Beverley Courtney, author of the forthcoming book “Calm Down! Six Steps to a Relaxed, Calm and Brilliant Family Dog”, lives in Worcestershire with her four dogs, cat, hens and many tropical fish. She mainly works with puppies and “growly” dogs, always looking to build the bond between dog and owner. Get your free dog training series Top Tips for Turning Your Wild Puppy into a Brilliant Family Dog – a step-by-step guide to changing the things you don’t like about your dog to the things you do like.
There’s no-one more overjoyed at your change of circumstances than your dog!
Day after day he has left nosy smears on the front window, waiting for you to come home from work, his joy at seeing you tinged with sadness because of how tired you were.
But now you’re based at home you get to spend all day together! You can cast off imposed timetables and take time to explore your new life – the pair of you.
Daytime is for Outdoors
One thing you’ll want to do is take advantage of the daylight (that stuff that went on outside your office window) and get out and about.
Enjoying the different times of day and the different seasons is all the more exciting when your dog is enjoying them alongside you. We have better colour vision – but my goodness, he has the better nose! Between the two of you, you become much more aware of your surroundings.
You’ll view the world with new eyes. You’ll meet new people and their dogs who are enjoying the same places. Your dog will open up a whole world of activities that you may have forgotten exist.
In summer you can hit the trails with backpack and water. Your dog can have his own backpack and water too. You can earn yourself a big coffee and cake at a cafe at the end of your walk. And you can meet up with the other trail walkers there.
In winter you can find some flatter terrain and go skijoring. This is not an option in my temperate climate, but friends who get months of snow tell me how enjoyable this is.
A similar but non-snowy activity would be canicross: cross-country running with your dog in a special harness, a bit like a husky harness – designed to spread the load over the dog.
Your dog is small and runs slowly? Great! That means you can get away with a brisk walk.
I may tell you that my dog would need a lot of load-spreading if he had to haul me along – so this is not a sport for us!
So how about some fun where the dog does the running and we don’t? Frisbee is a great game for this! All my dogs love leaping to catch the frisbee. Not only is it great exercise for them (once you’ve warmed them up carefully, like any athlete) but it’s a joy to watch.
This one is definitely a conversation-starter. People will be amazed at your dog’s agility, speed, and beauty.
Chilling Out in Pubs and Cafes
You’ll become an expert at knowing which hostelries and eateries will welcome your dog.
Top tip: bring a small simple mat with you that you can roll up and put under your arm to carry. Your dog will quickly learn that this mat is her base when in a strange place and settle down there with her chews and toys (and stray cake-crumbs).
Don’t be surprised when your dog elicits over-the-top ecstatic greetings from the staff and patrons while you warrant just a friendly smile!
Enjoy their enjoyment, and conversations will begin.
Visiting the Vet or the Groomer
You can lighten vet visits by dropping in from time to time when your dog doesn’t need any attention. It’s just another way for her to meet friendly people and come away with a mouthful of treats. Vet staff are always happy to interact with a dog that is well and happy and not in need of their ministrations. This will make a genuine visit much easier.
And rather than see grooming as a task to be rushed through and squashed into an already busy day, look at the experience through your dog’s eyes. See if you can make the whole thing more enjoyable for her, rather than a stressful endurance test.
If your dog is one who needs frequent attention from the groomer to make life bearable (there’s nothing worse than too much hair in your eyes … or under your tail – yuk!) see if your local education institute has an Introduction to Dog Grooming course. Not only will you find out how to do it yourself (and save a good few bob over the years) but you can do your dog a bit at a time rather than blitz him all in one long session.
Eyes, feet and tail, for instance, need more frequent attention. He may not need a whole body clip nearly as often.
What’s more, at the college you’ll meet other fluffy dog owners (yeah – maybe us owners are as “fluffy” as our dogs!).
If your dog is a calm and friendly sausage who doesn’t spook at strange people or things that go bump in the night, he may be an ideal candidate for a Pets as Therapy (PAT) Dog.
These dogs bring much joy to adults and children in hospitals and institutions who can no longer enjoy the company of an animal. Stroking a dog lowers the heart-rate (ours as well as the dog’s – as long as he enjoys it!). This mutual grooming is comforting and giving.
You and your dog will be doing the world a great service if you have a go at this.
Dog Sports for the Less Sporty
You may have seen elite dog performers on the television – giving stunning displays of speed, beauty, and accuracy in Agility, Trick Displays, or Dancing with Dogs. Clearly dedication and many hours of work go into this standard of performance.
But there are lots of opportunities for “the rest of us” to join in and have fun with these activities. Your dog does not have to have an impeccable pedigree with papers to prove it – any more than you do!
Hunt around for a place where punishment is not used, and both the dogs and the owners are clearly having a lot of fun. It doesn’t matter if your team is never good enough to go on tv – you’ll learn so much about how your dog’s mind works that your whole relationship will be enriched.
You’ll wonder how you ever looked at him and thought “He’s just a dog.”
You really will be ready to take on the world together!
“Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”
Have you found new adventures to enjoy with your dog now you have more time for him? Let me know in the comments below – I’ll love reading them!