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Good Enough is Enough: The Importance of Having an Enrichment Contingency Plan

We had some family come in from out of town and while we got some quality time with family, my partner and I also got COVID-19 as a parting gift. While I've technically had it once before and was asymptomatic, this time has been rough. I'm still having symptoms and testing positive after 11 days since my original positive test! Over the course of the past two weeks, I've really had to prioritize rest which is not something that comes easy for me. This means that the highly involved usual routine I hold for the dogs was not always feasible. During the past weeks, anxiety has run high in both the human and canine counterparts of this household and I've learned a valuable lesson: good enough is enough. I'll get more into that later.

A small tan dog with pointy ears and white and black swirls on his chest looks at the camera with this lips stuck on his teeth making a derpy face.
Ollie feelings on the past couple of weeks summed up into one photo.

If meeting your dog's needs (and wants, where feasible) is important to you like it is to me, I strongly recommend you take the time to develop an enrichment plan for your dog. If you have no idea where to start, I ran a challenge on Instagram in December 2022 to help everyone create their own custom enrichment plan for winter which is a great place to start! If you're reading this and have no idea what enrichment is, I strongly recommend checking out Pet Harmony Training's blog (and podcast) as they literally wrote the book on canine enrichment - no really, it's called Canine Enrichment for the Real World. Their latest post on the 14 categories of enrichment is also a great starting point.

In addition to your enrichment plan, I also recommend you have at least one enrichment contingency plan for days you don't have the spoons that you might normally have. The idea of a contingency plan was initially introduced to me via some private training I did with my own pup with Allie Bender of Pet Harmony Training. At the time, I felt the idea silly because surely even if I didn't have the physical spoons, I would have the mental energy to come up with a low effort plan on the fly. How wrong I was... One of the symptoms I've been struggling with most is brain fog where my brain gets fuzzy, I struggle to complete tasks, or words get mismatched. When COVID finally hit me after caring for my partner for a few days, I had to painfully figure out how I could meet the dogs needs while ensuring that what I was doing was effective. Luckily, I've done a fair bit of trial and evaluation with my own two pups in the past to know what activities have the desired effect of relaxation so while it wasn't perfect, it was good enough to meet the majority of their needs. For us this included some low effort stationary training where I sat in one spot and tossed treats for delivery to help burn physical energy, very short sniffy walks just around the house, meals in snuffle balls, IQ treat balls, and while my brain gets back to normal quick games of nosework around the house as I regain physical energy for longer walks at the park. This brings me full circle to the original lesson - sometimes good enough is enough. None of us can be expected to operate at 100% capacity full time, things rarely need to be perfected, and while I strongly believe in providing our dogs with our best, sometimes we just don't have that effort to give.

The past couple of weeks have not been the norm in my household nor have they been perfect, but they have been good enough to get us through the peak of sickness. All of us are happy for the human members of our household to be on the mend and slowly returning to normal.

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