Beings, Not Doings

Beings, Not Doings

Blog post by Emily Jacobs

I believe there are certain inevitabilities that come as part of the human condition. There are things we might as well accept because the alternative is to drive ourselves crazy attempting to resist reality. One of these inevitabilities, it seems, is the existence of the to-do list. It has come to my attention time and again that I have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the number of items that fit into a 24hr period. I generate significant anxiety in my life by waking up each morning, brushing my teeth, putting the kettle on, and then resolutely biting off more than I can chew. It’s almost as if I think that, though the day before I was unsuccessful in fulfilling my expectations, today I must have superhuman powers. This perpetual pattern has driven me to deeply envy my dogs.

I was told once, though I can’t quote the source, that we are humanbeings, not humandoings. That statement resonated with me deeply. I wrote it in my journal, made it my personal mantra for a day or two, and then went about ignoring the sentiment entirely, returning to business as usual: self-perpetuating to-do list chaos. My dogs, on the other hand, live this statement every moment of every day. Beings, not doings. Dogs are entirely successful at living in the now, and at signing up for exactly what they can manage each day – namely, nothing. They sign up for nothing. 

It is with this in mind that I turn the topic to training. Existence, for dogs, comes with no innate rule-book (excluding the evolutionary necessities of eating, drinking, sleeping, and so on). Dogs are not born with the evolutionary imperative to be productive, but we seem to think that we are. They are not genetically predisposed to refrain from counter surfing any more than they are genetically predisposed to sit when asked to. What I mean is, every behavior outside of the necessities of seeking food, water, shelter, physical exercise, mental stimulation, and a place to potty is something we are asking dogs to add to a to-do list that doesn’t otherwise exist at all. We are asking our dogs to do things for us, and not just to be. 

My dogs do not feel worthier when they check things off their to-do lists. They don’t feel any less worthy if they don’t achieve the required number of tasks. We would do well to remember this when we attempt to anthropomorphize. Tuvia, when she eats a pair of underpants, hasn’t woken up and meditated on the notion: “today, I will eat underpants at 9:00am.” She has found them, received reinforcement as she chewed through the elastic, and then left them for another action when the reinforcement diminished. That sounds like a pretty decent way to go about life, doesn’t it? 

Of course, we do actually need to-do lists. It’s unlikely that we could sequester ourselves in caves and refuse to participate in the culture in which we live. However, we might take a page out of our dogs’ books and tune in more closely to what reinforces us. What brings us joy and what depletes our energy stores? What do we actually have to do today and where might we set healthy boundaries? I’m trying to think more about what we need versus what we want and then set realistic expectations for ourselves. We can do the same for our dogs and will probably make more graceful training progress to boot; achieving small goals frequently is more emotionally rewarding than failing day after day to meet a giant milestone. 

Framing tasks as things we are asking of ourselves, rather than requiring of ourselves might save us some stress. An over-full day is uncomfortable from start to finish, but a productive day punctuated with small victories is pleasant. Training can be fun and build confidence in our pups. It shouldn’t be overwhelming for them. Remembering to give our dogs credit for their progress is key. And, remembering to be reasonable with the to-do list items we set for them helps them feel confident and appreciated rather than disappointing and frustrating. It would allow us both some more space to breath, have a bit of time to be and not to always do. 

Shouldn’t My Dog Know This Already?  (And a Tribute to Roo)

Shouldn’t My Dog Know This Already? (And a Tribute to Roo)

Blog post by Amber Quann KPA-CTP CPDT-KSA

I get asked these questions a lot – 

“What age will my dog finally turn into a good dog?”

“How long do we have to train before he gets it?”

“How old was your dog when he was fully trained?”

I love getting these questions from my students in group classes and private lessons. It gives us a great opportunity to discuss setting good expectations, measurable goals, and realistic timelines for the training process.  

My answer to these questions is usually something like this:

Your dog already is a good dog, and is doing great for his age! Different dogs mature at different rates, and we each have different definitions of a ‘good dog’ so I can’t put an exact age number on when your dog will meet your criteria. What I can tell you is that it takes time, consistency, and practice to help your dog learn the skills you want him to learn, and that’s what I’m here to help you with!

