Friday, August 26, 2016

Guilt ... in the multi animal house

Some of you have likely realized we live in a pretty full house considering we are merely two human adults.

There are seven dogs vying for training attention at the moment and nine horses hoping for a groom and  work. We'll ignore the parrots, chickens, rabbit and cats who would also welcome more us time I am sure.

Sigh. Time is limited, guilt is high and too often sometimes nobody gets worked, That makes it worse, for them and for me too. So I am strategic. I use planning and scheduling as a tool. I don't let it run me but it is an important step for managing this type of guilt.

Did you know there are types of guilt? There are. An article from 2012 in Psychology Today outlines three types of guilt - guilt for something you did (really when you think about it the likely reason we learn guilt in the first place - to emotionally remind us not to repeat errors!) Apologize and move on. Another type of guilt considered by this article is guilt over something you think you did. Wishing someone ill, then hearing something bad happened would be an example of this. False memories can create this sense of guilt too. So before being overcome with guilt make sure you really have something to feel badly for! Guilt over not doing enough, and guilt over success are other types of guilt we experience.

The type that we need to delve into here though is anticipated guilt, We only have time to work play with one or two animal friends and the guilt over this can stop us doing anything. Rather than enjoying the moment with one we fret over lost time with the others.

Guilt is learned and often has a purpose but not all guilt has a positive reason. Sometimes recognizing that is enough to move forwards. Sometimes it takes more effort.

So understanding guilt as an emotion is important first step but then you need to identify what exactly it is that you feel guilty about. Look for unproductive  guilt as you do this.  I feel faintly guilty every time I play agility with a dog now - but realistically know Brody can't see nearly well enough to be safe. Sigh it sucks but guilt doesn't make it suck less. Share your feelings either by writing them out for you (privately is OK)  or by discussing them with a member of your support network. Build in some reflection time to minimize guilt going forward. Don't be afraid to be proactive.  Brody can't do agility anymore and can't come for long farm walks anymore but I can take him out into our fenced back yard and let him snuffle around for 5 min while I watch him every other day.

Cultivate gratitude for the pressure to do more. I often remind myself how lucky I am to have mature dogs who maintain training without too much work and daily am grateful for the elderly dogs despite the fact I would prefer to be training than home cooking or doing extra cleaning. What can you be appreciative of?

Cut yourself some slack. You are doing the best you can do in the moment. And you know what? Odds are pretty darn good all your animal partners are lucky to have you ... no matter if they get their fair share of you time or not. Nobody but you measures time by a clock. Make it meaningful when you have time and everyone will appreciate it. 

Do something for all - not every day, not even every other day but make sure there is something you do with each animal partner that strengthens your relationship and helps you let go of the guilt.

Here are some ideas:

training in your sport
play training in an alternative sport
snuffle mat 
going for a drive
sharing food
grooming time (not for Brody - hahaha)
anything that appeals from the Fifty Ways to say I love You blog

If you are struggling with this SCHEDULE time - it really won't take long but even saying Thursday is retired horse day made a difference here.

Test it, try it. Ask if you have questions.