Whether it's because the weather sucks, your mental health is down the drain, work is hectic lately, or you're not interested in bumping into your neighbors this week, here is I recommend (and I personally try to do) on a day where you know you're not getting your dogs outside on a traditional walk or trip to the park for exercise.
Stop beating yourself up! Yes, this is part of this list. So many of us guilt ourselves and put more weight on our shoulders stressing out about what we aren't getting done. Don't worry, I am super guilty of this too. Wouldn't it be nice if we just gave ourselves some grace? We can't be rockstar dog parents every single day of the year. It's ok if we need a break or just don't have the mental capacity to add a dog walk into our hectic day today. Take a nice deep breath, realize your dogs aren't being abandoned, abused, or homeless, and let's focus on some easy ways we can combat the guilt while giving our dogs some outlets.
Use their mealtimes as enrichment. Toss their food in a puzzle toy, a lickmat, or scatter it around the yard or living room. This is an easy way to provide your dog with an outlet without any further labor on your behalf. You need to feed them anyway, so put that food into something that can provide them with mental stimulation.
Set an alarm on your phone for 5 minutes (that's doable, right?) and play something with them. I personally like to use our flirt poles. This tires our dogs out and they absolutely love it! Use something like that or play fetch, catch, frisbee, chasing games, etc. Whatever floats you and your dog's boat. Feel free to do several 5-minute rounds throughout the day, when you have time.
Spend any time outside that you can. If you're going out to grab the mail, bring your dog with you. Need to take a work call? Take it out on the back patio and let your dog sniff around while you talk to your co-worker. Need to go pick up your dry cleaning? Let your dog come for the ride. Any little thing you can do add some spice into their day will make a difference.
Plan for a midday or evening chew. I always have a bag of our dog's favorite chews on hand and ensure to give them some special alone chew-time on days like this. They each get put into their own area (free from interruptions) and a chew to work on. I even add in some dog-friendly music in the background to help set the mood for the activity. Chewing expends energy, so this is a win-win for everyone. If chews aren't your thing, feel free to opt for a food-stuffed rubber toy instead.
Spend a couple minutes training with them. Grab a handful of their food or favorite small treats and take a minute or two to work on a skill. I like to do this in our den when I am winding down and watching some TV. Work on rewarding your dog for coming when called, going to their bed, targeting your hand, etc. You can even opt for a game like tossing a treat and having them "find it" or work on a trick like "spin" or "paw" instead. It doesn't matter what it is, your dog will be grateful to engage with you and work on their problem-solving skills.
Be proud of yourself for doing little things like this for your dog and know that there is always tomorrow to get out on a walk or get to the park.
Hope these things help make your life with your dog easier and better, especially on days where we feel we just can't meet all of our dog's needs (hell, sometimes we can't meet our own!)
I like to spread the message about leading with compassion and empathy when it comes to our dogs, and it is equally important to remember this when it comes to ourselves also. <3
What are some things you do that are different from this list? Let me know in the comments!
Take care and talk soon.