One hour within fifteen minutes…
This is my goal every morning: I walk my dog for an hour and we leave the house within fifteen minutes of the alarm going off. I certainly don’t get this right every day, but it’s a goal. Dogs thrive on consistency and if we can consistently start our days by providing them with a fulfilling experience, we are setting them (and us) up for success.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that the goal of a leashed walk is to provide a “work-like” experience for the dog, not an experience of excitement and anxiety. I feel that by providing the walk first thing in the morning we are going a long way toward setting that tone. When we wake up, putz around, and mess with our phones in the morning, our dogs become anxious. This anxiety builds up until we finally grab the leash, at which point the dog goes into an over-excited state: not what we’re after.
A concept that I hope to write about in a future blog is that “what’s good for the dog, is good for the human” (one of my many mantras). Ultimately, I don’t believe any of the work that we put into our dogs is worth it, if it’s for the dog alone. I love dogs, more importantly, I respect them, but humans come first. One of the things that I respect about dogs most is that they will show us what we need if we pay attention. Providing our dogs with what they really need, it turns out, is also very beneficial to us. There is something about waking up with our dogs, as we travel through the neighborhood, that can’t be put into words. It’s primal, it’s natural, and it’s an excellent way to bond with them. I find it to be the best way to get my own day off to a great start.
I’ve heard it said that the best thing we can do to help ourselves to have a productive day is to make our beds immediately upon waking up. That act of initiative, as trivial as it sounds, starts a chain reaction of taking initiative in other departments. I see “one hour within fifteen minutes” the same way. If an hour and fifteen minutes after our alarms go off, the dog is feeling tired and fulfilled and not following us around the house begging for stimulation, we our setting ourselves up (not just the dog) for a productive and fulfilling day.
There are a couple tricks that I use to motivate myself to do this, but the best is this: no coffee until you’re out the door. If you’re not a coffee drinker, it’s time you became one! My coffee pot is set on a timer, so it’s ready when the alarm goes off. I roll out of bed, throw some clothes on, pour some coffee, and away we go. My dog knows this routine and doesn’t wake up until I start putting my shoes on. She calmly walks over, shakes her fur out, stretches, I slip the leash over her head, and we step outside: no talking, no affection; all business. Down the stairs of my building we go, out the door, and…aaahhhhh…first sip of coffee, the best part of every day.
Getting this morning walk down is one of the most important thing we can do for our dogs. You may have heard of “Pereto’s Law” or the “80/20 principal” which states that in many fields twenty percent of our effort nets us eighty percent of our results (click here to learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle), and I strongly feel that this morning walk is the twenty percent that makes eighty percent of the difference. When I’m contacted by people who are having issues with their dogs, this is where we always start. Whether it’s aggression, separation anxiety, or fearfulness, it’s hard to even begin to correct these behaviors until we are first providing our dogs with a consistent and fulfilling life. If you have a new dog, or a dog that you’re having trouble with, try it: one hour within fifteen minutes, and let me know how it goes!