Welcome to FETCH Training LLC

Family Essential Training for Canine Homes

Just "Be" With Your Dog

I have been doing something with my dog since reading an article on caring for dogs who are terminal (illness, old age, but their days are numbered, they're not in great health). It said to just be there for them. Sit with them, lie down with them, you don't have to do anything, just be there next to them while they nap, or relax. The point was that the dog does NEED are food, water, etc, but what they WANT is you, their family, more than the food and water and stuff. It got me to thinking...

Remembering that adult dogs normally sleep about 50% of their day (meaning a 24 hour period) I got an idea. Especially considering dog's spend about another 30% of that day just being lazy and lounging. Awake, but inactive, just "hanging out." Thus, about 80% of an average dog's day is being inactive, still being a dog, which is very much a family oriented animal and needs a family bond and structure to be healthy.

So I tried this idea I came up with on my 3 year old, very healthy Wacky Dog. No, sorry, I meant German Shepherd Dog. Yes, that's technically what she is. I tend to forget "wacky" is not a breed. Or is it? But I tell you, sometimes she's just nuts and makes no logical sense to me. OK, back to my experiment.

I work mostly at home and there are times during the day that I'm working at my desk, or folding laundry, or reading, or whatever, and she starts to whine and seems to be asking for attention. I used to immediately try to play with her, thinking she acted like that because her energy was up. What if I was assuming incorrectly? Attention doesn't have to mean play or being highly active, right?

Acting on my idea, when she whined for attention, I started to just sit on the floor with her, or sit on the couch with her, just "be" with her. Not doing anything, just sit with her and pet her, always facing her (slightly angled to not seem too aggressive) in order to show her I was there for her. I started to believe she really liked this, as she'd almost always just lie down, let out her usual loud moan (GSDs are known for being somewhat vocal in odd ways), and fall asleep quickly.

Now, sometimes she even trots into my bedroom and jumps up on the bed, buries her head in my pillows and squirms until I lie down with her. Then we have a nap together. She has been demanding this nap pretty much once or twice a day now. She will not sleep on the bed with me at night, not sure why. She does (as healthy dogs do) have her regular spots she moves between at night. Dogs normally do this. But the bed is rarely one of them. And during the day, when she wants to nap with me, she's all about getting on the bed and sleeping for only about 15-20 minutes or so. I mean, SOUND asleep, going into REM dream state within a minute or two, paws twitching, etc. and when she wakes up, she lies there for minute or two, and is done. She's ready to go lie down somewhere else without me again. Then I can get back to work.

Sometimes I'll sit on the floor when she asks for attention, and she'll come over, mouth my hand playfully as she playfully and slowly fakes falling over. Then she snuggles her muzzle up to me and falls asleep.

Or I'll sit on the couch, she'll curl up on the other end of the couch (we both have our regular couch spots), and she'll nap, as long as I'm on the couch, too. And since starting this, I've noticed she spends more time sleeping under my desk while I work. More time stretched out on the edge of the kitchen while I cook or clean. Or at the open door of my workshop when I'm working out there. The kitchen and workshop were formerly both places she'd run away from if I started working and making noise. But now she seems to not be bothered and hangs out on the periphery of these spaces.

If you mediate regularly (I actually teach meditation), be sure you dog has access to be with you when you do. Start with the usual focus on your natural breathing, but keep your eyes partially open in a very relaxed state. Focus on a point close to your dog so you can see them in your peripheral vision. Don't stare directly at them. After a short time you'll notice your dog relaxes and eventually they'll just go to sleep. Then close your eyes and do your regular meditation thing. Luna Belle sleeps right by me almost every time I meditate. When she doesn't, she's lying down in a distant spot that she can physically see me from.

I've been sharing this with some of my training clients, and though I rarely hear back from them (seems in the U.S. once you finish dog training you never talk to your trainer again, but many professions are like that here), there's been a couple of times I've heard that just sitting or lying down with your dog is what they want and seems to help their dog become closer to them. I think it shows your dog that it's OK to be near you and not do anything, just "be" and you're cool with that. That's my subjective belief, I've no science to back that up. But the results, although anecdotal, seem positive.

Thus I encourage you to spend some time each day just sitting or somehow simply "be" with your dog, quiet, still, relaxed. Dogs love to play, but they also love to hang out just as much. Do both, have a well balanced relationship with your dog. Because they are, in fact, literally family.