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One of the reasons that I can’t live without my dogs is that I just don’t know how I’d fill my days up without them. Without Janice and Leroy around to keep me busy, keep me going to the dog park, keep me waking up on time, and keep me on a meal schedule, I might just turn into a hermit that forgets to eat and shower. I know you’re saying that’s gross, but it’s true – having them around is good for me.
That being said, I know a lot of my friends who have very busy lives with a lot more responsibilities. My good friend Karen, who I’ve known since we were about 12, is the owner and operator of a local small business. She’s also a mom to five children, a caretaker to her disabled mother, and she volunteers around the town a lot for the kids’ school activities. I can’t think of anyone who is busier than she is. She also happens to have a very friendly Brittany Spaniel mix named Abby, who Karen adopted when she was still in college. The dog worships Karen, loves the kids, and tolerates Karen’s husband Justin.
A few days ago, I bumped into Justin, literally, at the dog park. He and Abby were out for some exercise, and I could see that the dog was only so-so about being out with him. (You can always tell when a dog is really happy.) After a few minutes of lackluster fetch, he turned to me and said “Do you think she’d like me more if we played together more often?” I told him I thought probably so, and he then said “I wish Karen and I weren’t always so busy. The dog needs more attention.”
That got me thinking as I went back home. People are always talking about how they want to make more time for their kids, or for their spouse, or for a vacation, and on and on. But do people really wish they could make more time for their dog? After doing some research, it turns out this is a very common concern for busy dog owners. So while I may not be the world’s expert on needing time with the dogs, I dug up some tips for making time in a busy schedule that I think your pets are going to love.
1. Don’t shut them out when you’re working around the house.
Does your dog typically go outside when you are cleaning or doing chores around the house? Do you put them in a separate room to keep them out of your way so you can hurry through the chores? Consider letting them hang out with you instead. As you are doing the chores, you can talk to them. They may not have your undivided attention, and they may not understand a thing you are saying, but dogs love simply being with you. And you may find that talking to a non-judgmental audience helps you get through the chores even faster. If your dog is too restless to just hang out, consider having a few rubber balls in your pocket and roll them around for him to chase while you work.
2. Eat in an outdoor café or pet-friendly restaurant.
Are you going to lunch with a friend on the weekend, or treating yourself to brunch? Look around your town for a place where you could bring your dog with you. You may not have any dog-friendly establishments, but find out if you can bring your pup along if you eat outdoors. Many restaurants with sidewalk seating allow you to have your dog with you. This will give your dog some time at your side, and you can still carry on with the activity that you already had planned. Put your dog on the leash and enjoy a meal together.
Even if you don’t try to have a routine, chances are that your days do tend to follow some kind of pattern. Routines are really important for busy people because they ensure that everything gets done. But if you feel as though you aren’t including enough time for your dog in your day, take a look at your routine. Is your dog even a part of your to-do list? Make plans at the same time each day to feed your dog, look after their grooming, take them out for exercise, and so on. You may even wish to schedule in “Bonding Time with Spot” so you know you don’t miss out.
4. Take your dog to work.
Did you know that many offices and workplaces around the nation allow owners to bring their dogs to work sometimes? This may not be the case in your office, but it never hurts to ask. Many businesses are starting to recognize that science has shown that productivity increases when a dog is around the workplace. Your boss may even be open to giving a once-a-month or weekly “dog day” a try if you can show them the proof! Bring along an office-appropriate dog blanket to keep hair off the carpet, and you’ll be ready to hang out all day.
Even busy people need to stay active and moving. Busy people are perhaps in even more need of exercise because it can help you keep your head clear and your body working when you’re running yourself ragged otherwise. But you don’t have to go to the gym every single time you need a workout. Why not take a run with your dog or play fetch? You’d be amazed how much of a workout throwing a disc can be with a hyper dog. You could even just do some body weight circuits in your backyard and let your dog run in circles around you. No matter what you do, your dog is getting some time with you and you’re both getting some activity. And hey – if you discover that you can get the same workout with your dog with some creative thinking, you may even save money on that gym membership.
