In dog training, when we talk about distractions, we’re usually talking about things that make it challenging for your dog to perform commands. Screaming kids, people knocking at the door, skateboards whizzing past you – that sort of thing.
But as a dog owner, there’s bigger distractions in the world that can disrupt your pack and the balance in your home that you have worked so hard to achieve – you know, things like Presidential elections, late bills, drama at work, or anything else that can take you away from your core mission in this world.
For me, my pack is what’s important – the human members followed closely by the dog members.
Since I am a human being, even I sometimes can lose focus on my responsibilities and when I do it has a ripple effect can be felt through my life: My dogs get antsy, anxious, and needy. My kid becomes more disruptive and my wife might feel neglected or alone.
That’s serious stuff.
As pack leaders in the modern world, things are not so simple. We are pulled in a thousand directions and those who depend on us are often the ones left shortchanged when something pulls us too far in the wrong direction.
Often it is our dogs that are the ones left to suffer. I see this all the time when all the humans in the house become too busy to be excited about the dog everyone was thrilled to pour time into when it was a small and exciting puppy. People’s work schedules drag on and change the dog’s crate time from 6 hours to 9 hours. People stop waking up in the morning to take their dogs for the morning walks they promised themselves they would. People stop training their dogs or challenging them because they find that they’re “good enough.” People mistake their dog’s boredom and listlessness for happiness.
Dogs are resilient creatures and will take what you can spare to give them. That’s why we love them. That’s also why they deserve the best version of us.
As we roll into the new year I ask you to look at your life and see if you are doing the best for your pack, or if you are just doing the best for you. Can you move things around in your life to make more time for your dog? If not, can you find the extra money to enrich your dog’s life with more training or a daily dog walker to break up their 10-hour day of doing nothing other than sitting by themselves waiting for you to come home?
Being a pack leader is often a thankless, sometimes monotonous job that gets hard to be enthusiastic about after a while – whether your pack is all humans, humans and animals, or even just yourself. But what you will find is when you get back to why you got a dog in the first place and find that enthusiasm again, the balance that comes out of it will roll into the rest of your life and improve everything and everyone around you.
Shiny objects and distractions are always there. But so are your dogs and they need you! So be like a dog in a good “stay” and avoid the distractions and focus on the task at hand: Being the best pack leader you can be.