 

The truth is, the best training with your dog is an on-going, daily/weekly/monthly process.  To have the best relationship with your dog, learning should be part of your relationship for the long-term.

Taking a 6-week class and then checking “Train The Dog” off of your to-do list is the equivalent of eating healthy for that same 6 weeks and then going back to a daily diet of fast-food. The progress you made during those 6 weeks isn’t going to stick around unless you keep up those good habits!  

An upper-level training class is a great way to stay motivated, but you don’t need to stay in training classes to keep working with your dog. There are several different ways you can keep practicing at home. Go over your old class homework and find things you missed the first time around. Check out a trick dog or brewery dog title and work towards those training goals. Teach a fun trick!

I’ve been asked how long it took to get my dog “fully trained.” The question is funny to me, because I never considered him “fully trained.” Heck, I don’t even consider myself “fully trained.” 

We were always learning new things together.  We started training when he was 8 weeks old. Check out this ADORABLE clip of a puppy training session with baby Roo. 

And we were still working on new things in his last year of life. Here we are working on a cute new combo trick of paw + chin offered together.

And if you aren’t tired of Roo videos yet, one more unedited training session where we are working on his toy carrying skills that had gotten a little rusty.  

We even did a training session together on the day we knew was our last day together – that session focused on reviewing some of his favorite, easy skills.  I don’t have a video for you. I was falling to pieces enough as it was. But he loved it so much even though he couldn’t do much. We practiced his left/right foot targets, nose and chin targets, and one of his party favorites “Go to Sleep / Wake Up.” 

All this to say – training is a journey, not a destination.  There is always more to teach your dog, always more to learn together.  

The best relationships are built on consistent investment, not one-time training. (This goes for our human friends as well our dogs.)

So, if you find yourself tempted to ask “When will this dog finally be trained??” . . . remember we are all works in progress.

Perhaps a better question is “What can we work on together today?”

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Pet Me with Two Hands and Two Eyes, Please?

Pet Me with Two Hands and Two Eyes, Please?

Blog post by Amber Quann KPA-CTP, CPDT-KSA

Multi-tasking is a favorite pastime for many of us, myself included. Why do only one thing when you can be doing many things at once?!?!

With the advent of technology, our addiction to multi-tasking has become even more easy to feed. I find myself checking my email on my phone while making breakfast, returning phone calls while washing dishes, and catching up on social media while half-heartedly folding laundry.

While doubling up on these mundane tasks may seem innocent enough, I’ve recently become aware of another pattern to my multi-tasking that is less harmless.

I often multi-task on activities with my dog. It’s so easy to pet him with one hand and scroll Instagram with the other. It’s very convenient to return phone calls while walking our daily morning and evening walks. That’s 1.5 hours EVERY DAY that is just asking to be put to more than one use!

But just like excessive technology use can impact our relationships with other humans, I think this tendency to consistently split our engagement between our dogs and distracting technology has real consequences for our relationships.

Engagement creates engagement - if I engage with my dog, he is more likely to engage with me. Conversely, if I disengage from my dog, he is more likely to disengage from me. While this isn’t the end of the world every now and then, if it is the norm on our activities together, it’s no surprise that the disengagement behavior becomes way more reinforcing to the dog than engaging.

So, a challenge for all of us:

Let’s be intentional about our technology use around our dogs. Let’s choose complete engagement as much as we can. Put down your phone when you pet your dog. Leave your phone at home when you head out for your daily walk. Show your dog that you are engaged completely with him on the activities you are sharing together.

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Gear Up for Spring Hikes! - Essential Supplies for Hiking with Your Dog

Gear Up for Spring Hikes! - Essential Supplies for Hiking with Your Dog

We are just wrapping up a month-long series on our Facebook page about our top 10 gear list for hiking with our dogs. Here is the summary of the list, but if you want details on each item, be sure to check out the posts on Facebook!

  1. Water bowl + water bottle. Ruffwear Quencher & HydraPack Seeker.

  2. Clean up accessories! TurdleBag + biodegradable bags

  3. First Aid Kit

  4. Long-line. Our favorites are from Rawah Dog Outfitters!

  5. Backpacks. We love the Ruffwear Palisade and the Outward Hound Quick Release.

  6. Squeeze Tubes. Coghlans or GoToob are the best!

  7. Tasty Treat Trailmix

  8. Collar + I.D. Tags + Microchip

  9. Flea + tick prevention & mosquito repellent

  10. Education on wilderness first aid & safety. Check out the Field Guide to Dog First Aid.


Happy adventuring!!

