By Linda Michaels, M.A. Psychology/Animal Behavior
There is little else in this world that compares to the unconditional love and joy that your pup can provide during recovery from what may be the biggest challenge of your life – cancer.
Having your unconditionally loving fur-baby by your side can enhance your sense of well-being and improve both your psychological and physical health. Scientific research shows this to be true. Finding ways to maintain and ideally to enhance the bond between the two of you increases your body’s ability to heal and brings emotional comfort as well. Let’s get the oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins flowing. Plus…your dog needs you!
Cancer survivors have different needs, abilities and strength at different stages of treatment and recovery, so hopefully you will find something that you and your fur-baby will find helpful. All physical activities should, of course, be approved by your trusted physician.
Socialization. There’s nothing quite like the great outdoors and getting out of the house. This can be the best medicine of all. Your dog needs to experience novel stimuli just as we do in order to maintain emotional balance and stay happy.
If you have a large breed dog – take it easy. My favorite walking gear is the Freedom Harness that comes in great colors with a velveteen strap and two contact points for better control – one at the chest and one at the back. The chest attachment is your best friend. Use a short leash, no more than 4 or 6 feet in length. A new harness I’ve recently discovered and like, DogReins! is especially designed for large breeds. Take an extra yummy treat bag and reward for good behavior.
If you haven’t invested in professional Do No Harm leash-walking training, now may be the time for you to learn how to most easily walk your companion without using aversive methods or devices. Private, in-your home training is available.
If your dog has aggression issues with other dogs or with people, you will need to get professional help in order to stay safe and get your dog on the road to recovery!
If you have a small breed and don’t have a pulling problem, a step-in harness should be fine. You may want to purchase a doggie stroller if that’s easier on you and take it slow and easy. A sturdy stroller may help you balance and support your weight as well. Some of the “newer models” are really cute.
Sniffing is one of the main attractions for your dog while on a walk so now may be the time to be generous with the stop-and-go method of walking the dog. Short walks are OK! Your dog won’t really know the difference unless she’s used to walking a specific route. If so, change the route. Whatever you can manage is a good thing. You may want to consider hiring a gentle dog walker, or arrange play dates with dogs your dog loves to play with if that’s easier.
Playing fetch is great exercise for your dog. If you have a multi-level home, upstairs fetch is one of my favorites. Just toss a very yummy piece of kibble up the stairs. Wait until your dog comes back downstairs to throw the next piece – instant doggie stairmaster.
Look for my next blog written especially for PinkPaws.org where I’ll be discuss training through playing easy and fun games, clicker training and more.
About Linda Michaels.
Linda Michaels, M.A. Psychology/Animal Behavior (Hons) is the owner of Linda Michaels Do No Harm Dog Training in Del Mar, CA. Linda was selected as one of the Top Ten Best Dog Trainers in the United States by the Top Ten Magazine and is a Victoria Stilwell-licensed private behavioral consultant. She specializes in the psychological aspects of dog behavior, socialization, treatments and training. Her unique combination of science and hands-on experience with dogs and wolfdogs creates a bridge between the worlds of research, dog trainers and pet parents. 858.259.9663 LindaPositively@gmail.com