How Do I Know if I am a Bad Dog Owner?
Picture this. It’s 7:43 AM. You’re running late. Your dog wants to play, but ain’t nobody got time for that. You dump a little kibble in the bowl, then leave the dirty dish on the floor.
12:15 PM. Your dog walker texts: “I can’t find the leash.”
Shit. Shittt. His time is valuable. You’ve screwed up. Also, where is the leash?
12:23 PM: “It was under the couch.”
Relief. But that’s not the first time this has happened and you know this person thinks you’re an irresponsible idiot.
5:47 PM: Walk in the door. Pup wants to play. It’s super excited to see your face, but you’re not in the mood for games. Grab the leash your dog walker oh-so-responsibly left where it belongs and head out to get the evening walk over.
You start to relax. Things are going fine. The furball does its business and you reach in your pocket. Shitttttttt. Shitfuckshit.
No poop bag. And your neighbor is outside, glaring and headed in your direction for the fourth time in two months.
You’re definitely an irresponsible idiot. It’s just been third-party confirmed twice in one day. Maybe you’re feeling like you have to admit it.
I Never Should Have Adopted A Dog
Why’d you think you could handle this? You’re doing everything wrong. What kind of fool let you adopt a dog? Why couldn’t you have settled for that Mandalorian Chia Pet instead?
Time for the real truth, babe: you’re not special in feeling spectacularly bad. Every pet parent feels guilt, shame, frustration, and inadequacy. People prepare you for the day-to-day necessities of owning a dog.
But you rarely hear about all those bits that can culminate in… let’s be real. Regret. There are days when you regret getting your dog. Because it makes you feel like you’ve failed. This sentient being loves you, depends on you, and shows it every day. But you can’t show up like you should and be enough.
The good news? You’re worried. Better news?
You’re not a bad pet parent. You’re just having a bad day.
Shut Down the Negative Self-Talk
One of many things that make you an amazing pet parent is that you have a ton of patience and compassion for your dog. Give yourself a little of that same love.
So, the poop bag incident was embarrassing. You did the right thing and life goes on. Hell, you probably did your nosey neighbor a favor. Some people relish the misery of others and your misstep may have made their day. If you went back and cleaned up the mess, then you’re a responsible person who fixed your mistake.
Every wrong move is a learning experience. Sometimes, it takes more than one time for the lesson to set in. If this happens, look at new strategies to address the problem.
Hint: buy a bag holder to attach to your leash. Future problem averted with a clever solution.
Establish a Routine
But not just any routine. Take some time to think about what an average day looks like for you and your dog. Not the fantasy-life, ideal perfect day. The real, messy, busy days. Think about what you can do that’s manageable, actionable, and easy to achieve.
Little goals and milestones are the best goals and milestones, because meeting them makes you feel amazing. It keeps you motivated. Maybe you even get to feel a little smug. Be smug, bitch. You deserve it for checking every box off the list.
The bonus here is that routines make dogs very happy. They’re creatures of habit and love the security that comes with knowing what to expect.
Congratulate Yourself for What You Get Right
Here are a few subtle signs you’re an amazing dog owner:
Your dog is fucking thrilled to spend time with you
You’ve got one fine dog - clean, groomed, and brows on fleek (okay, maybe too far?)
Your pup is kind and plays well with others
You put your dog’s needs ahead of your own
Pretty simple stuff, but every one indicates that you’re on the right track. Feeling good about your pet parenting skills will motivate you to keep killin’ it. Humans make mistakes. It’s what we do.
Celebrate the wins, no matter how small. And balance bad moments by remembering all the ways you kick ass.
When all else fails and life freakin’ happens, laugh. Like, seriously. That shit is going to be funny when you tell the story later. And you should tell it. No more shame. Sharing your story with other pet parents will help you remember that you’re not alone.