Mommy & Me

Dog mom guilt is REAL! (and why you should drop it right now)

Whether you are a dog mom, rabbit mom, lizard mom, plant mom, or human mom - mom guilt is real. It’s absolutely something I’ve experienced while raising Pax. I use to be what the books call, “accommodating”…. Now that I am aware of this tendency I try to do it less but I’m not perfect, and it’s something I deal with often.

I feel guilty if I didn’t get Pax to the park and only took him on two walks. I feel guilty if I’ve spent the whole day immersed in my work while sitting in one spot the entire day and forget to check Pax’s water. I feel guilty if I haven’t taken him out around the same time in the morning. I feel guilty if I’m not playing with him. I feel guilty if I leave the house for over 3 hours. I feel guilty.

It’s tough for me to accept that I can’t do it all. It’s extremely, extremely, challenging to think, “wow I did so much today I should be proud.” Instead, I think “wow, I didn’t do enough today”…It’s something I am constantly working on in my life. I am constantly reminding myself that I am deserving, that I do enough, and that I am worthy. We really need that as Moms (and again, it' doesn’t matter what kind of mom you are because if you are taking care of someone besides yourself, you are “nurturing” or “mothering” that person/thing/animal, etc.)

The absolute best part of starting Pax’s account is the thousands of dog mom’s I can connect to daily. I know that I’m not alone and that there are people I can reach out to if I have questions on something related.

Sarah Varan is one of those people. Sarah reached out to me months ago wanting to contribute to Leader of the Pax. She has also offered me encouragement, support, and engagement with both my accounts, paxthedood and Leader of the Pax. I was so excited when she wanted to do a piece on dog mom guilt because it’s such a real topic. Below Sarah transcribes her experience with raising her puppy, Mina... AND she adds in what she’s been doing to combat the guilt! Enjoy! xoxo

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Dog Mom Guilt IS REAL!

by Sarah Varan

Did you happen to read Nikki’s post on 7 things to think about before you get a puppy? See number 5 – Ready to be less selfish? Well, that’s exactly how I felt when we welcomed home our sweet girl, Mina, in May 2018. I was ready. I knew that getting a puppy meant putting her needs before mine and my husband’s, and I was ready to embrace it. Like Nikki, I’m also of the opinion that being less selfish is not a bad thing! Putting other’s needs ahead of your own is one of the most loving and kind things you can do for another, especially when it’s for your new pup. And that’s exactly what I did from day one, Mina came first in almost every way. What I didn’t realize was that Ialso openedthe door for some serious dog-momguilt.

Guilt is a sneaky bugger and grabs a hold of our thoughts when we least expect it.

Here’s how it played out for me….It was clear that our beautiful Mina was a very active, curious and social pup, often needing hours of exercise and stimulation every day. We established our family routine, which meantone of us playedwith Mina, while the other hada quick bite to eat, dida few choresor errands, and maybe hada 5 minute shower – just the bare minimum so we could get back to playing with our girl! Because Mina needed a lot of activity, I spent my evenings outside with her, either playing, walking, or trying to teach her new things. I poured most of my time, and all of my energy into her.

Fun Fact - Mina never got tired! Whoever said young puppies nap a lot, lied. 

I started comparing Mina and myself to other dogs and owners, in real life and on the internet. I tried not to let it all get to me, but I definitely spiraled a few more times than I’d like to admit. Why couldn’t I get Mina to walk nicely on leash? How come she didn’t understand potty training as well as her brother? She’s peeing in the house 20 times a day, that couldn’t be normal. Why doesn’t Mina cuddle with us? Why does she hate me?! I really thought I’d be a good dog mom. Why am I so bad at this? What am I doing wrong???

