ve accumulated a few nights with less-than-optimal sleep, a power nap of a few minutes to an hour can feel very restorative, especially with one of our dogs snuggled next to us.
- Follow a Guided Meditation: Meditation is the last thing that needs to be complicated. Find a comfortable position with your dog next to you, close your eyes, bring your attention to your breathing, and feel your dog join you in the meditation.
- Read Feel-Good Literature Aloud: Pick a light story, a motivational book, or some poetry. Find a comfortable spot, bring your dog next to you, and read aloud to yourself and to your dog. Reading aloud helps you focus on what you’re reading while having a soothing effect on your dog.
- Whip Up Something Tasty: Whether baking holiday cookies or preparing your signature stew, appreciate being around food and preparing a meal. Bring your dog into your kitchen with its mat, block off the space, and enjoy this activity together, letting your dog smell and taste your ingredients and watch you work.
- Make a List of Your and Your Dogs’ 20 Best Qualities: Grab a pen and notepad and find a comfortable seat with your dog next to you. First, write down 20 positive things about you, including your best qualities and accomplishments. Now do the same for each one of your dogs.
Let’s make this holiday season and new year a time for radical self-care, remembering that we can only be there for others if we’re there for ourselves. Love of self, others, and life means prioritizing self-care.
September 24, 2022
Before Socialization: Learning to Be Alone
Two years of pandemic lockdowns have caused many to speculate about the impact on dogs, with concerns that many will suffer from separation anxiety upon the great return to the office. This is just one of many good reasons why it’s essential for dogs to learn to be alone. Yet, we talk a lot about socializing our dogs and little about how important it is for them to be comfortable by themselves.
Let me start by recognizing that leaving dogs alone for extended periods isn’t only a question of rearing or training, but also an ethical issue. Prior to the pandemic, many of us worked long hours at the office, with our dogs at home alone. Many of us couldn’t have dogs because of excessively long hours away from home, as shown by how many adopted animals when the lockdowns happened.
With that said, the capacity to be alone is one of those traits we work to cultivate in our dogs. At Way of Life™, we don’t train for skill, but rear for character. In this case, we work to create a level of self-esteem that makes the dog okay being alone. Successful “solo time” needs to precede their accessing more time with us.
Ways of giving dogs alone time include:
- In a crate indoors
- Behind a baby gate in a separate room
- On a safe balcony
- In a kennel outdoors
- Loose in a fenced-in backyard
- Loose in the house and being ignored
- On a leash in a quiet outdoor area and being ignored
Simply “tuning out” the dogs – leaving them be, not talking to them, minding them, or looking at them – and instead, being engaged in whatever it is we’re doing is another form of “alone” time.
There could be resistance to being alone, whether inside or outside. This can take various forms of seeking attention, such as scratching at doors and gates, barking, whining, or being quietly glued to the door. I ignore all these behaviors and relish seeing dogs grow in confidence and come to appreciate being on their own.