I hope y’all are having a smooth transition into April. Spring is always bittersweet in our household.
On one hand, we get longer days and the sun starts to peak out more, but with that, comes all the pollen. And that my friends, means all the allergies. And with all the allergies, comes a suite of all new challenges.
While allergies to pollen, and the challenges that my family faces are particular to us, one thing is true for all families that care for pets:
Being a pet parent is hard.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my dogs. It can also be extremely fulfilling, and there are days when my dogs are the only thing that breaks me out of a funk, but, geez. It can be hard.
So, as I make some changes to create a sustainable routine that accommodates my needs through this time of year, I want to invite you to join me!
Look at your routine, find what challenges you, and get creative about a way to make it simpler or easier, even if it feels silly.
And since I’ve been doing this for myself, and other pet parents for years, let’s look at some small accommodations or changes that have made a big difference for me and my clients. You may find that they help you!
Know Your Challenge
And what do I mean by challenge? It can be any number of things!
Is there something that you DREAD doing?
Is there something that you continue to put off to avoid?
Is there something that takes a toll on you to do?
Is there something that just feels harder than you think it should?
Once you identify your challenge or your pain point, you can start looking at ways to make adjustments to alleviate that pain point.
Can you find a compromise?
If you haven’t heard about sound masking, I suggest checking out Eileen Anderson’s blog on sound masking. Sound masking can help us to “mask” the sounds that trigger our pets, and minimize or reduce trigger stacking. It can be an incredibly valuable tool for those of us that have pets that have Big Feels about sounds, especially sounds outside.
Griffey is one of those pups. He has Big Feels about dogs barking outside, the sounds of sirens going by, and strange human voices outside.
Sound masking is a really powerful and effective tool in our toolbox to help Griffey stay calm and comfortable throughout the day.
But you know what? I need quiet. Audio input all day every day makes Ellen a cranky, reactive lady.
So, how do we accommodate Griffey’s needs and mine?
We’ve trial and evaled different sound masking options to see which ones I can have in the background and that are sufficiently effective for our goals for him. Things like rainforest sounds, our favorite Twitch streamers, and west coast hip hop work for both of us.
We also took the time to better understand the ebb and flow of the outside world. When will sound masking be most beneficial? We know that in the morning between 6 am and 12 pm, it is much less necessary than between 4 pm and 7 pm. That means I can have my morning quiet time, and he can have his feelings of security.
Remember, the best plan is one that you can actually do. If you are struggling to execute your plan or your intentions, it is time to assess how to make it actually do-able!
For families that enjoy walking, but have a leash-reactive dog, this might be finding time to walk without your dog.
For families with dogs that LOVE to shred, but can’t have shreds of things all over the place all the time, this might look like having dedicated shredding time or laying a sheet down for easy cleanup.
Can you better accommodate yourself?
On the topic of sound masking, I also purchased sound-dampening earplugs for myself. Because my hard days are just as valid as his hard days, and sometimes compromise is less effective.
This can look like finding ways to fit short little training sessions in during your schedule, instead of planning your schedule around their training. I keep my dog’s muzzles and treats next to the fridge and their food so that we can practice some of those skills while we wait for the food to warm up.
I know that my dogs really benefit from and enjoy licking activities. They get their happy prances on when I have lickable toys, they give me happy little chirps and “woowoos”, and get so droopy when they get to lick for their breakfast. But prepping toys daily is just not something I’m going to have the time, energy, to brandwidth to do. Meal prepping is an option, but our freeze is pretty small, so there isn’t much space to meal prep the toys. So, instead we use pyramid baking mats. The grooves add a little challenge, but they are easy to fill, and super easy to clean.
For families working on home-alone training, this may look like taking the time to build a support system before you start. Because it isn’t unreasonable to walk to leave your home to take care of yourself, even if being alone is currently unreasonable to your pet.
For families that need natural light, but have to keep the blinds closed because their dog bark at *all the things*, this might be investigating window film options that will let in some light without allowing their dog to stare out the window.
For busy families, this can look like setting up timers for things like your sound masking, so that you don’t need to remember to turn it on.
Are you standing in your own way?
When we moved this last time, the house already had a poop scoop. But the substrate is flat and the second part of the scoop was a rake. And, I’ll be honest, I refused to buy another because “I already had one.”
But I will also tell you, I hated scooping poop. The rake would get stuck, it would fling stuff everywhere. It was frustrating and annoying. So, I finally caved and got another scoop with a different end, and it has made cleaning the yard something that I can take 5 minutes to be outside and moseying around rather than frustrated and cranky.
Along the same vein, I used a typical nylon leash for years and never found walks enjoyable. My hands would hurt after the fact from the friction of the material, and the death grip I would hold for leverage. They would get wet and gross from nature, and were challenging to clean. Years ago, someone introduced me to alternative leash options, and now that I use Bahma leads from Bold Lead Designs, I can easily clean my leashes after walks, and I’m physically comfortable during our walks.
I use to hate carrying poop bags on my walks (especially because my dogs poop a lot on walks), so I purchased a silicone “treat” pouch to add to my walking gear. It is easy to clean and disinfect, and I can store the poop bags in there until I have access to the garbage.
For some families, this looks like seeking help on the human end of the leash. There are times when our past experiences can stand in the way of us making the adjustments we need to show up for the pet we have.
For some families, when the resistance is financial, this looks like reaching out to local Buy-Nothing networks so that they can trial a change before they commit.
And sometimes, this means taking the time to clarify the steps with your pet’s team. If your consultant has recommended trying sound masking, or putting up window film, or finding a way to monitor your pet while you’re gone, it may not require what you think it does. You don’t need to purchase a device for sound masking, window film for a visual block, or to set up a camera to monitor your pet. There are alternatives! It’s not uncommon to focus on a singular solution to the detriment of progress.
Small changes can make a huge difference in our comfort and execution. If there is something that would make your plan not just sustainable, but enjoyable, then treat yourself! You’re worth it. When your cup is full, you can better help your pet.
Have you been honest with your behavior consultant?
Last week I had a client tell me, “You know, I’ve learned that I really can only focus on one thing at a time.”
And I am always grateful when a client is comfortable enough to share these things with me. Because, when I know, then I can help. No one gets a pet looking for another full-time job, so I support families that want to maintain a sustainable approach to their goals.
When I know where a family is, I can help them craft a plan to meet their needs. To meet them where they are.
Because there are so many paths up each mountain, and the path for you won’t be the same for anyone else.
If you’re working with a consultant, and you are overwhelmed, or you have life changes that you need to accommodate, or frankly, you just need a break, then let them know! We can help you adjust your current plan, because we’re here to support you, not just your pet.
- Identify what is a challenge in your current plan or routine with your pet.
- Brainstorm ways to make that challenge easier for you. You may be surprised what a big impact small things can make!
- If you’re finding that your routine with your pet is unsustainable, then let us know! We’re here to help! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, or email us at [email protected].