The start of a new year is a moment to reflect on the changes we want to make with the goal of self-improvement or, even better, doing good for others. We’ve put together some suggestions of our own that you may want to incorporate into your list of resolutions—most are quite easy and offer great rewards in return—for both you and your dog.
Know Your Dog In and Out
Give your dog a daily weekly and monthly “check up”—clean ears, clip nails, trim fur (where needed), brush teeth, flea combing (should be broken down into daily, weekly and monthly things to do). See Dr. Shea Cox’s tips on self-examinations.
Get caught up on learning more about dogs—who they are, why they do what they do and why they are our oldest friends—books like Patricia McConnell’s The Other End of the Leash, Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog and Gregory Berns’ How Dogs Love Us are stand outs.
Exercise Mind and Body
Teach a new trick or polish up an old one.
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Enroll your dog in an activity class, agility, flyball, rally-o, nosework—there are many to consider.
Do short enrichment episodes with your dog throughout the day such as hiding treats or pieces of kibble.
Take long walks with your dog, but use that as an occasion to also extend training by calling to her often, rewarding spot-on recalls. Short re-enforcement sessions are key.
All dogs love play and as Patricia McConnell reminds us “just because a dog doesn’t play fetch doesn’t mean you can’t play together.” Start off by mimicking your dog’s play bow, and the fun will follow.
Remember that while it is fun to meet friends at a dog park, your dog, and her activities, should always come first. Don’t get so involved in a conversation that you don’t know what your dog is up to, or let her feel that you are not paying attention. Put away the cell phone while out with her too.
Resolve to cook or prepare at least one “homemade” meal a week for your dog—start off by making delicious toppings to add to your dog’s meals. Easy to do, and a great introduction to cooking for canines.
Massage your dog, not only do they love the attention, but it feels good for them and you, gets canine and human endorphins juiced up.
Make New Friends
Think of fostering or adopting a shelter dog—if you are a one-dog family, not only will your dog enjoy the company, but you can both help socialize the shelter dog. Or think of sponsoring a shelter dog, for very little you can help defray the costs of spaying/neutering, vaccinations, chipping, etc. Or, simply help to walk shelter dogs, they need human attention! Interaction with a human was found to reduce stress levels, a positive effect that came after sessions of 30 minutes or less.