Ever since adopting my two spaniels, I’ve felt this immense pressure to be a perfect dog owner. I barely feel I can look after myself properly all the time, let alone my dogs! Knowing I am fully responsible for two (or three if we’re fostering!) living beings can be incredibly overwhelming. I can’t be the only owner feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility. I want to explore this topic further with you, to offer support and reassurance because we are all doing more than a good enough job!
DOGSCLOSURE: The outerwear featured in this blogpost was gifted to me by Lighthouse Clothing.
Owning a dog is tough. There’s no point sugar coating it. There have been plenty of times over the past few years where I’ve broken down in tears because of the dogs. Whether that’s them eating something they shouldn’t have (like dismembered seagulls, raisins, cocktail sticks or most recently an entire chocolate star gift last Christmas!) running off and scaling cliffs at the beach or generally misbehaving on walks. Of course, the good times more than make up for for the stress. However, I can’t help but feel the pressure to always be a perfect dog owner.
I couldn’t write about the pressure to be a perfect dog owner and not mention social media. I’m a firm believer that it is a contributing factor. Like with many topics, including mental health, career success and self-esteem, social media is a breeding ground for comparison among dog owners. I for one am guilty of comparing myself to many other owners online. People I’ve met and know in person, as well as strangers.
I worry that I too contribute to the pressure to be a perfect owner. Like many others, I actively share a highlight real of the exciting outdoor adventures with my dogs online. Consequently I choose to carefully curate out the more mundane, day-to-day stresses and insignificancies that come with owning a dog. I just don’t deem them interesting enough or worthy of sharing online.
I also feel an immense guilt when I’m out and about and my dogs start misbehaving. Woody got a taste for pheasants last summer, when he ran off, caught and killed his first bird at a friend’s family barbeque. As a result, he’s been a nightmare to walk this winter. Any sound or scent he senses and he’s off to chase it. I’ve avoided woodland walks for months and am only just regaining my confidence in him enough to let him off-lead again.
My fear isn’t so much in Woody coming to harm himself. More how others we encounter will perceive me. I’m aware I am responsible for both Woody and Hen’s safety as their owner, however they are their own beings too. They are in control of their legs, noses and minds much more than I ever will be. If they choose to eat dead animals on walks behind my back, should I really hold myself 100% accountable?
I’m trying my best to work on this and cut myself some slack. I provide my dogs with the best life I can give them. This sometimes means buying a cheaper food if money is tight, or shorter walks and rest days when my ME flares up. The dogs don’t always get new toys or fancy chews but the few they do have they really enjoy. It’s easy to get caught in the comparison trap. Particularly as our dogs will never be able to reassure us that we’re doing a good job.
I know the pressure I feel comes from a place of love and fear of not doing enough. I worry I’m failing my dogs by not giving them the best opportunities in life. In the grand scheme of things, so long as Woody and Hen are healthy and happy, I am being their perfect dog owner.
Do you struggle with the pressure to be a perfect dog owner?
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