Motivation and dogs: it’s a two-way street

Written on November 3rd, 2017

We hear a lot about how we can better motivate our dogs. There are tons of tips and tricks out there to provide stimulation for your pup, and that’s wonderful — but what about the ways our dogs motivate us?

Since Snort came into my life last February I’ve grown into a more stable, open-minded person. She has provided me with a constant push to be better, and that’s worth talking about just as much as the times I’ve encouraged her.

Here are some of the biggest ways I’ve found that dogs motivate their humans.

Exercise

There are so many mornings where the last thing I want to do is leave behind my cozy covers in favor of a brisk three-mile trek… but Snort’s face always snaps me right out of it. Her physical needs have forced me to be better about my own fitness routine, and I love staying in shape by her side!

The nature hikes and adventures we’ve taken together have brought strength to my body and peace to my mind.

Stability

I’ve been saying for a while that Snort is good for my anxiety; she needs me to be stable, so I am. Somehow it really is that simple.

When I’m working with her I know I have to provide consistency. I can’t enter into a training session and hope to bring clarity to her life if my own head is jumbled… so I’m forced to calm down for her sake. This beautiful, sentient being who trusts me is the best motivation to find my center.

Routine

Snort has also pushed me to evaluate my own daily routine — and to break it once in a while to avoid growing complacent. She responds to the patterns in our life, and I therefore need to be intentional about how our days are structured.

For us, this means that I make sure to fit in at least a three-mile walk every day and am purposeful about blocking out training time. No matter how crazy life gets, I schedule these things first and make them a priority.

With this said, Snort also inspires me to be spontaneous and get comfortable breaking my plans when necessary. If she’s particularly tired or energetic, I’ll adjust our exercise plans accordingly. If she’s having an especially rough eye day, I’ll calm things down.

I’ve had to draw a balance between structure and flexibility — and it has been such a rewarding effort.

Patience

Perhaps one of the greatest things Snort has motivated me to become is more patient. Communicating with our dogs can be an enormous challenge, and it’s easy to grow frustrated when they aren’t understanding — but that frustration does nothing.

Growing alongside Snort has forced me to accept the inevitable reality that good things take time and to commit to working as long and hard as it takes to achieve our version of success.

Education

When I first met Snort, I thought I knew a lot about dogs. I’d grown up with two Bichons and had always researched canines in my spare time… but a dog on paper is so much different than a dog in real life, and a Bichon isn’t exactly a husky.

I was forced to admit that I didn’t know it all — that in fact, I had a heck of a lot to learn. No amount of love and good intentions can fully make up for ignorance. My passion for Snort motivated me to read and watch everything I could get my hands on about being a better snow dog owner.

This experience has not only been helpful in nurturing my ability to be a better handler for Snort but also in reminding me the importance of learning in general. I will never know it all, but it’s worthwhile to gain as much knowledge as I can about the things for which I’m passionate.

Open-Mindedness

My adventure as Snort’s owner has motivated me to be less judgmental and more open. When I had only ever owned two small and fairly mellow dogs, it was easy to think there was only one way to do things. I cringed at the thought of any aversive training methods and thought I somehow knew the right way to take care of every canine in the world.

Let me tell you: I was so wrong.

In the process of learning what works for me and Snort I’ve engaged with countless other dedicated owners — and so many of us have different approaches. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to give Snort a happy, balanced life, and that means trying different methods than the ones I always thought were correct.

This has been an amazing journey in open-mindedness and thoughtful discussion. When we want the best for our dogs, we have to explore all sorts of information and interact with all sorts of people… and these things grow us not only as owners but as people.