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Asking For and Accepting Help
A skill worth developing by dog guardians
There can never be too many people who love your dog

Dogs are a lot of work, and though many people take it all on themselves, asking for and accepting help is advantageous for all. That’s especially true for puppies who often require more attention and require it more frequently. The thought of raising a puppy on my own with no assistance practically makes me hyperventilate with anxiety, and though I could probably do a passable job, I would never do so on purpose. Whether you are single and live alone or are part of a large family of dog lovers, outside help can make a big difference. Everyone, especially the dog, stands to benefit from a team effort.

If you have other people in your life who you know you can count on to help you, it relieves a lot of stress. If a friend or neighbor can let your dog out or refill his water bowl when you are late coming home, that’s good for you and your dog. Your dog is cared for and you need not worry. Yes, many people have very regular schedules, but a flat tire, an emergency with a co-worker or icy roads—among many other speed bumps along the road of life—can cause unexpected delays.

There are advantages to asking for and receiving help beyond the immediate benefits. In addition to giving you time to go to work and to deal with the other things you must attend to in life, your dog has experiences with other people. That provides socialization opportunities for your puppy, and also has the side benefit that other people fall in love with your dog, too. (You can never have too many people who love your dog!)

When people help out with your dog, things may not go exactly as they usually do for your dog, and that’s generally okay. In fact, it can help many dogs be flexible rather than routinized. I think routines are wonderful, but so is the ability to cope with changes in that routine.

Despite the obvious advantages of a group effort with our dogs, especially puppies, it is very hard for most guardians to ask for help. Many even struggle to accept help when it is offered. Why is that? Our society often emphasizes a strong go-it-alone attitude and approach to life. There is often a perception of weakness if you can’t do everything by yourself, or if you choose not to. Many people do not want to impose on others, even if the others don’t feel imposed upon in the slightest, and in fact are very eager to help.

I would love for offers to help with a new dog to become more commonplace in the dog community and for every dog guardian to learn to accept graciously all reasonable offers of assistance.

Are you able to ask other people for help with your dog?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

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