You matter. It’s the simplest way I can think to put this message out there. But it is this simple: you matter.
If you’re working on raising a new puppy, or working through some frustrating behaviours, or maybe even working on behavioural modification for aggressive behaviours, it doesn’t matter what the issue is, what matters is that you recognize that you are a part of this equation.
All-to-often, dog guardians suffer in silence and don’t reach out for help. They believe the burden of whatever issue they are working on, is theirs alone to bear. Worse yet, many dog guardians feel that they have to show up, every single day, and work at their best, and support their dog a their best, and meet a very high bar they have set for themselves.
I’m not saying you don’t have to take care of your dog. Obviously you have to meet their needs. But if you’re working on complex or frustrating behaviours, you’re allowed to take a day off. You’re allowed to prioritize yourself over your dog once in a while. You’re allowed to also have your own needs met.
If you’re working through separation anxiety, you might feel like this doesn’t apply to you, but it does. Ask for help. People are often very willing to come over and hang out with your dog so that you can go take some much needed time for yourself. Asking for help is difficult, but every client I have ever worked with on separation anxiety has been able to find people to help them.
See yourself as a part of a team, because you are. If you’re not at your best, how can you be at your best with your dog? If you’re not rested, feeling better mentally, and ready to take on the challenges head-on, it’s not going to be fun.
Lots of dog training and behavioural modification work isn’t always fun, but if it’s something you dread, it’s not going to progress well. Inevitably, you’re going to hit a wall, where you resent your dog and the situation you’re in. That is not a fun place to be and it’s not somewhere that you have to be.
Take breaks from training. It’s really that simple. It’s okay to take a day or two, or even a week or more off training. Sometimes you need a break in order to re-charge and even re-connect with your dog through activities you both love.
If you’re working with a trainer, reach out to them to discuss your struggles. A good trainer will be empathetic and will support you. In fact, many trainers understand your struggles. There are a number of dog trainers who got into the profession because they owned a challenging dog (myself included). We’re all too familiar with these feelings.
Bottom line, you’re a part of a team and that means you matter just as much as your teammate. Take care of yourself. Do activities you and your dog love to do. Do activities without your dog that you love. Give yourself permission to honour how you feel and that this process is not easy. Take a break from training if you need to. But do not constantly prioritize your dog and others above yourself. This isn’t the best way to take care of your dog. Ask for help when you need it. You matter.