I can’t imagine being too busy for my dogs. They’re my world, and we’re together pretty much 24/7.
I’m very fortunate in that I’ve managed to carve out a job for myself, with blogging and taking on other freelance writing assignments, so that I don’t have to leave them for eight hours (plus travel time) every day.
I’m also fortunate in that I don’t have kids, so I have no need to worry about dropping them off at daycare or school, picking them up afterward, taking them to soccer practice or music lessons, and so on. I do have an aging parent, though (I told you about my mother in Heart Problems in Dogs – Coughing, Other Symptoms, and Treatments), and obviously I devote a fair bit of time to her, but mainly, I just don’t have all the obligations that most people have.
Right now, Janice and Leroy are lying beside me as I type. Earlier, we went to the dog park. Later, when I’m done with blogging and the rest of my work, we’ll take a walk down our rural road. Then, we’ll snuggle up and go to sleep together.
Not to Me, Anyway
As I’ve said, though, I’m fortunate. I know that there are plenty of other people out there who do have to do the 9-5 grind, and who may find it a struggle to make time for their dogs. People are just so damn busy, and dogs often take a back seat to other things, like work and family obligations.
Sometimes, people find this overwhelming, and that’s when you see ads on Kijiji and Craigslist, offering a dog “free to good home because I don’t have the time for him.”
I try very hard not to be judgmental when it comes to situations like this, but I expect that I am. There have been times in my life when having a dog wouldn’t have been practical, for any number of reasons. I’ve always evaluated my life situation very carefully, and when it looked like I couldn’t afford a dog, or didn’t have time for a dog, those were times when I didn’t have a dog. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a dog. I’ve always wanted dogs in my life. But I understood the responsibility involved, and I wasn’t going to bring a dog into a less than ideal situation.
Of course, sometimes, you can be bringing dogs into what seems like a perfectly workable scenario, and then things go south. Your work situation might change. You might move to a different neighborhood where the commute to your job, your kids’ schools, and their extracurricular activities is considerably longer. An ordinarily healthy parent might end up needing more care than he or she did previously (as did my mother). These are things that are largely outside your control, but with a bit of planning, you can still enjoy the companionship of your beloved dogs. Let’s talk about ways to make that happen. Here are 9 good strategies.
If you’re really busy, you’ve probably already tried to create some sort of a routine, but you might have neglected to include your dogs. Rather than panicking and saying “I can’t deal with all of this and the dogs too,” just go back and take a look at your routine, and find ways to include your dogs.
This often simply means setting your priorities. I’m put in mind of a neighbor of mine. Chris likes his beer. So, at the beginning of the month, he sets up a budget. He pays his mortgage, his utility bills, his insurance and his phone. Then he buys groceries. What’s left goes for beer.
Okay, so he’s not saving anything – that’s his issue, and one that might come back to bite him later. The point is, he’s setting his priorities.
You can do the same thing when it comes to your time. You have certain things that are inflexible – the time you spend at work, for instance. Then, there’s time for the kids and their needs. Time for your aging parent. What’s next?
I’m thinking there’s probably time for a bit of television, or relaxing with a good book, right? And I’m not saying that your leisure time isn’t important, but why not spend some of it with your dog? A walk around the neighborhood can be just as relaxing as watching television. If you’re completely exhausted, you can at the very least toss a ball while you’re vegging out, and then invite your buddy up next to you for a snuggle. He wants time with you, first and foremost, so give it to him.
Every dog has certain basic needs, like grooming and healthcare. You wouldn’t refuse to take your kids to the family doctor for a checkup because you were tired out, would you? A veterinary checkup only needs to be done every six months in order to ensure your dog’s health. Anyone, and I mean anyone, has that much time in their schedule.
As to grooming, why not forego those time-consuming trips to a pro, and look after your dog’s grooming needs yourself? You’ll save a lot of time, and also have a wonderful bonding experience with your dog. Just choose a day, maybe once a month, when you deal with bathing if necessary. As to brushing and combing, you can very easily do that when you’re relaxing in front of the tube after a hard day’s work. You can also order grooming supplies online, which will free up even more time, since you don’t have to go to the pet supply store. With online shopping, you can also set up deliveries for dog food at regular intervals, and that will free up even more time.
