This past summer I went on a 18 day trip to Alberta to work with some dogs and learn from a great trainer named Monika who runs Paws in Paradise in Leduc. It was a great experience, but after 12 hours of being in Alberta it donned on me that I wouldn’t see my wife or son for over two weeks. This reality hurt my heart. My family means a lot to me, and knowing I couldn’t see them when I wanted was tough. My wife and I would talk on the phone every day and thanks to the modern technology we have I was able to at least see them via video chats and Skype. It was hard seeing my wife and son and hearing them say they missed me every day, but it was good too. When I returned, it was refreshing. Anything my wife and I were arguing about was truly forgotten about and our connection and passion was renewed through that separation.
Anybody who has ever been in a long term relationship will tell you that time alone (or apart) is important, but this is something that people miss when thinking about their dogs. Have you ever considered for a moment that your dog might need a break from you? It can be obvious when you need a break from your dog, right? You’re frustrated with behaviour issues, you’re stuck in training maybe, not making the progress you want or perhaps are just tired of your dog not listening to you. The problem becomes dogs need time alone too. Sometimes, time apart is enough to come back and start fresh.
This can be hard to accept for some people, because when I tell them “maybe your dog needs some alone time or a break from the stress of humans” your brain (read: ego) feels attacked. How could I be the problem? But most people will have heard me say that one of my top rules in training is leaving your ego out of it.
If you spend to much time together without time apart, there’s a few negative things that can come about it. The biggest two being burnout where you simply get tired and resentful of the other person OR you could go in the other direction and become codependent on that other person. These are both bad from a psychological perspective. Time apart is important in any relationship to develop independence and character apart from the person you’re bonding with.
So the next time you are getting frustrated with your dog, or are looking at your dog thinking “why aren’t you getting this?” ask yourself if maybe it’s time for a break. And if your answer is “no”… ask your dog if he needs one!