My confidence was lacking and I refused to give myself a break. All I wanted was to be the best mom and give her the best life. I felt like I would be letting her (and myself and my husband) down if I couldn’t keep up with it all. Don’t get me wrong, most days the good outweighed the bad. We fell deeply in love with Mina, and she brought a joy into our home that we never imagined. Loving her has been the most positive experience I’ve had. But at the time, I was confused, exhausted and very emotional. As the puppy-moon phase wore off, my mom guilt started to grow…  

In the beginning, I temporarily lost my love for self-care, and although I’m working on it, it’s still a challenge for me today. The guilt of leaving Mina during the work week really affected how I chose to spend my free time. And 99% of the time, I chose Mina. I would book appointments and then cancel them because I couldn’t bear to leave her (I didn’t really need physiotherapy for my bad shoulder). I barely did groceries or cooked real food because it meant taking time away from my girl (hello Instacart, take-out, and boxed mac & cheese!).

My husband and I used to go on dates regularly, but it was hard to justify leaving Mina crated for longer than absolutely necessary (cue huge amounts of guilt, both for crating Mina and for not getting enough one-on-one time with my husband). I used to do yin yoga each night to wind down before bed. But Mina would bark at the sight of my mat, and chew on me as I tried to relax on the floor. So I completely stopped. Before Mina I was a regular at my favorite barre fitness class, used to go for a power walk each weekend, and went to yoga class. But why would I leave my puppy for a silly workout?? I simply couldn’t go to the gym anymore, who cares that my body ached from lack of exercise and stretching. 

It was guilt on the daily for one reason or another, which meant I spent a ton of time with Mina to make up for it. But why was that so bad? I knew getting a puppy would mean being less selfish. I knew being her mama meant that her needs come first, and mine and my husband’s second. And being with Mina is absolutely the best feeling in the whole world. Igive her unconditional love, and I get it back tenfold. 

Well, in January 2019, after 9 months of feeling “not good enough” in so many ways, I knew things had to change. I needed a shift in mindset and priorities. Calm the guilt and self doubt, find my confidence and live more in the moment.

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Here are 6 things that i’ve learned: 

1. I had to take away the idea of being the “perfect” dog mom, it’s unrealistic, and I can’t possibly live up to it. Adjusting my expectations and changing my inner dialogue eased so much of my anxiety.

2. I had to understand that giving Mina quiet time is not hurting her. I now use a soft harness on her inside the house when it’s time to calm down and relax. She doesn’t love it, but she doesn’t resist it either. When it’s on, she lays down and takes a nap, and sometimes she even cuddles! And surprisingly, the harness has dramatically helped us with potty training. 

3. Self-care! For me that means going for a walk, a relaxing bath, a workout class, movie, and sometimes it means reading a book with no interruptions.

4. Date night! Spending time with my husband, without Mina.

5. Change the way I internalize social media…honestly I’m not sure how I feel about social media, or what role it will play for me going forward, if any. I do, however, enjoy the community of dog-mamas, supporting each other, and sharing stories, tips and advice! 

6. Make my time with Mina count – I take her on longer walks, go to a new location, try a new activity, attempt a new trickor new trainingitem. We form a better bond when we’re not just doing the same old thing (and hopefully tire her out!).

I was actually worried about making changes, especially changing my mindset. I almost feel a sense of comfort in my own guilt, self-doubt and anxiety, so if I work on getting over the things that are holding me back, what will keep me going? Turns out there’s a lot of good stuff! I’m a great dog mom! I’m finding my voice and confidence and it’s so empowering. Mina is a wonderful, happy, silly and smart dog. It’s also no coincidence that I find her calming down lately, as she approaches her first birthday (she’s also so close to being potty trained!). Comparing Mina and myself to others isn’t serving a purpose in my life, it’s actually devaluing what we have. And we have a pretty awesome life! We have amazing friends - human and fur buddies - that we never would have met were it not for Mina. We spend time outside, appreciating our beautiful city and the nature all around us. We have so much fun, we’re constantly laughing and at how silly and crazy Mina is, and yet she brings peace and balance to our lives. There will still be times where I question if I’m doing a good job, and feel guilty for crating her, or not spending enough time with her. But I feel more equipped to handle those feelings. I choose to focus on what a blessing Mina is. I choose to live happily in each precious moment that I have with her. I’m so grateful to be her mama. 


