I read a study a few years ago that revealed the impact that three minutes of petting had on dogs and owners. Study participants sat down with their dogs and petted them for three minutes. After the three minutes, they were no longer allowed to make physical contact with their dog, but data was collected from both the dog and the owner for a full hour.
The study showed that after three minutes, both humans and dogs had increased rates of oxytocin (a powerful hormone that plays a key role in bonding), and that the levels remained elevated until the 55 minute mark.
A Japanese study attempted to further analyse exactly what was the key factor in increasing the levels of oxytocin, and they discovered that the participants who where engaged their dog with a combination of gazing and petting had the most significant increases in oxytocin. Further analysis showed that it was gazing that had the greatest impact on the oxytocin levels, as opposed to petting or talking.
So why is this study important to me? The reality is, my life is far busier than it should be, and my dogs often get the short end of the stick. I work hard…really, really hard. My workdays often start at 8:00 am and end well after midnight, because beyond my teaching career and coaching classes at All Star, I build the website, update the Facebook page, keep the books, set scheduling, develop classes and seminars, design marketing materials, create flipped classroom and support videos, open and close registration, finalize schedules, create handouts, attend classes and seminars, and continue to develop, create, and innovate so that All Star stays at the leading edge of dog training. I do it because I love it…but I’m often not being fair to my own dogs.
My dogs are spoiled by the standards of most people. They see a chiropractor every six weeks, go to the vet regularly, have stayed in more hotel rooms than most people, eat better than I do, and practically shove me off my bed every night because they prefer to stretch out. But what they don’t get from me enough is time…my time. Often when I am snuggling, walking, or playing with them, in the back of my mind I’m trying to problem solve either something that happened in my classroom or something that happened at All Star. They rarely get 100% of my undivided attention, and when they do it’s not for a long period of time.
Serendipity had a significant health scare this past winter which really made me reflect on my choices and re-prioritize how I spend my time. She’s at least eleven years old, and I don’t want her to feel like I’m always leaving her to work with other dogs, and then coming home too tired to play with her. In fact, I don’t want any of my dogs to feel that way. This study reinforced what a difference three minutes can make when it comes to bonding…and I started to think of how I could find three minutes every day for each dog. Three minutes of undivided attention. A total of nine minutes each day where my sole focus is my dogs. I can do that…in fact, I HAVE to do that.
While I love All Star, I love my dogs more. So I’m re-committing to spending more time with my own dogs. It’s going to take some creativity and innovation to figure out how to achieve a better balance, but it’s become a true priority for me. I promise Serendipity, Starr, and Wycked that from now on we will spend more time walking, hiking, playing, training, snuggling….and most definitely gazing. I hope that a year from now I can look back at this post and tell you that my dogs are all healthy, happy, and that I’ve achieved a work-life balance that is more reflective of how much my dogs mean to me. I promise them I’ll be making changes…three minutes at a time.
How do you prioritize spending time with your dogs? Any tips or tricks are welcome!