Invest in Your Dog's Mental Health

Woman and dog. West Financial Services

My husband likes to tell me not to anthropomorphize our dog by giving him human feelings and emotions. But the reality is that humans have done such a good job at breeding and domesticating dogs that they can reflect human emotions and have some big feelings of their own. So, what's a person supposed to do if their best friend is displaying signs of depression or anxiety or "reactivity?"

Well, I'm not an animal behaviorist, so I can't give advice on that question. For us, our rescue dog, Loki, showed signs of stress and reactivity to dogs and humans as a puppy. I spent a lot of time researching ways to "help" him, including CBD products, socialization, different training methods, etc. I also spent a lot of money on a behavioral veterinarian and different medications to help his general anxiety. Those last expenses were a lot, but they have had a big impact on our lives.

Whenever I'd get frustrated or upset at our lifestyle with Loki, and the inability to do the things that other dog owners can do with their dogs, I'd do more research. This is how I found Jenna and the Recovering Rover program. I can't remember whether I found Jenna's Dog Liaison YouTube videos or the podcast, first, but since I was on vacation at the time, I binged both. One of her podcast episodes has the title, "Are You CRAZY for Spending So Much Money on Your Dog's Recovery?" In it, Jenna challenges the listener to add up all of the money spent on their dog, including food, toys, training, etc. Her research suggests that the average cost for the lifespan of a dog is around $30,000. However, if your dog has generalized or separation anxiety, reactivity or aggression, the amount is going to be much higher. Then she asks you to consider how many of those purchases were worth it and whether they helped your dog in his journey. In other words, how much is spent for a quick fix, versus making an investment in our dog's physical and mental health. It was a powerful message which led me to apply to the 6-month coaching program called Recovering Rover designed for anxious dogs and their owners.

It was not a small investment on our part, both in terms of dollars, time and effort. Loki and I recently graduated from the program having met some goals, while still working on others. Jenna and her other coach, Shelly, help you visualize and set very specific goals for you and your dog. You have to get very detailed in your daily observations and communications with your dog, and eventually establish your own training program. There is a community of dog guardians who have more than likely experienced much of what you have, and can offer some insight as to how they made it through with their pet. In the end, you feel like you have achieved a Masters in your dog. It is both humbling and empowering.

But the question you should be asking is, "Was it worth it?" The answer, at least for me and Loki, is "yes." And here's why. Learning how to communicate better with your pet is priceless. And knowing where you should spend money on your pet is also helpful. With the tools from the program, I know I can address any issues that come up, by defining goals, observing my dog, building experiments to collect data, and then implementing a training protocol to meet a goal. It is a much better solution than spending a lot of money on toys and treats and training that doesn't improve your communication skills with your dog. Ultimately, building a better relationship with your dog is good for everyone's mental health.

Meet Kristan L. Anderson, CFP®, CEBS®»

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