What our days look like together

Learning to not obsess over an "ideal daily schedule" for dogs, and that it's okay for me to find a flexible, humane schedule that works for both of us.

Happy Sunday morning everyone!

I'm so excited to be sending the first issue of this newsletter, and that all of you — friends and colleagues — have been interested enough in Mochi's journey to sign up. Thanks so much for joining us, and for this first issue, I thought I'd share with you one of my first major mental obstacles. ❤️

When I first got Mochi, the resource I really wanted was an example ideal daily schedule for dogs. After some googling, I only found one that was actually as detailed as I wanted it to be (down to the hour), and then I found some other videos by dog trainers on YouTube, but those didn't seem to answer my questions.

Questions like: 

  • How many hours can Mochi go between her night walk and morning walk? If the answer is 8, does that mean I'll never be able to sleep more than 8 hours again for the rest of my life? 

  • If she needs to spend 4 hours in her crate, how do I space that out? Do I need to give her something to lick or chew on during that time?

  • Exactly when in the day should I take her out on a walk, for how long, and at what frequency? Literally how many minutes minimum???

I'm sure I had a million more questions that I can't even remember anymore. And I'm sure that in terms of how I felt, all the questions ended with: ???

Getting a dog, merged with my personal need to optimize everything in my life, sent me into a pretty obsessive spiral, and I made things that looked like this:

Potential Schedule

  • 07:45 a.m. — Walk

  • 08:30 a.m. — Crate Time 

  • 08:45 a.m. — Out of Crate, Lots of Affection

  • 09:00 a.m. — Box Feeding Breakfast

    • Crate Time

    • Out of Crate in 15 min

  • 12:00 p.m. — Crate time with Kong?

  • 03:00 p.m. — Walk

  • 03:30 p.m. — Crate Time

  • 03:45 p.m. — Out of Crate, Lots of Affection

  • 04:00 p.m. — Crate time with Dental Chew?

  • 06:30 p.m. — YES Dinner

    • Crate Time

    • Out of Crate in 15 min

  • Together time

  • 09:00 p.m. — Potty Walk

  • Bed — Crate Time

Did I try to follow that schedule to the minute? Yes, I did.

Was that a good idea for my sanity? Nooooo.

Now, I love a good obsession — anyone who knows me knows exactly how much I love it  — but this one didn't feel right. Instead of feeling happy or satisfied that I had done great research and then tailored it to my needs, I felt like I was chasing something I could never catch. I edited and re-edited the schedule, made different versions, and wondered constantly whether or not it represented the best day Mochi could have, or if I was scheduling something that would ruin her for life (yes, I was that dramatic in my head). It left me wondering: All I want is to be the best human for Mochi that I could be, why can't I even figure out something as basic as her schedule?

I realize now, however, I had been looking for structure as a way to help me feel safer and more comfortable, at a time when I was feeling neither. Instead, I had been absorbing and processing not only the responsibilities of having Mochi in my life, but how much she'd shattered my assumptions about how dogs "normally" act, and what it meant for a dog to need fear rehabilitation.

So, my goals for this post are half a peek into our daily lives together now, and half reassurance to anyone like me out there, desperately googling for "ideal dog schedule" and getting extremely mad at the internet for not providing it to me, and in bulk. (Pro tip: if you really want to know other people's schedules, ask in your shelter/rescue's alumni Facebook group, or wherever other people hang out)

More than six months in, here's what our weekday schedule actually looks like.

Our daily lives now:

  • ~ 7 am — Mommy Me Time (yes indeed, I actually call it that)

  • ~ 8 am — Mochi and I play in the apartment, then I take her on her morning walk that usually lasts 20-30 minutes. When we come home, I ignore her as I make my own breakfast and read some more.

  • ~ 9:30 am — Mochi's breakfast, as a box feeding session (watch her eat out of a box on Insta), which usually only takes about 10 minutes and has helped her build general bravery.

  • 10 am - 3 pm — Mochi literally spends most of this time napping in our bathroom by herself. Anyone else's dog do something like this? Sometimes she'll come out when I'm making lunch, to see if I'll feed her a snack.

  • 3 pm — Almost on the dot, she comes out of the bathroom and looks at me, asking if we're gonna go on her bathroom break. We just go around the block, then come home. Then I play with her if we didn't play in the morning, otherwise, I run through whatever I'm trying to work on in training. Right now, it's heel. Then, she goes right back to napping in the bathroom.

  • ~6 pm — I hand feed Mochi's dinner and do training that involves me getting her more comfortable with something. We did dinners where I asked her to jump on and off the couch over and over for a while, to get her comfy with that. Dinners in and out of her crate, etc. These days I'm trying to get her to learn down, which involves convincing her that crawling under my leg is not supposed to be scary.

  • After dinner, on her good and excellent days, we cuddle on the couch, with Mochi nestled between me and my partner, as we eat or watch something or play video games. Sometimes, she hears a noise outside and decides it’s time to feel safe in the bathroom again, and that's okay. We let her go.

  • ~9 pm — Mochi's back outside for either a shorter walk (15-20 min) or just a bathroom break depending on the day.

  • When we get home, I give her a raw, meaty bone or tendon or rabbit ear or something else I find gross as a vegetarian, to chew on so her teeth stay healthy. She also loves this so it's a pretty adorable part of ending our day.

  • ~9:30 pm — Reading time in bed for me, so then Mochi likes to go into her crate because it's right next to where I read. When it's time for me to sleep we close her create door and zzzzzzz.

You've probably noticed that there are a lot of ~ symbols in there, which means that I do things earlier or later just depending. Sometimes, we play at different times in the day. Other times, I feed her a little later, or before or after I eat based on how hungry I am. No matter what though, Mochi has structure. Morning walk then breakfast. Afternoon bathroom break and mini-training session. Dinner and cuddles. Hours and hours of napping in the (her) bathroom. When she's in there, she loves it, she's usually very relaxed, and she gets to recharge, so we fully support her doing it. We also make sure to use both her meals to work on her fear. Every moment I feed her anything really, I use it as an opportunity to work on her fear.

It took both time and a lot of willpower too, for me to fight for that 1 hour I get to myself every morning, before I take Mochi out, and before I have to look at work, or the Internet. I had realized that I'd get crabby real quickly if the first and last thing I did on a given day was walk Mochi, which made me feel like my entire world would revolve around her bladder for more than a decade, and I knew I had to do something to fix that feeling. 

The solution? We walk her a little earlier at night and a little later in the morning. It took me weeks to get comfortable with this, but with the encouragement of both my partner and some friends who have dogs of their own, I gave it a shot. Afterward, Mochi has never complained, looked uncomfortable, or tried to get me out the door sooner, so for now, I'm giving myself permission to let her spend somewhere between 10 and 11 hours overnight without going to the bathroom, and I'm much happier because of it.

On weekends, of course, our schedule changes a bit, but that's because we take Mochi on playdates, go on pack walks, or do silly things like feed Mochi lots of treats on our bed so she starts to love it there. 

If I've learned anything over the past six months though, it's that I can care a lot less about being exact (like what time we do what), and through my own experience and with some gentle guidance from my trainer,  I know everything I need and want to do with her on a daily basis, and I just do those things. Everything else is optional, and it's okay for me to find a flexible, humane schedule that works for both of us.

Sincerely,

🐕 Mochi and 👩🏻‍💻 Sisi

❤️

If you have a flexible (or not) daily schedule that works for you or your pup, I'd love to hear about it and I'm sure others would too! Reply to this email or post in the comments.