Here’s a way to make more time for your dog and also knock something else off your to-do list. Have you been wishing you could spend some more time with your friends, but your schedule’s been keeping you occupied? Invite a dog-owning friend out for a puppy play date. You and your dog are together, you and your friend are together, and your dog is having fun. Plus, by scheduling this date on your calendar, and being accountable to another human being for the date, you’re less likely to skip it the way you might skip going to the dog park after a long week.
7. Slow down and enjoy grooming time.
All dogs need a little bit of attention at least weekly when it comes to grooming. At the very least, dogs all need to have their teeth brushed to prevent serious oral health concerns. Most dogs also need to have their nails checked and trimmed, have their coats brushed to prevent shedding, and perhaps a good check of the ears to make sure there’s no wax or irritation. This may sound like a lot, but honestly you can zip right through this grooming session in a half an hour, easily. But why? Instead of looking at this like another chore you have to get done, take some time to turn this into a bonding session. Pet your dog and play with them while you groom. Talk to them about what you are doing, praise them for being good, and work with them on any manners they may be struggling with. You’re already doing this anyway, so you may as well use this time to your advantage.
Does your dog need some help with their training? Or, if they are already well behaved, do they lack an outlet for their energy? One thing you can do to help both of you get some time together, and take care of behavioral issues, is to sign yourselves up for some canine events. Whether you need to go to puppy kindergarten or you want to try out a canine sporting event or meetup, having it on your calendar means you’re more likely to do it. And here’s another tip: if you have the option to pay for a training class ahead of time, do it. You won’t want to waste the money when you wake up on the day of with a looming to-do list in the background. Your dog will thank you!
9. Try a pet-friendly vacation.
If you and your dog really haven’t had much time together recently, you must be absolutely swamped. All that work starts to wear the body and the mind down, and taking a short break – even just for the weekend – can be a huge help. Why not plan a dog-friendly vacation for you and your buddy? You’ll just need to map out some dog-friendly places to stay and go. This isn’t as hard as you may think. If you love camping, you’re all set – dogs are always welcome in the great outdoors. Finding canine compatible hotels and sightseeing locations doesn’t take long online. Once you’ve got your plans, you and your friend can enjoy some time away from the crazy list of responsibilities.
10. Snuggle up together when you’re zoning out.
I get it – when you come home after a long day, you plop down on that couch and barely even remember what show you’re watching, much less when the last time was you played with your dog. I used to work in a call center, and I remember those days well. Here’s a tip that will please your dog, even if you don’t really get much out of it. When you come home and zone out like that, let your dog snuggle up with you. Maybe you will barely recall the time together, but to your pooch, it means a lot.
11. Consider how you can actually make more time in your day
Finally, I know it’s not always easy, but consider if there’s anywhere in your day where you can shave a few minutes off your tasks so that there’s more time leftover for Fido. Can you choose to work through lunch a few times a week so that you can be home half an hour earlier? Can you choose to hire someone to mow your grass so that your weekends can be a little freer? Choices like this are what make it easier to spend more time with your loved ones, including your furry friends.
I don’t want to make you feel bad if your schedule is crazy, and I don’t think your dog wants you to feel bad either. They are there to be your best friend, and they’ll never judge you.
That being said, remember that dogs that get bored often get destructive. By taking the time to hang out with them, you’ll likely prevent yourself from dealing with a costly accident later – which might take up more of your time than just hanging out with your dog now. If you can’t afford to block out an hour a day for your dog, that’s okay – try 10 minutes here and there where you can. It’ll make your dog very happy to hang out with you more, and you’ll start to feel better too. Also remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – if you can only steal half an hour twice a week rather than every day, that’s still better than nothing at all!
Now that I have these tips, I’m hoping that I get a chance to see Abby and Justin again. With so much else going on in their lives, it’s great that they are taking the time to get out – hopefully some of these ideas will help them forge the bond they need.