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What’s your dog’s lifestyle?

What lifestyle should your dog have? Are you supposed to change your lifestyle to suit your dog or are they supposed to adapt to you? These are questions I often find myself discussing with clients. The answer, as with most complex questions, is: It depends.

Recently, I wrote about the behaviors I like all my dog clients to know for general good manners and safety. I also wrote about some of the delightful hobbies you can share with your dog. Together along with your dog’s daily routine, these things make up the bulk of your dog’s lifestyle.

What expectations should you have of your new dog?

When someone gets a dog, they expect that dog (or at least should expect that dog) to change their life both emotionally and in daily activities. What can happen though, is that these expectations are unrealistic either in general or for their specific dog (or dog breed). A Vizsla is never going to be a couch potato and a Basset Hound probably won’t be a great marathon partner. I’ve found that this lifestyle piece can really get in the way of a dog being successful with a family. I should say lifestyle expectations really because that’s where the disconnect happens.

We all have expectations of what it will be like to get a dog and all the fun things we will do together. Then, sometimes, you bring your dog home and discover he doesn’t like to swim or gets in fights at the dog park (like my Jake). There are some things you can change and others you can’t. My best advice is to meet your dog where he is. If you are choosing hobbies and your dog hates the water, try a land-based activity. If your dog is afraid of loud noises then maybe he’s not a good candidate for being your rock band’s mascot. Your dog will bring you so much joy when you can release the preconceived notions that you had for your life together.

Experiment to see what your dog enjoys

This is especially true if you previously had a dog who did these things. Like human children, each dog has his or her own beautiful unique personality, set of abilities and aptitudes. They are all gloriously different. The one thing they do all have in common is their desire to make you happy. Honor that by NOT having expectations of them that they can never meet. Take the time to get to know your dog. Experiment with activities and see what you both enjoy doing together and what doesn’t really light you up. You don’t even have to be particularly good at the activities, you and your dog just need to be having fun together.

It can be frustrating I know. I had just moved to a new city when I adopted Jake and had visions of us joining group walks and he’d help get me out in the world to meeting people and make friends. Turns out, that’s not who Jake is. His life experiences have made him reluctant to be around other dogs, big groups of people or new places really. That was disappointing to me and I had to let go of my vision for our life together. I moved forward exploring what Jake was capable of and what he enjoyed and, although our lifestyle ended up being totally different than what I expected, I can honestly say that Jake has taught me more about myself, love and compassion than I would have thought possible. Plus, we still get to hike and play and have lots of fun together.

Meet your dog where they are, teach them the behaviors that will keep them safe in a human world, experiment with fun activities you can do together and enjoy the gorgeous adventure that is sharing your life with a dog.


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