HOLIDAY DE-STRESS WITH YOUR DOG
Between the shopping, party hopping and champagne popping, the holidays can be overwhelming, leaving you to feel a bit more bah-humbug than holly jolly. This time of year can often be stressful and eventually this can take a toll on us physically. Before we know it, we’re acting more like the Grinch and our trusty dog Max is giving us those puppy dog eyes, thinking ‘Someone lost their Christmas cheer’.
Since dogs can’t talk, the way they communicate with us is through body language and emotions. The energy we put out, both good and bad, is the same energy we’ll get back. Keep in mind, dogs are pack animals, so when something is off with one of their pack members, they’re aware and can sense the shift in energy. Think about it. Have you ever noticed when you’re feeling stressed out, your pup might start acting out? Or when you’re having a bad day, does your pup come lay right by your side, almost as if they know you’re feeling down? Or when you’re out walking and you get nervous in your surroundings, does your dog get a little jumpy too? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your pup is feeding off your energy and chances are, if you’re stressed out this holiday season, they will be too.
So how can we create a stress-free holiday for you and your pup? It’s simple…take time to disconnect from the distractions (maybe even devices like your phone, tablet, computer) and spend one-on-one time with your furry bestie. I’m sharing three easy ways that will help you unwind and stay festive this season!
Take a walk
Whether it’s for 10 minutes or 30, a casual stroll outside is beneficial for you and your dog’s health. A walk can help lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular fitness, help with weight control, hip and joint issues, and heart disease. During this time, leave your phone at home, or if you need it for safety reasons, put it on silent. Little gestures like abstaining from your phone goes a long way, not only with people but also with your pup. Let your furry friend know this is one-on-one time with him and he’s got your undivided attention. Try this the next time you go out on your walk and you’ll be surprised at what this can do for your bond and the strength it brings to your relationship.
Get Down on Their Level
Set aside 15 minutes (or more if you can) to interact with your dog during indoor or outdoor playtime. Make sure this is uninterrupted time where you’re actively engaging with your pup and his favorite toys. The only thing on the agenda is fun! Think of this as your 5-minute, stress-relieving dance party but instead of dancing, you’re throwing the ball, scratching behind his ears, rubbing his belly, playing tug, whatever makes you both feel good. The positive energy you’re creating between you and your pup is releasing endorphins, which will help reduce tension, anxiety and pent up holiday pressure. Let’s be real though, it’s pretty hard to hold onto stress when you look into your dog’s eyes, with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth and that goofy look of pure joy on his face.
This is my favorite way to decompress with my boys. I started doing my belly breathing with Vito when he was 3 years old and I noticed a drastic change in his energy. It was like he finally discovered his inner chi. When Luca came into my life, I made a point to introduce my self practice of breathing exercises, yoga and meditation into his daily routine from day one. Don’t get me wrong, doing these activities with Luca as a puppy comes with challenges. Some days my ponytail gets mistaken for a chew toy. However, I can truthfully say that whenever I lay down to do breath work, Luca, who is still a puppy at 10 months old, joins me by settling down next to me (with Vito on the opposite side) and together we power down for the night. Merely taking a moment of quiet, is an excellent way to emotionally connect with your dog. I find evenings work better for this exercise, and you can start small with 3 to 5 cycles of breath. Lay down with your dog, place one hand on your belly and your other hand on your dog’s belly. Start by slowly breathing in through your nose, allowing your belly to completely fill up with air. Pause for a second, then let your belly relax, by slowly breathing out your mouth. Focus on the intentional rise and fall of your belly every time you inhale and exhale, it should move more than your chest. Draw attention to your dog’s energy and notice their own breath, you might even notice your breath cycles sync up…how cool is that?!