It’s not easy raising you pup! Do you have recommendations to share? Comment below & join our tribe!

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REAL TALK – Your Friends Aren’t Into Your Dog

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It can be tough to have a dog and a social life. It can be even tougher when a friend isn't a dog person or struggles to understand your need to buy 1000 bandanas for your dog and make sure it only eats my ollie out of the fridge. There is NOTHING wrong with being a little pooch obsessed. People are obsessed with shoes, their children, home decor, watermelon, and exercise so who cares! Erin Marquez submitted a piece on how to find balance as a dog mom when you're friends aren't as obsessed with your dog as you are! Read below! 

 Submission by Erin Marquez - Mom of @zaratheminidoodle

Hi, hello, hey you! Does a (large) portion of your paycheck go toward making sure your fur baby has the tastiest, high-quality food? This season’s latest and greatest toys? A fancy little bandana or bowtie for every day of the week? Does your dog have their own Insta, with more followers than you do on your personal account? Do you alter your daily schedule to make sure they are happy, exhausted, and feel included? Cool, me too! Welcome to the “I’m obsessed with my dog” club, population: 99.9% of dog parents.

This is a great club to be a part of until it’s not, and it’s definitely not when your friends, family, and/or acquaintances aren’t as enthusiastic about your pup as you are. This could be for a variety of reasons: maybe they’re allergic; maybe they think dogs are perpetually dirty; maybe they just don’t like animals. The easy solution to this issue is to say “you don’t like my dog, I don’t like you” – but life isn’t easy. Human relationships are complicated, and as much as you might want to ignore or cut someone out for not liking your dog, it likely won’t be that simple. 

Having dealt with this issue on a few different occasions here are my tips for handling it like pro, if and/or when it happens to you: 

1. Recognize it.When my husband and I finally decided we were ready to bring our little pup home, we quickly realized not everyone in our life was as excited as we were. I find it common that a lot of pet parents are blind to this, which I can 110% understand – I mean, how can anyone NOT love a five pound ball of fluff with a pink little belly and poor balance?As hard as it may be to take a step back, I would urge to you pay close attention to a person’s mood, body language, and verbal cues when you bring your dog around and/or talk about them. Does the person seem disinterested? Annoyed? Maybe they try to change the subject all together or disengage? These are obvious signs that someone isn’t into your dog. If you can recognize this, you’re on the right track.

2.    Accept it.It’s taken me a long time to be ok with the fact that not everyone is going to like my dog. I might not be able to relate to or understand it completely, but I can radically accept it, and you can, too!It’s similar with humans: not everyone is going to like you and you’re probably not going to like everyone. This doesn’t diminish your value or worth. Sometimes you just don’t mesh – there’s no click or spark; you have nothingin common. I hope by this point in your life, you’ve realized it’s not the end of the world if you’re not liked by everyone you meet, and I promise it won’t be if someone doesn’t like your dog, either. 

3. Respect it.If you can accept it, you can, and should, respect it. If you know your friends or family aren’t quite on board with your dog, give them a break from him. I’m the first to admit I want to do everythingwith my dog, but I can also admit that I enjoy having a meal without having to share it or having a conversation with someone without worrying if my pup needs to go potty.Always be sure to ask before you assume your dog is invited to something, and try not to take offense when they’re not. Being a respectful dog owner makes you a good dog owner, and may even be the reason your dog-neutral or dog-disliking friends and family start to (eventually, hopefully) warm up to your pooch.

Bringing home a puppy can be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding things you do. Your dog can quickly become the center of your world and teach you a lot about yourself and others. The simple, albeit harsh, truth is that no matter how much you love your fur baby, not everyone is going to. Recognize it, accept it, and respect it. In the end, it just means more puppy snugs and kisses for you, right?

Can I bring my dog?

