As the new year begins, make a few resolutions to keep you and your pup happier and healthier. It’s easy with these simple ideas.
Everyone can use more exercise
It’s hard to get into new routines. Many people join gyms and never go, or make promises to start jogging, but never get off the couch. Make it easy on yourself—and help your dog at the same time with these two notions to help get you and your dog off the couch:
Add 10 minutes/day to your walks
This takes little effort, but will make both you and your pup healthier. You’ll both get in better shape, and your dog will be a little happier and calmer, as well as more fit.
Try something new
Do you always take the same path when walking your dog? Or walk in the same park or neighborhood? Try switching it up in 2017. New neighborhoods and parks mean new smells, new exposures, and new fun. The more your dog sees and learns, the more socialized and happy he’ll be. It will even tire your pooch out a bit more because of the extra excitement, and, as I’m sure you know, a tired dog is a good dog. Plus, it’s fun to go exploring together.
Expand your minds
Keeping our minds in shape is important as well. The more we stretch ourselves, the more our memory and problem-solving skills improve (or at least they don’t decline as fast). The same is true for your pup. Here are a few ways to help expand your routine and help you both use your noggins a bit more:
Teach your dog something new
It’s never too late to learn a new trick or improve manners. Work on some new tasks this year and keep your dog improving, learning, and growing. You can try teaching your dog a new command or even a fancy trick. The internet is full of great ideas. Or, if your pup is a little rough around the edges, practicing things like polite greetings will not only help him be calmer, but will also make your guests happier and more comfortable, too.
Make training a part of your everyday routine
Add in some tasks during your day to keep your dog on his toes. Incorporating new, little routines throughout the day will exercise your dog’s mind and allow him to feel like he’s working and earning his keep, which makes him feel much more confident and happy.
Spice things up
Ask your dog to sit and stay for every meal. By waiting a minimum of five seconds to a maximum of a minute, your dog gets to practice “stay” twice a day for the rest of his life.
Ask your dog to sit and stay before opening the door to go outside. Once the door is wide open, wait up to a minute before releasing him to walk behind you out of the door. Training him to do this means that he’s more calm starting out on the walk, he learns to never run through an open door, and, lastly, he learns to ignore distractions, such as people or dogs or cats running by out front.
Teach your dog to ask permission to come up on the couch, bed, or enter other special areas. He must sit politely and wait to be asked to jump up or enter the room. This also avoids problems like a glass of red wine being knocked out of a guest’s hand when your dog decides to jump up and visit.
Any time you want to give your dog a treat, bone, pet, put on a leash, or any other desired activity, make him sit or down or even shake or rollover first. Making it a fun game to get a toy or treat will enhance its value to your dog even further: He worked for it, so now he really wants it!!
Get rid of any unwanted or dangerous behaviors
Just as we want to improve a bit from year to year, so should our dogs. If your dog has any bad manners or potentially dangerous issues, now is the time to take care of them. Don’t risk your dog getting hurt or hurting someone else.
If there’s anything that bothers you about your dog or makes you stressed or uncomfortable, now is a great time to address the issue(s). Your dog shouldn’t stress you out; he should bring you peace! Following are the most common issues I see, all of which are fixable:
If your dog growls, lunges, or bites, get some professional help. Don’t spend time avoiding other dogs, not inviting people over, or telling children not to pet your pup. A good dog trainer or behaviorist can help you turn your dog into a model citizen and allow you to enjoy greetings of all types.
If your dog doesn’t like loud noises, being petted by strangers, or objects like vacuums, skateboards, or motorcycles, get help to improve him. There’s no need for your dog to be scared. It’s not fun or healthy. A good trainer or behaviorist can help you get your dog’s confidence up and allow him or her to walk proudly and calmly through the world.
Does your dog have trouble being left home alone, tied up outside, or left in the car (briefly, and not on hot days)? This is another thing that can be fixed so that you can both rest easy and not stress over time apart.
These suggestions are meant to inspire you pick a few things to try for 2017 so that you and your dog can be even happier and healthier together. Happy New Year!
Beverly Ulbrich, “The Pooch Coach,” has been providing expert private dog training and behavioral modification to the SF Bay Area for over 13 years. Seen frequently on TV for her expertise in all things dog related, she also works behind the scenes with dogs for TV, advertising, and movies. Her specialties include dog aggression, fear and anxiety. Her motto is “Any Dog. Any Problem.” Find out more at PoochCoach.com.
Main article photo by: Photo by born1945-Creative Commons