The other day I logged on to Facebook, and as I scrolled down my feed, I saw, for what seemed like the thousandth time, an article with a title like “24 Ways You’re Killing Your Dog Without Knowing It.” Or maybe it was “If There Were Dog Therapists, Your Pooch Would Be Going to One Because of You.”
I used to click on these stories, anxious to avoid inadvertently killing my dogs. I had to know if there was something I was doing that made the list. To my disappointment, there usually was.
And if the articles weren’t enough, the dog-specific forums I frequented were great at piling on, too. Now, for the most part, these forums are a source of good information. But occasionally someone posts something that brings all the Judgie McJudgersons out in force: “ZOMG! You feed your dog THAT? How could you? Do you also worship Satan?!”
Inevitably, after reading one of these articles or threads, I would be seized by crushing guilt and vow to the dog gods that I would change, I would be a better dog mom. My dogs would not have to go to therapy because of me!
I kept these resolutions for a while. But slowly and surely, I fell back into old habits … until the next article with a dire warning popped up on my feed. Then the whole vicious cycle would start again.
But then one day, something changed: I didn’t click the link. What a concept! By scrolling on past, I avoided the feeling of being a terrible dog mom, and my dogs still didn’t demand a therapy session. Win-win!
Yet the guilt lingered. Because of the previous articles and threads I’d read, I knew all the things I should be doing but wasn’t. So mentally, at least once a day, I’d scold myself for not being better.
I can’t imagine I’m alone in this. In our country, most dogs are considered family members. The pet industry is worth $56 billion and growing. As a whole, we spend more on our pets than we do on our kids. We’re obsessed with our pups, and while that’s great news for them, it can also be hard on pet parents who never feel like they’re quite good enough.
That’s why I say it’s time to stop. Stop the guilt. Stop the anxiety. Stop the judgment of others who don’t live up to our own dog-parenting standards.
So today I’m going to start the movement by confessing a few of the ways I’m not the perfect dog mom. Deep breath. Here goes:
It seems that everything I’ve read says that most dogs need several hours of exercise each day to keep them happy. Several hours? Ugh. My poor dogs. They get one walk a day, and it’s usually about 30 minutes long. Sometimes it’s 15. And, frankly, there are days that I wouldn’t take them out at all if I thought I could get away with it (but my dog Mayzie ain’t gonna let that happen).
Actually, I don’t even make them walk on a loose leash. I did try. We went to classes and I worked half-heartedly with my big puller (Mayzie, I’m looking at you). But at the end of the day, I just wasn’t that committed to it. Of course, I didn’t want my arm yanked out of its socket, so I ended up getting a no-pull harness. It’s the lazy way out, I know, but it worked wonders; she still forges ahead but in a more controlled manner. And the thing is, my dogs are honestly really well-behaved in pretty much every other area. I just think that, as with anything in life, you have to decide what’s most important to you. A perfect heel isn’t on my list.
As with humans, excess weight is quite the health crisis among the pet population. I’m not denying that. But the fact is, my dog Ranger has been a pound or two overweight for most of his life. Our other dog is at a perfect weight (according to our vet), but no matter what we do, Ranger’s weight stubbornly stays the same. He’s 10 years old and very healthy otherwise so I’ve decided to just stop stressing over it.
Just like with weight, I totally get how important dental hygiene is to the overall health of an animal. So one day at the store, I picked up a doggie toothbrush and toothpaste. Any guesses where they are now? In my junk drawer still in the packaging. Now, I’m not a complete slacker when it comes to this. They get dental chews and bully sticks and tracheas and other stinky animal parts to chew on. But they’ll likely never have their teeth brushed despite my best intentions.
I actually tried for a while. First, I read up on it to make sure I was doing it right. (Yes, there are whole websites and cookbooks devoted to this.) Then I got all the ingredients, and for about four weeks, I cooked for my dogs. They loved it. Of course, they also love eating cat poop out of the litter box, so I’m not sure what that says about my cooking. But then I realized that I kind of hate cooking even for myself, and back to the kibble (gasp!) we went. Yes, I feed my dogs kibble. So there.
Well, there you have it. My confession. Whew! I feel so much better!
As you can see, I obviously have a lot of room for improvement. But here’s the thing — even with all my shortcomings, my dogs have a pretty great life. They live with us as full-fledged family members, accompany us on car rides, and get belly rubs on demand. They go on daily (albeit short) walks, join in camping adventures, and explore new places. They have soft, warm beds, regular mealtimes, and a yard they can sun themselves in. We snuggle with them on the couch, take care of their illnesses and injuries, and when it’s time, we will hold them gently as they take their last breaths.
So no, I’m not the perfect dog mom. But you know what? I’m a really good one. And maybe, just maybe, being really good is good enough.
Your turn: In what ways are you not the perfect dog parent? Tell us in the comments. (And if you are the perfect dog parent, well, please don’t judge the rest of us!)
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About the Author: Amber Carlton is a freelance pet industry marketing copywriter and content specialist for hire who also acts as interpreter and typist for her dog’s musings at Mayzie’s Dog Blog. She shares life with her husband, two dogs and two cats (all rescues except for the husband). Connect with Amber at her business website, Comma Hound, or on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.