Work Out With Your Dog - Without Losing Your Mind

Work Out With Your Dog - Without Losing Your Mind

Blog post by Amber Quann KPA-CTP, CPDT-KSA 

If you’re like me, there are some days where you just can’t make it to the gym.  Whether the culprit is your crazy schedule, the negative temperatures outside, or your dog’s sad puppy dog eyes begging you not to leave again, the struggle of being torn between a good workout and staying cozy at home is real!  

But if you live in a small house like me, and/or have a dog that wants to be involved in all of your activities, getting in a good home workout can be an additional challenge for those of us deciding to skip the gym.  If left to his own devices, my dog Roo would be all up in my business as I’m trying to get in a good workout rhythm, leaving both of us frustrated.

Thankfully, we’ve worked out (pun, haha!) a great system for avoiding this frustration!   We’ve modified Karen Overall’s Protocol for Relaxation framework to include workout skills like squats and burpees and push-ups and sit-ups.  Roo settles on his mat quietly right next to my workout area and gets a treat from the nearby treat bucket every few minutes. This way he gets to be somewhat involved in my workouts and I don’t have to worry about tripping over him while carrying my dumbbells.

We didn’t start with the long intervals between treats that we work at now though!  If you want to give this a try with your dog, here is a model to follow to start building up this skill!  For most dogs it will be easier to start with workout exercises that keep you upright before adding in exercises that put you on the floor right in their reach.

 

Foundation: Settle on a Mat. If your dog doesn’t know this skill, he should!  You can see a short video of this skill here.  Work through at least day one of the Protocol for Relaxation to build a little bit of distraction and duration into this skill.

Set Up: Mat or towel near your workout station. Small treats in container readily accessible but out of your dog’s reach if he’s likely to sneak a taste while your back is turned.

Once you are set up, try an easy workout sequence like this: 

workout-with-your-dog-squats-workout-guide

Hey you just did 15 squats! Good job!  You could replicate this same framework with lunges, oblique leg lifts, jumping jacks (add some shorter intervals between treats here, this is an exciting one for many dogs!), etc. 

Here’s another variation to try:

arm-workout-guide-with-your-dog

When your dog is doing well with your upright exercises, try some that put you on the ground!

ab-workout-guide-with-dogs

Look at those abs! ;) You get the idea.  You can start to add more reps between each treat for your dog, expanding to the duration that you want to see.  Added bonus is that after your workout, your dog will have gotten some quality one-on-one time with you as well, and practiced a very important self-control skill that is applicable to so many areas of his life!

 

Happy sweating!  

Here's to a new year . . . 2019 Summit Dog Training Update

Here's to a new year . . . 2019 Summit Dog Training Update

Blog post by Amber Quann KPA-CTP, CPDT-KSA

At our goal setting meeting last year January 1, 2018, my husband Charlie and I had a simple goal for the year: maintain the status quo. This goal was born out of realizing that every year since we’ve been married, we have either moved to a different state, started a new job, started or graduated from a degree program, moved to a different house, opened or closed a training facility, etc. etc. etc. In 2018, we made it our goal to stay in the same jobs, the same house (we’d just bought our perfect first home), the same state, and the same level of education. We met that goal pretty well over-all and it was oh-so-nice.

Which brings us to 2019 - new year, new goals.

Maintaining the status quo is good sometimes. It allows you to find a baseline. Find some level of proficiency before you raise your criteria - that’s Training 101.

But sometimes the status quo isn’t a healthy long-term solution. When the status quo is working an average of 50-60 hours a week, juggling 306 business hats all at once, feeling guilty about taking time off, and fighting compassion fatigue every other day - that’s not healthy, and not sustainable.

So, here are some updates for each of us on the Summit team for 2019. We’re shaking it up a bit.

