The love we feel for our pets knows no bounds. They truly can do no wrong! As Canine Commandments author WR Purche so succinctly puts it, everyone thinks they have the best dog… and none of them are wrong!
But all this love we have for our pampered pooches can mean that we give ourselves a hard time, often without cause.
One relatively new mental health condition that’s only recently started being studied is pet owner guilt, which has links to depression and anxiety, driven by the pressure being put on pet care by other factors like work, holidays, family commitments and so on.
It’s highly likely that you’ve experienced this yourself, when going out and leaving your pooch at home by themselves. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, of course, so it’s important that you are kind to yourself and remember that your dog will be fine… and they won’t hold a grudge!
Research carried out last year by a team of scientists at Colorado State University found that most people view their pets as members of the family (quite rightly too!).
And the consequence of this is that pet owner guilt is very similar to the guilt that parents experience with their human children, particularly when work and child rearing come into conflict with each other.
The main categories identified as being the primary drivers for dog-related guilt were being away from home, insufficient time or attention for pets, their physical health and leaving them alone.
Interestingly, the majority of study participants said they changed their own behaviour or ways of thinking about their dogs in order to help them cope with their guilt. For example, almost 50 per cent said they sometimes don’t take part in social events because they would feel guilty for leaving their pups at home alone.
Finding ways to manage your guilt is essential if you want to avoid a slide into anxiety and depression. Embrace the guilt and accept it, knowing that you’re only feeling it because you love your pet so much.
And also remember that you’re doing the best you can and setting boundaries and focusing on other areas of your life isn’t cruel or unkind – as long as you’re meeting the basic needs of your pet, such as physical exercise, mental stimulation, food and rest. If these aren’t being met as much as possible, unwelcome behaviours may develop.
Looking for a dog trainer in Kennington at the moment? Get in touch with Sean today to see how he can help.