I often talk about the importance of a clear routine for dogs because it makes them feel safe. They know what to expect and what is expected. And, yes, dogs absolutely need a routine that addresses their needs and wants. Sometimes, though, they also need a little adventure in their lives.
My dog, Jake, and I have lived side by side for 8.5 years now. We spend much of our time together and are very close. I’m not ashamed to say he is the most important person in my life. I think we spend quality time together but, like so many of us, we sometimes get into a rut. Of course, we also don’t always realize we are in a rut until something comes along to interrupt it.
Recently, Jake and I were living in a rut that I didn’t even notice.
As a dog trainer specializing in adopted rescue dogs, I think about dogs who aren’t Jake a lot, too. I think about the best ways to train them, how to solve their problems – or things they do that are problems for their humans, how to get more of them adopted, etc. I read books, take classes, talk to other trainers, attend events, etc. And, recently, while I was doing all these things for the benefit of dogkind, I fell into a rut with my BFF.
I discovered our rut while speaking with one of my training mentors. She mentioned how she has noticed that the more intensive training Jake and I have been doing lately as I work toward a particular certification has deepened our relationship. I reviewed the videos of my training sessions and I could see it, too.
I hadn’t noticed the subtle changes “in real time” because my focus was on accomplishing our task rather than on our relationship. Why does this constitute a rut in our life? Because I didn’t see it happening. I wasn’t focused on training to bond with Jake, I was focused on training to reach a certification goal. It wasn’t about us, it was about me.
I realized I wanted to take some time to experience our friendship deliberately rather than by default. I wanted to have fun together like I would do with any friend. So, I decided to shake things up and take Jake on a short seaside adventure. We called it our “Mommy & me” day.
This past Saturday, I took Jake to my hometown of Winthrop, Massachusetts, about a 30 minute drive from where I live now but a place with a very different vibe from Cambridge. Winthrop is also a peninsula so there was lots of beach to choose from. I took Jake to a secluded corner of beach out near Deer Island so we wouldn’t run into other dogs (if you are a new reader, Jake does not like other dogs). It was a chilly and drizzly day so we had the place all to ourselves.
I watched Jake experience the ocean, something he hadn’t had an opportunity to do for several years. He waded in the water, smelled seaweed and a dead crab, stalked a seagull (from a safe distance), climbed on some low breakers and generally had an amazing time. Despite the chill and the wind, I loved watching him have so much fun. On the drive home I gave him a little tour of the town and talked to him about my childhood.
When we got home, he fell asleep for hours and I felt truly proud of having worn him out both physically and intellectually.
As the old cliche goes, we need to “take time to smell the roses” – or the ocean. It may be cliche but it’s still true and a great reminder that even our dogs can get into a rut and need a day off to just have a fun adventure with their human.
Some dogs are lucky enough to not need their humans to be reminded of this important lesson but for those dogs, like Jake, whose human parents do need a reminder, please accept this as your official reminder to get out there and have some quality fun times with your pup!
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