Many pet parents suffer from guilt over their busy schedules, since their animals look to them to carve out time to play, snuggle, and provide comfort every day. When life gets in the way and you feel you aren’t giving your new pet as much attention as he deserves, it can be hurtful and a bit shameful, but try not to let it get to you. A lot of people feel the same way, and it can be difficult to work in time for extended walks when you have a deadline at work or a child who has to be ferried to extra-curricular activities. The key is to find ways to work in small bursts of playtime or learning time throughout the day, rather than trying to squeeze it all in when you have a free moment.
“Like us, dogs need mental and physical stimulation. Boredom and/or excess energy can lead to unwanted behaviors like chewing and barking. And spending time together is good for you, too. It helps you bond with your dog, builds trust, and makes training easier as time goes on,” says dog trainer Robin Bennett.
Here are some of the best ways to keep your new pet feeling loved and happy.
Get up early
Few people want to give up their precious sleep time, but setting your alarm for just fifteen minutes earlier a couple of days a week can help you find time to sit with your pet and snuggle, take a brisk walk, or simply play with a chew toy in the living room. Giving your pet that extra bit of attention at the beginning of the day could make a big difference.
Make anything a game
If you’ve already taught your dogs some tricks –fetch, sit, shake — don’t forget to still practice with him now and then. Even if he knows these tricks by heart, he’ll love showing off for you, especially if you give treats for good behavior. Turn it into a game and see if you can teach him to shake with both paws, or hide his favorite toy and see how long it takes him to find it. Give him lots of affection when he’s successful.
Go someplace new
If your pet is home alone for a good chunk of the day, it might be nice to take him someplace new every now and then. Try out a different park on the weekend, or take him to visit a friend who is pet-friendly. Getting out of the house and meeting new people can help socialize him and give him a confidence boost.
Get some help
If you work long hours or are gone most of the day, it’s a good idea to get some help with your pup. Hire a dog walker who can come and let your pet out while you’re gone; this will give you peace of mind and help him stay happy and healthy at the same time.
Most pets love treats, so indulge in some gourmet dog biscuits now and then, or give him some peanut butter when he’s been a particularly good boy. Rewarding good behavior and giving treats periodically will help your dog stay on track with training and keep you in mind even when you’re not at home.
Keep him entertained
When you’re away at work or fulfilling other obligations, it’s important to keep your pet entertained so that he doesn’t become bored or resentful that he’s being left alone. You can buy games and puzzles made specially for dogs, or simply leave the television on if it interests him. It’s also a good idea to leave the blinds or curtains open so he can see outside rather than having a perpetual view of the inside of the house.
Put away temptations
Again, when you’re away you don’t want your pet taking out his frustrations by chewing on your running shoes, jumping for food or other items on your counters, or hiding behind and possibly damaging furniture. Decluttering is your best bet at keeping your belongings safe, so consider helpful storage that can hold shoes or other tempting items, move your furniture so it’s not ideal for hiding behind and always keep your counters clear or things pushed far away from the edge.
It’s not easy being a pet parent, especially when you’re new to the job, but with a little planning and some preparation, you can help your pet stay happy and healthy while you’re taking care of other things.
Jessica Brody – guest writer from ourbestfriends.pet