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I get this question multiple times a day when I post about taking Pax to different places. So how do I know where to bring him and where I can’t? First off, I just take him. If I’m not allowed in the store, it’s probably better for my bank account and respect the wishes of the store no problem. I’ve been bringing Pax to various locations since he was 8 weeks old and attached to my hip in his sling. To me this was an essential part of his development because he was socialized with sounds, smells, small children, the elderly, men, women, other dogs, birds, cats, and most importantly Nordstrom’s- duh. Now here’s the thing, when your male pup is going through its puberty stage it might want to mark a lot of , so it’s probably not the best time to take your puppy to Bloomingdales. Also- self-check time; is your dog polite in public? Is it well trained to not bark, bite, jump, or run from you? Think about how hard that will be on YOU to take your pup with you. Although, it seems like the best fantasy of having your furry bestie with you while at ALDO looking at shoes… it’s A LOT. You guys, dogs don’t speak English (WAH!!), and they have leaf ADD where they see one flying by and they are distracted immediately! One time Pax was so over shopping at Forever21 he saw a bird outside, somehow wiggled the leash out of my hands (that were full of clothing), ran out the door, I followed him with ALL THE CLOTHES and the alarms went bonkers!! I dropped all the clothes on the ground, chased my dog, and had to come back in and tell them I wasn’t stealing anything and my dog just felt I didn’t need to tell me I didn’t need another romper. Have you ever been in a store and your dog had to poop in an aisle? Can you imagine being in IKEA lost in the maze of kitchen sets looking for a poop bag? Truly, truly, truly ask yourself, is this worth it? It can be exhausting to bring Pax out sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I’m more on guard than when he’s not there, and I’m checking the video feed every 5 minutes. Luckily, Pax is very well behaved. He sleeps under my desk at work, lays down while I’m getting my hair done at my salon, and stays right by me in the store. This took training, dedication, and trust between us! Look into a local trainer to get some tips about choosing to take your pup in public places! 

Also, before you head out, google the stores or even call and ask can I bring my dog? Every store, city, state will have their own rules that regard dogs in the store. Additionally, many stores leave it up to the manager to decide to allow dogs or not. Some restaurants will be ok with it as long as you are sitting outside and some places will have a dog-friendly menu! It will ultimately depend on the owner and rules of that specific place. San Diego is exceptionally dog-friendly; we are fortunate. At one of the most beautiful malls in the region, they have dog water bowls outside almost every store. Restaurants have dog-friendly menus; you can bring your dog to many different bars and even take them to the movies! So you’ve thought about it, and your pup is well behaved, doesn’t need to pee on everything, and you want to go to the mall… 

Here are some ways you can find out about dog-friendly places in your area: 

1.     Bring Fido- this app tells you local spaces and places that allow dogs
2.    Google – this platform can tell you just about everything about everything

Here are some US National dog-friendly places (again, these may differ in your local area!)


1.  Nordstrom
2. Home Goods
3. TJ Maxx
4. Lowe’s (Depends) 
5. Home Depot
6. Forever 21
7.  Pottery Barn
8.  Macy’s
9.  Bass Pro Shops
10. Barnes and Noble
11.  LUSH Cosmetics
12. H & M
13. Anthropologie
14. Gap
15. Party City
16. Bloomingdales
17.  Urban Outfitters
18.  Free People
19.  Petco
20. Petsmart
21.  Tuesday Morning
22.  Hobby Lobby
23.  Ross
24.  Bed, Bath, & Beyond
25.  Footlocker
26.  Sephora
27.  Ann Taylor/Ann Taylor Loft
28.  Tiffany & Co. 
29.  Bath & Body Works
30.  Hallmark
31.   Bebe
32.  Old Navy
33.  The Apple Store
34.  Warby Parker
35.  Saks Fifth Avenue
36.  Tractor Supply Co. 
37.   Some IKEAs
38.  CVS

Do you have any to add to this list?! Write in the comments if you know of additional places! 

References:   Bark Post- Dog Friendly Stores