The discussion about finding the right life balance for working dogs -particularly ours, has been a popular topic in my house lately…
Jaxson works four days a week. We work from home on Wednesday – which was designed with him in mind. It allows me to catch up with administrative responsibilities, he’s free to sleep late and loaf, or accompany my husband in running errands, play ball, and lay on the porch with me at lunchtime as we “people watch.”
Translation? Wednesdays are all about him being a regular pet.
Yet at least twice a week, Lee continues to ask me –
Is Jax okay? All he does is sleep.
I love his concern, and I understand why he’s repeatedly inquiring – Lee sees a tired pup after work.
The truth is – Jaxson is tired, both physically and psychologically…
BALANCE BETWEEN WORK AND DOG LIFE
is my primary focus when it comes to therapy dogs.
All who work with me will tell you, that I AM that annoying human who teaches and encourages YAYABA (you are your animal’s best advocate) to all handlers in the program. Having coping mechanisms in place (especially during busy, stressful days) is something that I’ve found helps him.
A working dog’s welfare is multidimensional when physical and psychological welfare, a balance between work and dog life, and the settings and interactions of sessions are all considered…
When I interview new teams for this program, I often say –
let us remember YOU were the one who thought this was a great idea. Not once did you schedule a meeting to inform your dog that he/she is now going to have a job!! Therefore we’ve got to introduce this slowly and watch his/her body language all-the-time…
I never force Jaxson to go to work. Every morning I look for the signs.
Is he –
- running circles around me in the morning with anticipation that I will pull out his work bag #yeshehasone
- willingly welcoming physical interactions with strangers #alldamnday
- consistent with his display of happiness to be there #liketherisingofthesun
I can honestly tell you – because of our WFHW (work from home Wednesday), he has a two-day work week. I think that is why, he genuinely looks forward to going. The more we work together, the more I am learning how to decipher between his wanting to participate vs. tolerating it.
Rarely, have I recognized days when he doesn’t willingly want to connect with patients. I get it, and I immediately give him a PTO (puppy time off) day. I call Lee and he swings by to scoop him, or he lounges in my office with me and I switch gears and catch up on paper, and email work 🙂
If you have a working dog (therapy, service, or facility) how do you manage their life balance?
I love watching him bring such joy to everyone he comes in contact with – but I’m determined to maintain balance in his world as well…
Here’s a link to two great articles (compliments of Pet Partners) that I believe could be beneficial to all pet parents:
- 8 Tell-Tail Signs Your Dog is Stressed During a Visit.
- 7 Ways to Ensure the Mental Health of Our Therapy Animals
The journey of life is sweeter when traveled with a dog ❤️