Sometimes I think we're a society of worriers and dog owners can be the worst worriers of all.
We worry about our dog's behavior, whether he's learning his training the way he should, and if he's getting enough exercise. We worry that we're leaving him alone too much or are feeding him the wrong food.
While these are all legitimate concerns, there's no need to worry so much that you're stressed out and are no longer enjoying him. Having a dog in your life should bring you more joy and fewer gray hairs; not the other way around.
Do What You Can Do
Dogs need good food, daily interaction with us, exercise, playtime, good health care, and training. But you know what? You don't have to be an expert at any of those things. Do what you can do, to the best of your ability, and don't worry about the rest.
You don't have to be the best dog trainer in the world or even in your community. After all, if you need help you can call a trainer for some help. The same goes for grooming, health care, and more. Professionals are available to help you and wise dog owners will avail themselves of that help.
Try to incorporate your dog's needs into your daily life so the dog does get a walk, socialization, and some exercise each day. Play with him, too, and if you can, incorporate some training into those activities. If you have a busy day, ask family members or even a willing neighbor to help you so your dog gets the attention he needs even when you are busy. There are always ways to work things out. Then, don't worry. As the saying goes, stuff happens and there's no need to beat yourself up over it.
Don't Google Every Little Thing
My grandfather was a great dog owner. His dogs were with him almost all the time, listened to him when he talked to them, and they were well behaved. Yet he never read a dog training book, never Googled for dog information (the internet hadn't been invented yet), and he never went to a dog training class. While books, classes, and the internet can be great tools, sometimes we go overboard. Too much information can be confusing, contradictory, and cause you stress.
I'm not saying we should revel in ignorance; no, I'm not saying that at all. But I am saying that we sometimes need to take a break from acquiring more information and relax. Get to know your dog better and then listen to what he has to say and what your heart (and mind) says.
If something isn't the way you wish it to be, don't complain. That solves nothing. Instead, be proactive and make a change.
If your dog isn't behaving the way you want, then work more on his training. Don't forget to have fun with that training because if you have fun, you'll enjoy it more and so will your dog. If you need help, call a trainer and then listen to what she has to say.
If you're not happy with your dog's veterinarian, trainer, groomer, or dog walker, don't complain. Instead, talk to them openly, politely, and with respect and ask if the two of you can work out this problem. People will be much more willing to make a change if you talk to them constructively rather than angrily complaining.
Excuses Don't Work Either
If, when you're talking to these professionals, one of them asks you to do something to help effect a change, don't make excuses as to why it's not your fault or not your dog's fault. Instead, think about how you can do what is needed. You may need to ask the professional for help and that's fine. Just don't make excuses as to why you can't do it. That doesn't help anyone.
However, if you don't want to do something with your dog, just say so. Perhaps the groomer would like the dog's coat to be trimmed a certain way and you don't like that. That's okay, just say so. Maybe the trainer would like you and your dog to compete in a dog sport but you have no interest in doing so; that's okay. Just tell the trainer that. Don't make excuses as to why you can't do something; just say no.
Find Your Joy (and his, too)
So much of life is serious that sometimes I think we, as adults, forget how to have fun. Yet dogs are a great way to have fun and to remember the joy we had as kids when we played when no one was watching.
Your dog is a great excuse to play like a kid again. Lie down on the floor with your dog and throw a sheet over both of your heads. Go outside to the wood pile and hunt for bugs. Walk in a creek and splash water as high as you can; encourage your dog to splash, too. Climb up on a fallen tree with your dog and both of you walk the length of the tree. There are so many ways to have fun with your dog, inside and outside. Just go do it.
When you playing with your dog, or finding your joy, or your dog's joy, you'll laugh a lot. But don't forget to laugh at the small things that happen in daily life. Those little things can create some great laughter and that's good for you and your dogs. Remember; dogs know what laughter is.
When you're giving your dog a belly rub and she gets a back leg kicking, go ahead and laugh. It's not going to embarrass her. When your dog is on the sofa with her head hanging off the edge of the cushion and she looks silly, pet her, rub her ears, and tell her she looks silly. Laugh with her. When she's playing and accidentally bounces the ball so it goes over her head and down the hall, cheer her on and encourage her to find the ball, but laugh with her then, too.
When you come home and your dog greets you with a smiling face and a wagging tail, laugh as you greet him. Tell him you missed him and that you love him and then laugh some more.
Love the Dog You're With
Learn who your dog is and love him for himself. Don't look at someone else's dog, or think of a previous dog you loved, and try to turn this one into that dog. Not only will that never happen, but you'll only create stress for you and your dog.
Instead of trying to change him, get to know him. Who is this canine soul? What makes him happy? What's his favorite toy? What makes him sad? What is his favorite game with you? When does he get sleepy? What scares him? There are so many aspects of his personality, breed (or mixtures of breeds), age, stage of development, and so much more that you need to know about so spend some time with him and find out who he is. Then love this dog for who he is.