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Amber: For the past 3.5 years since I started SDT, I’ve worked an average of 50-hour work weeks, including multiple weeknights every week, and weekends. I love helping people and their dogs, and SDT has helped a lot of them in Fort Collins so far (I just noticed that we just passed the 1000th client mark in our scheduling software!). But while this is my passion and has been my dream job since the age of 10, I am also on the edge of burnout. In order to keep helping dogs and their humans, I will be taking a sabbatical this year to rest and work on some other projects that have taken a back burner to my regular responsibilities. The first part of my sabbatical will be for 6 weeks middle-of-February through the end of March. I have a new project that I’m very excited about. It’s called Drink With Your Dog™, and when this project is complete it will include education for breweries and dog owners all about keeping dogs in breweries in the safest and most positive way for everyone involved. I need time to work on developing this project fully, and this is part of what I will be using my sabbatical for. I also have been wanting to teach an online Rally obedience class for quite a while now. During my “downtime” I’m going to be offering that class since it never seems to fit amid all the other routine classes that we offer. After these 6 weeks, I’ll be back for a bit . . . and I’m not sure exactly what my availability will look like then, but we will see. There may be a second part of this “sabbatical” happening later this year, details still TBD.


Charissa: Charissa has been enjoying raising her new puppy and married life since early this fall. And now that the new year is upon her, she and her family are looking for their next adventure. Sticking to the mountains of Colorado, Charissa and Tyler will soon be packing up the dogs and cat and moving to a new town. She would like to work on training her animals and teaching some goals with them but once settled knows she can’t stay away from her passion long. Charissa is still teaching the CSU vet students every week so she won’t be far for long! During this time she’ll be taking a back seat at SDT and won’t be leading group classes or taking on new private lesson clients.  


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Sarah: Sarah joined the SDT team back in October, and has been working hard preparing to take over her own Level 1 classes starting this month. We are so excited to have her as part of our team, and for the expertise that she will be bringing to our class students. She will also be available for Basics private lessons starting soon, and will be a great resource for our students while I’m away.

hiking-with-dogs-colorado

Emily: Emily is our rockstar administrative assistant - if you call our office phone or send us an email through our website, you’ll reach her! She's always ready to help and will be continuing to work hard on behalf of our clients even during this weird downtime. I’m also going to be putting her skills to good use on the development of the DWYD™ Project!




Other updates:

Level 1 Classes: We recently had one of our class locations close their doors unexpectedly. We have found solutions for our classes for the short-term (thank you Prost, Wagz & Krisers for stepping in and helping us out!). As we have team member changes in conjunction with this location snafu, we likely won’t be offering our Level 1 classes with the same regularity as we have been able to for the past 3 years. We are still exploring other location options as a long-term solution (if you have any leads on a great classroom space for us to pursue, please reach out via email at amber@summitdogtraining.com) but in the mean time, please bear with us and if you see a class pop up on our schedule that you want to join - sign up right away so you don’t miss out since supply will be limited.

Thank you all for your continued support of Summit Dog Training. We are so honored to have been able to serve so many dogs and their humans in Fort Collins over the last 3.5 years. We are excited about the next steps we are taking - hopefully these steps will ensure that our team has the capacity and energy to continue serving the dog community for many years to come.

Harmony in the Household: Bringing a New Cat into a Dog's House & Vice Versa

Harmony in the Household: Bringing a New Cat into a Dog's House & Vice Versa

Blog post by Amber Quann KPA-CTP CPDT-KSA & Emily Jacobs

dogs-and-cats-can-be-friends-training-online

Harmony in the household is a pretty great goal, and harmony among the pets is an important piece of harmony for the whole family. Too often, bringing a new pet home can cause mayhem and discord. It can be a major nuisance, and it can also be a serious safety concern if the animals living under one roof do not see eye to eye. The great news is that with a combination of management and training, most issues can be avoided all together or at least mediated successfully. 

The first step in the process of bringing home a new pet is deciding whether your current dog or cat would benefit from company, or if what you know about them actually points to them being happier as the only pet. If it’s right for them and you to add a member, here are some tools to help the transition flow peacefully. 

  • Plan Ahead: Have some idea of your training and management tactics before the new pet comes home. It’s our responsibility as pet-owners to keep our animals safe and comfortable, and planning ahead is an essential piece of this!