You know that in order to be healthy, you need regular exercise. So, if you’re pressed for time in your busy schedule, why not forego the trip to the gym? Instead, take your dog out for a long, vigorous walk, or play catch in the backyard. You’ll both get the exercise you need, and you can cross off trips to the gym as another reason why you don’t have time for your dog.
As I’ve already suggested, I know that you need time to unwind. There’s no reason why, even if you’re really busy, your dogs can’t share your unwind time. Maybe it’s snuggling in front of the television. Or if reading is your pleasure, instead of just sitting in your chair and perusing a book, why not read to your dogs? Your dogs don’t care if you’re reading “The Pokey Little Puppy” or Churchill’s speeches. They just love the sound of your voice, so why not snuggle up and read out loud?
I know that finding time for training can be difficult. In fact, despite all my pontificating on the importance of training, if I’m perfectly honest with you, it’s probably something that I could be much better at. Janice and Leroy are generally pretty well-behaved, but much of it has to do with their good nature, and little to do with anything that I might be attempting.
If you can fit it in at all, though, even a couple of 10-15 minute training sessions per week can work wonders when it comes to creating good canine citizens. If that still sounds like too much time, think of it this way – even if you’re working a day job, you get a 15-minute break in the morning and another 15-minute break in the afternoon. How quickly does that time go by when you’re at work? 15 minutes twice a week to train your dog shouldn’t be a problem.
If you genuinely think that you can’t spare even that much time for training, then take the time-honored solution – throw money at it! In other words, find a good trainer who can work one-on-one with your dog. Training is very important for your dog’s mental stimulation, and if you can’t do it, someone should. Seeing a pro in the early stages can be very valuable, too, in that they’ll cover the basics, and then once you get your dog home, all you have to do is work with the lessons your dog has already been taught.
If you’re too busy for your dogs, you can take them to daycare the same way you do your kids. Your dogs will be able to interact with other dogs, and with humans as well, and all you have to do is drop your buddies off on your way to work. They can play all day long, expend a ton of energy, and learn a lot of useful things as well. Then, when you pick them up after work, you can just go home and snuggle.
This doesn’t necessarily mean getting a second dog
Now, I’m not saying that if you have one dog, you should go out and get a second dog. That could be just adding fuel to an already raging fire. However, your dog might benefit from having a playmate if he likes other dogs. Do you have a friend who isn’t quite as busy as you are? Maybe your dog could hang out with her dog while you’re at work. This is another great way to get physical and mental stimulation for your dog when you’re too busy to provide it.
If you’re away from home for several hours in any given day, you’re busy, but your dogs will be bored and lonely. It’s just not right to make a dog wait patiently for hours on end for you to get home. If nothing else, he probably needs to go potty. It’s great if you have a doggie door that he can use, but that’s not going to help him feel less lonely.
A good dog walker or pet sitter can be a real lifesaver. They can walk your dogs and play with them while you’re away. Of course, a walker or sitter isn’t a substitute for Mom or Dad, but hiring someone can go a long way to staving off the loneliness. Of course, you’ll have to pay for the service, but isn’t your dog worth it?
More and more workplaces are becoming dog-friendly. If yours isn’t, why not broach the idea with your boss? Point out that studies have shown that having pets in the workplace can lead to higher employee satisfaction and even boost productivity. The boss might say “No,” but if you don’t ask, then by definition, the answer is “No,” so give it a shot!
Just make sure, if you are able to take your dog to work, that you make it a good experience for all concerned. Be sure that your dog is well-trained, and don’t let his wants interfere with the work that has to be done. Having gained the privilege of bringing your dog to work, you don’t want to lose it.
These are nine great strategies for people who think they’re too busy for their dogs.
But what if you really are too busy? Does that mean that you have to forego canine companionship?
No, it doesn’t. If you can’t handle a dog full-time, you can still volunteer at an animal shelter or a veterinary clinic. If you have vacation time coming up, you might consider using it to foster a dog in the short term. You can also pet-sit for family or friends on weekends. There are any number of ways that you can enjoy the companionship of a dog without having to commit to one full time.
If you have already adopted dogs, though, and you think you’re in over your head, please consider the above suggestions before you decide to re-home your dogs. Almost anyone, no matter how busy, can find time in their schedule for dogs, if they’re really committed. So, ask yourself, “Am I really too busy for my dogs?” Also ask yourself, “Would they ever be too busy for me?”
And then ask yourself, “Would my life be better or worse if I didn’t have my dogs?” Answer honestly.
I hope you’ll make the right decision.