Look to yourself for motivation not your dog.

Lets consider two scenarios:

1) Chuck & Bentley:

Chuck was retired when I met him. Chuck likes golf and walking his dog. Chuck told me an incredible story about how he spent seven years of his life unable to walk after a work place accident where he was crushed under heavy equipment. After seven years of not being able to walk he was told that he might walk again if he had metal rod put in his back. Even then his chances were not great, but he said he had been determined to walk again and he did. Chuck said sometimes it was hard to get moving in the morning because his back would be stiff and sore. This only got worse in cold weather (which is a big deal since we are in Canada). But he still got up to walk everyday. And he didn’t whine about it. When he retired his family gave him Bentley, an adorable Toy Poodle/Jack Russel X, to keep him company on his walks. Chuck walked Bentley for 30min three times per day around his neighborhood rain or shine, snow or no snow. His only exceptions were the mornings in the summer when he left before dawn for an early morning golf session. Those mornings Bentley got to spend the morning in the neighbors yard.

2) Betty & Holly, then Friday, then Boker:

When I first met Betty she had a gorgeous little wheat coloured spaniel named Holly. I would see Betty and Holly walking only some days. When Betty stopped to let Holly play with my dog she would bellyache about how hard it was to be motivated to walk Holly, and get up in the morning, about how she got Holly to try to help motivate her to get out more, about how she couldn’t be bothered to walk the ten minutes to the park with Holly because it was too hard so she had her husband drop her off in his truck so she only had to walk the ten minutes home.

A few months later I saw Betty and she no longer had Holly because Holly was just too exhausting. Holly had been returned to her previous owner. (For the record Holly was the lowest energy dog among all of Betty’s choices.)

I then saw Betty later with Friday, a  wonderful little Jack Russell Terrier who would not stop running (really if you picked him up off the ground his legs just kept going). Once again she said Friday was suppose to motivate her to get more exercise. But our occasional dog park visits were usually just twenty minutes of Betty whinging about how Friday was too high energy, she couldn’t keep up with him, it was too much work, she was to exhausted to walk him the ten minutes to and from the park. Awhile later I bumped into her and she told me Friday had been found a new home on a farm where he could run around all day.

Later I bumped into Betty again with a new pure bred puppy she had specially ordered named Boker. I can’t remember the exact breed but it was a type of working dog noted for its intelligence and stamina. I moved so I never saw Betty after that and I never got to see if Betty kept Boker or found him another home too. But given her track record and the fact that she again selected a high energy breed requiring lots of exercise I imagine Betty didn’t do any better with Boker than she did with Holly or Friday. Although I hope I am wrong and she did make it work.

What Chuck got right:

Chuck already had a healthy habit of regular activity established before he was given Bentley. His motivation was intrinsic rather than extrinsic. He looked to himself for motivation rather than his dog. Even if he had not been given Bentley he would still be walking and playing golf. When Chuck was given Bentley both man and dog benefited from Chuck’s already established schedule of daily activity and Chuck’s internal motivation to keep walking.

What Betty got wrong:

Betty looked to the dog for motivation instead of herself. As the dog owner all the control and power for both herself and her dog to be exercised lay solely with her. The dog can’t put on his leash and open the door on its own. In this situation the dog relies on its owner to be responsible and meet its needs. By relying on the dog to provide the motivation that only Betty herself could provide Betty set herself up for failure. Her failure then had an impact on her pets who then had to be found new homes when she gave up. (On a personal note: Betty’s behavior always pissed me off because she did this to pets she professed to love, not once but twice (and possibly a third time). She should have figured out the first time that pet owning and dog walking were probably not activities for her and tried something else sans the pet.)

In short, whatever your motivation is to be active that motivation needs to begin and end with you.


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