  • Separate:  Separating the new pet from your current pet is crucial in the initial stages. Until you know how they will react to each other’s presence when they are separated and supervised, it’s not a good idea to give them full access to each other. A house can almost always be physically separated into at least two zones: one for the resident animal and one for the newcomer. Utilizing those zones, delineated by baby gates or similar, can help reduce the stress of the introduction. Trading the zones between the animals can help acclimate them to each other’s scent and start to incorporate each other into their idea of normal territory. 

  • Go Slowly: When it’s appropriate to combine them, interactions should be supervised and slow. 

  • Observe Body Language: How do you know if your animal is comfortable? One hallmark indicator is body language. If you don’t know what signs of discomfort or aggression to watch out for, read up! Being prepared to spot whale eyes, for instance, and separate your dog from your new cat might prevent an overstimulation or fear reaction. Lots of dogs and cats are able to play and learn cooperatively, but it’s always important to ensure safety first. In fact, once they have an established relationship, there are many fun ways that you can help them bond and enrich each other’s lives. 

  • Train Foundation Skills: Training preparation and practice with both dogs and cats, and current and new pets is extremely helpful. When you are introducing the two, focus exercises and a great recall are just two examples of real peace-keeping skills that you can keep in your training toolbox. There are a variety of exercises that will help you in bringing a new pet home, and they are just as helpful in houses with existing inter-species animal interactions too. 

 

These concepts can be applied to most animal combinations, as positive reinforcement training is based on scientific animal behavior knowledge and is not species-specific. If you’re thinking of taking another pet into your home, or if you’ve already brought a new pet home and need some guidance, you might benefit from looking through our handout, “Dogs and Cats” (available as a PDF download in our store!) and/or scheduling a lesson with one of our trainers. We wish you the best of luck and the happiest of trails with your growing households. Maybe we will see you along the way! 

Oh, do you specialize in _______ breed??

Oh, do you specialize in _______ breed??

Blog post by Charissa Carvell KPA-CTP, CPDT-KSA

“Do you specialize in ___________ breed?”

As a dog trainer, we often get asked if we know more about certain dog breeds over others. The truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter what kind of dog you have or even what kind of animal you have. As animal trainers we focus first and foremost on training the human learners in front of us. Once we have taught you how to effect behavior change its then up to you to work with your animal (dog, horse, cat, or lion). There are many species-specific behaviors that occur (dogs don’t suffer from cribbing like horses do) but the way we can help modify these behaviors are the same.   

Fenrir, my German Shepherd puppy, LOVES to learn.

Fenrir, my German Shepherd puppy, LOVES to learn.

This is one reason that using positive training methods is so amazing - they can be replicated across species. Lions at the zoo, dogs in a rescue, or horses in your pasture all can learn the same behaviors in the same way! It’s what separates clicker training from other forms of training that involve force. When you use force or intimidation, you often get stuck when trying to apply such methods to larger species. What you can physically do to a dog, you cannot do to a tiger. But using a clicker and some reinforcement you can get amazing behaviors no matter how big or small your learner. 


We can all learn new things and I love teaching! The variety of learners that benefit from these positive training methods - from working dogs like German Shepherds to toy breeds like Chihuahuas, to humans with a long history of practicing different dog training methods to humans who are training their first dog - is part of what makes my job interesting and the science of learning so exciting!

How to "Give the Gift of Dog Training" without Wasting Your Money

How to "Give the Gift of Dog Training" without Wasting Your Money

Let’s think about love language. For example: quality time spent, cuddles, and gift-giving. As the weather turns colder, it’s easy to get swept up on the warm, cinnamon-scented trail of purchasing, wrapping, and gifting our hearts out. Here’s a resolution: Make your gifting money count. Gift-giving is, ideally, a mutually-beneficial activity. The giver receives warmth, while the recipient receives something they can use and appreciate. 

We at Summit are spending the first days of the holiday season with this in mind: we hope that when someone purchases dog training as a gift for another, their money goes as far as possible – generating both the warm fuzzies and the utility. We have to charge for our training sessions and classes, of course, but we definitely aren’t just in it for the money. We like to help clients reach their goals, and to feel productive and connected to their dogs while doing it. It’s tough to feel like the session isn’t the best use of your money. Here are a couple of questions to ask first to help determine whether or not dog training is the right gift to give.


