One of the hardest parts of being a dog owner is making decisions that have potential to impact your dog’s well-being. What flea and tick prevention should you use? Which vaccines should I give? Which brand of dog food is best? Grain free or no? Which dog pack? What should I include in his first aid kit? Which trail should we hike today? The overwhelm is REAL. And it can leave you paralyzed. Because how do we know we are making the correct decisions??
This can lead to delayed decision making. It can also result in you- turning to less than desirable resources to make the decision for you (ahem Facebook groups), or even worse… making no decision at all.
Let me just say I GET IT. And let me give you a little background info… bear with me here really quick while I explain my experience with this particular topic.
Being in the online space of blogging, having a website, and an online business now for the last two years gave me an honest and unique look on overwhelm and not having all the answers.
I have this issue of not having all the answers at my day job as a practicing small animal vet- but it’s different- with medicine you are not guaranteed a clear-cut answer, and sometimes in the worst-case scenarios you simply never uncover the answer… even after running ALL THE TESTS.
The truth is, as a practicing veterinarian I expected and accepted difficult decision making and not having all the answers upfront as “the way it is”- and because I was used to this reality from the get go I found a way around it and was still able to make decisions and take action- and then sit back and monitor and observe my patients and change my course accordingly or as needed.
But being in unchartered territory (the online space of business, blogging, having a website, doing live videos, emailing my list, and putting myself out there on the web) gave me a whole new look on overwhelm, decision making, and what that might look like for my veterinary clients at work.
In the online world it was crippling for me. So much so that I have faded in and out of this space for the last two years, taking hiatuses that would last months at a time.
But, during my hiatus from the online space there was always this constant itch that wasn’t getting scratched. This nagging guilt in the back of my mind. I felt like a quitter. Finally, I said “screw it.” I am going to do it and just learn as I go. I am going to do my very best to educate myself on what I need to do, I am going to accept that I will make mistakes, but most importantly I am going to take imperfect action without having all the answers upfront.
I am just going to do the very best I can, and course correct as I go. I will take note of what works and what doesn’t and move forward. Because by not making decisions and by doing NOTHING and living in paralysis through analysis I was keeping my knowledge, my message, my passion to myself. And to be frank that is the most selfish thing I can do. Sharing is Caring! Am I right?! (so cliché, I know)
I’ve had my negative comments and feedback, trolls, vocab police, grammar police (my faves!), you name it. But at least I am taking action and making decisions that result in providing value and a service to dog owners and to their dogs.
So, this is my long-winded intro to talk about decision making and how it applies to you all.
And with this blog post I hope I provide the realization that imperfect action is far superior to taking no action at all.
Are you still asking how Is this applicable to you?
Well if you haven’t faced it yet, I hope you never do. But emergency situations are stressful, and you are going to be faced with a myriad of choices in these scary and critical circumstances. When you are stressed, and afraid, and the stakes are high- it can be really hard to make a choice.
So, let’s break this down into four actionable items so that decision making is easier in stressful situations. Let this four-step process I have outlined here for you be your crystal ball that allows you to make the best possible decisions to give you the best possible outcome. I promise you that having this clarity beforehand will dramatically reduce worry, stress, and fear surrounding your dog’s well-being while exploring the great outdoors.
Here it is:
1) First off, let me start by giving you PERMISSION to make mistakes. It’s okay. We all do it and it’s not always the end all be all, and sometimes a mistake gives you the clarity you need to course correct. Not all is lost and realize that a successful outcome can still be reached. As long as you are responsible, aware, and informed, you may look at this as an “educated guess you need to take a course correction on” … and eliminate the word “mistake” from your vocab.
2) Realize that sometimes there is more than one correct answer. This realization is imperative to taking action.
3) PLAN ahead. On our Facebook live last week we talked about having and implementing alternate plans should a crisis arise. Essentially, you should have a backup to your backup to your backup plan.
In the Facebook live we used a military inspired planning approach to dietary indiscretion (your dog ate something bad for him)- which is the PACE acronym. PACE stands for having a primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency plans to back you up should things go awry.
This planning exercise helps to ensure the decision making will be seamless. You do the heavy lifting and the brain work beforehand, you practice it, you mentally run through it, and then should a crisis arise you do not have to think about what to do next. It just flows, and you are able to ACT instead of mulling over your next action step. There is a reason schools practice fire and tornado drills. Having protocols in place before a disaster strikes is imperative.
4) And finally, a fail proof way and step by step process to making the correct decisions.
Who else loves a good acronym?!
And it is… (drum roll please)
The Wanderdog Problem Protocol and Process: which is the acronym: ARFARF or ARF^2 or ARF X2…. Just remember that:
“ACTION RARELY FAILS” x 2
“ARF ARF”- kinda sounds like a dog barking...Haha just kidding. I am getting ridiculous now. Real mature, I know.
The Wanderdog Problem Protocol and Process:
AWARNESS - RECOGNIZE A PROBLEM
RESEARCH - COLLECT INFORMATION AND DATA
FIGURE OUT - THE MOST CRITICAL PROBLEMS AND PRIORITIZE THEM
ADDRESS - MOST CRITICAL PROBLEMS FIRST
REDIRECT - OR RECOURSE AS NEEDED- OBSERVE RESPONSE TO TREATMENTS
FREQUENT RE EVALUATION
So, there you have it. I like to view this overarching principle as an inverted pyramid. The two first steps are mindset shifts and generalized, while the second two steps are more specific and tangible. If you haven’t noticed already, I am a firm believer in that successful first aid practices not only come from tangible skills, but also a strong mindset and solid perspective.
We currently are in the process of developing a canine first aid membership site. Along with weekly valuable content relating to all things canine first aid, we plan to take you through processes similar to this one step by step. We will provide examples and case studies to solidify this knowledge so you have the best success at taking action on it and implementing it.
Feel free to email me with any questions regarding this membership site or stay tuned. We will have more info rolling out here in the upcoming weeks.
I hope that if you got anything out of this blog post, you at least got some weight lifted off your shoulders and some clarity in your direction. I understand how it feels to feel stuck and overwhelmed. I use a very similar process in my day to day work to help me work through challenging cases and have had great success with it. The more you use this process, the more second nature it becomes.
Per usual, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
And until next time, get out and explore more with your pup!
Libbie Fort, DVM