Single (Dog) Parenting

Alma has been a part of our family for about two and a half weeks now.

Moses and Alma

And out of the last 18 days, I don’t remember the last time I didn’t walk the dogs.

I mean, I know there have been at least two instances, but I can’t really pin-point them or remember how I made use of that time otherwise.

You see, work has taken the Husband out of town Monday through Friday at increasing frequencies over the passing months.

In the normal course, the Husband and I have an alternating dog walking schedule.  Variances to that schedule are liberally made based on work schedules, social commitments, and general will, but, suffice it to say, the dog responsibilities are typically pretty evenly distributed.

And even before we adopted Alma and the Husband was taken out of town during the week, it wasn’t a big deal.  Moses is a breeze to take care of and had pretty minimal daily exercise requirements as he continues to recover from his surgery in July.

But now Alma is added to the equation.

Moses and Alma have different exercise, training, and attention requirements to meet.  While Moses is up to 40-45 minute daily walks now, Alma needs a solid hour, together with training exercises and skill practice, as we build up patience, focus, trust, and introduce verbal signals and their meanings.

And even though the time requirements can still be met by taking them out together, I do want to walk them separately occasionally, to give them one-on-one attention, mix up the routine, and attempt to prevent potential separation anxiety between the two.

This has added up to a lot of logged dog walking time for me lately, which, on the whole, I’m not complaining about.  I like walking the dogs and spending time focussed on them.  And even though the biting winter winds have arrived in Calgary and didn’t even have the courtesy to bring the snow with them, it’s still nice to have a reason to get outside for 60-90 minutes each day.

But it’s also hard.

It’s hard to muster up the energy after a long work day – every work day.

It’s hard to walk them separately as often as I’d like, because it takes so much longer.

And it’s harder to not get frustrated.  Because when the Husband is home, I can take the night off if my head’s just not in it.

Don’t get me wrong, for a dog with little to no leash experience, Alma’s walk is excellent.  But she’s still learning and figuring out the expectations.  And she’s still known to occasionally throw all 92 pounds of her enthusiasm behind greeting a passing dog or person, attempting to chase one of the neighbourhood rabbits that plague Calgary suburbs, or getting out of the way of a loud truck that has spooked her.   All of which is fine if I see it coming, too, and can appropriately and quickly respond, but those terrorists  bunnies can be sneaky little bastards.

The real ruler of the 'burbs.

Basically what I’m getting at is that I have a whole new appreciation for the single-dog-parents out there.  Whether you’re actually a single dog owner, or just the only one in the household who takes on the dog-related responsibilities, I have a whole new respect for your day-to-day commitments.

And I haven’t even been at it a full month! And I get weekend support!

So I must ask: what is your secret?  Dog walkers?  Caffeine?  Wine?

About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

13 Responses to Single (Dog) Parenting

  1. 2browndawgs says:

    Don’t forget the dark evenings. I find it really difficult to get motivated when it is cold and dark outside. My hubby usually does the dog walking this time of year because it is still light when he gets home. One thing we did when our pups were younger was to take an obedience class at night through winter to get them out of the house. At least we could work with them in a warm bright place and there are two of us. 🙂

    I give you a lot of credit for walking two huge dogs at once.

    • thatjenk says:

      Classes are a great idea, and a good way to create an obligation and something to look forward to! Though, I do insist on classes that are held outdoors, which doesn’t help with the cold or dark aspects.

      In fact, we’ve got Alma already enrolled in a program for the Spring, which I’m really looking forward to! April is a long ways away yet, though.

  2. You know my very sad and pathetic answer: the dog just doesn’t get walked. Now that it’s cold and dark, I’ve stopped going out at night, and most of his exercise comes from the dog park.

    Poor dog. My friend Matt was right– I should give him to someone who lives rural and would spend all day outside with him running around.

    • Kristine says:

      I wouldn’t worry so much. You do what you can. My dog wishes she could get to the dog park half as often! She’s lucky if she goes once a month. So I feel guilty about that. Many dogs don’t leave the tie-out cables in their front yards. YBF knows he’s got it pretty dang good, I think.

      • thatjenk says:

        I completely agree with Kristine! I know Moses and Alma would probably relish more regular dog park play time, rather than my insistence on structured on-leash walks.

  3. Jen says:

    I can so relate!! It us hard to give them each the one on one time that they deserve, especially after a long day at work! I usually walk the dogs together to try and cut down some the time, but at least 1-2 times a week I like to try and walk them separate. Not to mention grooming time and play time, I find that Pepsi sometimes helps me through:))))

    • thatjenk says:

      Oh yes… grooming time! I will be the first to admit that definitely it not attended to the way it should. And the pair of them are going through a little seasonal shedding at the moment, too.

      (Thank God For Dysons!)

  4. Kristine says:

    Wine, definitely wine. Maybe something harder with two dogs. 😉

    Though my husband is home on the regular, it is pretty much my responsibility to walk Shiva for her required two hours a day. It’s what I said I would do before we adopted her two years ago. His schedule isn’t as structured as mine and he works longer hours so to keep a solid routine, it’s easier (?) if I do it. Often he will take her on a morning walk on Sundays but other than that, it’s just me out there. I admit that the first few months of this were tough and I felt a little resentful, especially when my dog was at her most reactive. It felt like my life had been taken over. But two years later, it’s just what I do now, without thinking. I don’t even mind getting up at 5:30 every morning any more.

    However, this is also one of the reasons I have held back getting a second dog. Right now, I just don’t have the energy!

    • thatjenk says:

      Getting up at 5:30. Wow. I will stop complaining now! No matter how bad it gets, I will not be amending my schedule to include earlier mornings.
      Shiva is very lucky to have such a dedicated care giver!

  5. lexy3587 says:

    I live with my parents, but I am the sole walker-of-dog, so I kind of get what you’re goign through right now. My suggestion would be to find a walking buddy… It is a lot easier to get up and get outside if you have someone to walk with and talk with. So long as that person understands that you might switch focus away from the conversation fairly regularly to correct or do training with your dogs 🙂

  6. lauren says:

    i wish i had some advice for you, but all i have is encouragement, because i’m impressed by anyone who can manage one dog alone, let alone two dogs alone!

    we get home at 6, and i go to bed by 9 (so i can get up at 5 with desmond), so i barely have time to decompress from work, cook/eat/clean dinner, and get myself prepared for bed/the next day. if i had to also walk desmond on a regular basis after work, i’d probably be eating nothing but takeout. that would be my solution to the problem. 🙂

    • thatjenk says:

      Haha. I have been known to eat cereal for dinner occasionally. Especially if the Husband is away.

      And up at 5:00? Another early riser. I’d rather stay up late to walk dogs than get up early, but I am about as far from a “Morning Person” as one can get.

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