  • What are your recipient’s training goals? Are you sure that the goals you have in mind are on their mind as well? That can happen if the recipient can’t think of anywhere they would like to go with training. Also, recipients sometimes worry that the gift means there’s undesirable behavior they’ve been ignoring or haven’t noticed. It’s alright to chat with the potential recipient about their dogs openly, and to discern whether or not they see eye to eye with you about their dog’s behavior.

  • Does the recipient have time to spend on training? We also know that a lot of humans and pups have training goals, but just don’t have the time to work on them right now. Check that your recipient has the schedule flexibility for training sessions, and that now is the best time for them to fit them in. At the expense of the surprise, you might save the expense of a session that doesn’t feel productive, or that feels rushed. Or, you might find out that training is the perfect gift! Or, that it would be better given another time, due to seasonal scheduling constraints. 

  • What is the best way to deliver your gift to make sure your recipient actually receives it? Don’t purchase training and then send it off into the ether. Make sure your gift has a confirmed delivery location to get to your recipient, since no trainer is able to work with a dog they can’t find! (This suggestion is based on a real example - last Christmas someone bough a large gift certificate and the details they provided for delivery were incorrect. After a year of repeated efforts to contact both the giver and the recipient with no luck, we are donating this training package to one of our shelter partners.)

Training works best when the pup and human are both engaged and interested. Make sure your recipient wants to train, and that they believe their dog can benefit from it. We adore our clients and want them to love working with us too, and the best way to do this is to make sure that dog training gift recipients feel like training is fun and important, not emotionally or logistically difficult. To you as a potential gift-giver, our is not to dissuade you from giving the gift of dog training, but to make sure that you have spent you money well.   We want your message to reach your recipient in a love language that is clear.

We can’t wait to train with those of you who can’t wait to train with us! 

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(Still thinking about giving the gift of dog training? Check out our Gift Certificates on sale through Cyber Monday for 25% off the redemption value!)

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Dog Bed

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Dog Bed

Blog post by Emily Jacobs, SDT Admin


Haven’t you ever come to the end of a particularly tough day to wonder, why me? Why did everything seem so wrong, and so difficult? Further, have you ever caught yourself and thought, “well, plenty of good things did happen…?” It seems obvious that negativity in human daily life can be toxic. One tough break at work can color your whole day, and one critique from a friend might put you in a funk for a while. However, I think it’s easy to forget that most negativity is contagious for our pooches too. Our demeanor and the emotional environment we create for our dogs can be an important factor in the success of our relationship.

Back to humans: our mood often directly affects our perception of other people’s personalities. I know that when I am in a bad mood, my first impressions of people tend to feature more judgements than when I’m feeling well-rested and happy. Isn’t it true that our dogs’ behavioral “sticking-points” nag at us more when we are underslept, underfed, or feeling unloved? When they bark at the fenceline, if we are feeling negative, won’t we feel more inclined to bark back?

It can certainly be said that our dogs aren’t holding grudges. I know that when I accidentally step on Dally’s toe, I apologize to her profusely in a language she doesn’t understand, but it’s just to placate my own guilt. She can’t understand me, and she has already forgiven! How peaceful it would be, in the human world, if we were able to allow the mis-steps of others to roll off our backs in a similar way. Further might we have more emotional bandwidth to approach our dogs without judgement, if we have spent our day forgiving rather than begrudging?

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We might foster more productive relationships with our dogs if we extended to them a portion of the courtesy they extend to us. We always have the benefit of the doubt, in our dogs’ minds. They might be pretty color-blind, but they seem to see the world through rose-colored lenses. Perhaps we could wake each morning and forgive ourselves for our mistakes, then put on our own rose lenses and see others that way too. Finally, we might be able to see our dogs more clearly, without the fog of stress and frustration that obscures so much of our sight.

It’s evident that our own self-care (medical, emotional, financial, spiritual, etc…) can have an effect on how we perceive our dogs’ actions. The redirection a begging dog receives should be consistent and loving each instance, no matter how hot it was today, or how long the line was at the grocery store, or how much your feet hurt from walking. It is worth saying that we are responsible for taking care of ourselves when we are owners, because the needs of a pet can’t be met with just money, kibble, and exercise. We are responsible for meeting our dogs more than halfway in emotional engagement. To have the most fruitful relationship, it’s important for both parties to be heard, well-fed, well-rested, and well-loved.