Resolutions are not just for people. We should also strive to improve our dogs’ lives each year as well. And why not do it together? Here are some ideas for a happier and healthier 2020 that you and your and furry kid can enjoy
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. Here are two ideas to help get you and your dog off the couch:
• Add 10 minutes a 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 2020. 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 don’t decline as fast). The same is true for your pup. Here are three ideas 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 also will 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 is working and earning his keep, which makes him feel much more confident and happy.
Here are some examples of things you can do to spice things up:
• Ask your dog to sit and stay for every meal. By waiting a minimum of 5 seconds to a maximum of one minute, your dog gets to practice “stay” twice a day for the rest of their life.
• Ask your dog to sit and stay before opening the door to go outside. Once the door is wide open, wait up to one minute before releasing him to walk behind you out of the door. Training dogs to do this means that they are more calm starting out on the walk, they learn to never run through an open door, and lastly, they learn 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 getting muddy paws all over your couch or 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. Here are the most common issues I see, all of which are fixable:
• Aggression – If your dog growls, lunges, or bites, get 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.
• Fear/shyness – If your dog doesn’t like loud noises, being petted by strangers, or objects like vacuums, skateboards, or motorcycles, get help to improve his reactions. 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 to walk proudly and calmly through the world.
• Separation Anxiety – 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.
I hope you found some inspiration in these suggestions and can pick a few things to try for 2020 so that you and your dog can be even happier and healthier together. Happy New Year.
Beverly Ulbrich is The Pooch Coach and provides private and personalized empathic dog training and behavior problem solving. She has extensive knowledge and success with solving aggression issues and helping shy, fearful dogs. She also formally evaluates and temperament tests dogs for shelters and rescue groups as well as for dog-bite cases and hearings. Learn more at PoochCoach.com.
This article has been modified to reflect the correct spelling of the author’s name.
Main article photo by: Photo by Suemack iStock