You’ve just welcomed a new dog into your life and are spending lots of time looking after him – grooming, feeding, training, exercising and playing with him. But are you also looking after yourself? Here’s how to carve out time for self care when you’re a dog parent.
Whether you’re a novice or seasoned dog parent, adopting a new canine friend means devoting a great deal of time to ensuring he settles in and gets the best care possible. Looking after a new dog on top of an already busy lifestyle can sometimes mean you put self care on the back burner, and that can lead to fatigue, burn-out and other problems, both physical and mental/emotional. Here are ten ways to ensure you’re looking after yourself as well as your new four-legged buddy.
1. Take advantage of your dog’s nap time
Any experienced mom will tell you that when the baby’s sleeping, you should be, too! Most dogs nap frequently – especially puppies – giving you plenty of opportunity to catch up on housework, pay the bills, and get some sleep of your own.
2. Invest in interactive toys
As a dog parent, interactive toys are your friend. These playthings engage your dog on a much deeper level than regular toys, exercising his mental faculties and keeping him occupied for longer periods. Look for vessel or puzzle toys that can be stuffed with healthy treats; an activity mat that encourages him to engage in different tasks; or simply hide treats throughout the room or house for him to sniff out. While a new puppy or dog should be supervised during play, you’ll have two hands free to get things done.
Being around others of your species is as important for you as it is for your dog! Get social by setting up playdates with other dog parents in your area. This will give you the opportunity to make some new friends and catch up with existing ones, all while your dog learns or brushes up on his social skills. As an added bonus, chatting with others about any challenges you’re facing with your new dog will help put things into perspective and present solutions you may not have considered.
If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others.
— Dalai Lama
4. Crate train
Crate training a new puppy or dog is a good idea for multiple reasons. Having a safe confined space gives him a place to rest, and gives you the peace of mind you need to leave him unattended for short periods. It’ll also help prevent him from developing separation anxiety, which arises when dogs aren’t taught how to be on their own.
5. Use your energy wisely
You’re bound to run out of steam quickly if you try to keep up with a puppy or young dog. Conserve your energy by playing smarter, not harder. Rather than running around the yard with your new friend, take a seat and throw a ball for him to chase. Better yet – if you have another dog, teach them how to play safely with each other so you can relax on the sidelines.
6. Don’t sacrifice the things you enjoy
Adopting a new dog doesn’t have to mean giving up life as you know it. In fact, it shouldn’t! While your schedule will shift to accommodate his needs, you can still do the things you love. If your dog is a puppy and/or is still in the process of settling in, enlist a friend or family member to dogsit once or twice a week so you can attend a yoga class, go for a jog, or take a long, hot bubble bath. No matter how busy you are, taking time to enjoy life is a crucial part of settling into a healthy, happy routine that works for both of you.
7. Learn to forgive
You’re going to make mistakes and so is your new companion. He may have accidents on the floor, for example, and you might find yourself feeling impatient or annoyed. But mistakes are part of the process, and they’re certainly not worth stressing about. Learn to forgive yourself as well as your dog, and channel any pent-up frustration inyo teaching him the right way to behave. Use compassion, positive interactions and plenty of rewards!
8. Eat right
Quality nutrition is a crucial component of your dog’s needs – and the same goes for you. Maintain a healthy diet by meal prepping for both you and your dog at the same time. If you’ve chosen not to make his food from scratch, you can still take the time to prepare healthy food for yourself by corralling your new friend in the kitchen where you can keep an eye on him while you cook. Baby gates aren’t just for toddlers!
Another aspect of self care that will benefit you and your new dog! A dog’s activity requirements vary depending on his age and breed, so ask your veterinarian what’s best. As a general rule, a couple of short walks a day is ideal. Once his exercise needs have been met, focus on your own. If you can’t get away, work out in the company of your furry friend. Sweating will lower your stress levels and give you a much-needed boost of energy.
10. Ask for help
You’re not alone! In addition to family and friends, a growing number of services are available for dog parents. Dog walkers, pet sitters, doggie daycares, groomers and mobile vets are all at your disposal – do your homework to ensure you get people who will care for your dog like he’s their own.
Making time for self care is difficult – especially when you have a new dog to attend to. But looking after yourself should also be a priority. And with these tips, it can be!
Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.