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Setting New Years Resolutions for Dogs Can Help Owners Achieve Their Own Goals Too

January 4, 2011

From what I’ve heard about New Years Resolutions, it appears humans like to set goals for themselves with the intention of changing their own behavior in one way or another. Well, since we’re venturing into a brand new year I thought it’d be the perfect time for this inquisitive canine to add his two cents, offering up suggestions to those dog guardians who might want to look at ways to include their dog in their own list of pledges and commitments. (For additional tips on ways you can help create goals for yourself and your dog, check out the latest post my certified professional dog trainer mom has created for our Dear Inquisitive dog behavior advice column.)

Why include your dog in your resolutions list? Well, a “normal” behavior of humans that  I’m aware of is that you all like to multitask. So by including your dog, or even making it about your dog, you’re likely to make changes in your own behavior too. By taking this approach, you’re able to complete two goals for the energy of one! For instance:

  • Loosing weight: So you want to take off a pound or two. What’s a simple solution? Walking! You bipedal animals were born to walk, so why not use your dog as a perfect excuse? Walking your dog more often equals an increase in exercise for yourself! Right? Bam! You loose weight while your dog looses or maintains his or hers weight. Plus, your dog will most likely be tired from walking so he or she will also behave nicely at home which is often another goal of dog owners. (Just ask my dog trainer mom – after a fun time assisting her at various dog training classes in Ventura or Santa Barbara or at my own agility class with the Seaside Scramblers Agility group I’m too exhausted to bark!) Plus, you get to socialize and enjoy life together! Check out the “Try something new” section below for additional activities you and your dog would enjoy.
  • Trying something new: Do you say the first of every year that you’re going to take a class or start a new hobby? How about taking your dog to a new or different dog training class, workshop or to new dog friendly places? That new dog park down the street, or dog friendly cafe? Even a basic dog training class like the Canine College course my mom  teaches can be beneficial and enjoyable – for you both! It’s not just about learning “obedience” behaviors. You also get to meet new people and your dog gets to make new doggy friends. Plus, you’re likely to learn something new!
  • Eliminate your own “bad” habits: Smoking and watching too much television are  some of the more common behaviors many humans want to change. The simplest way to decrease and eliminate an unwanted behavior it to replace it with a positive one. Well, this is another reason to get more involved with your dog. Head to a dog training class, dog training workshop or partake in a different type of dog-related recreation where smoking is forbidden. This is the “interrupt and redirect” approach similar to the dog training techniques my mom uses. If you’re redirected to a more positive behavior outlet, you’re less likely to engage in the “bad” one.
  • Help modify your dog’s “bad” habits: I admit, some of my habits can be annoying to my humans. But hey, mom ain’t perfect either! So what’s the best way to modify mine and other dogs unwanted behaviors? Simple: replace it with a wanted behavior. For instance, if you’re dog barks too much: Ask your dog to do something else and reward him or her for that! Pulling on leash? Reward you dog for walking next to you. Chewing up your shoes? Put the shoes in your closet, shut the door, give your dog a bone or chew toy that your dog really likes, then reward him or her for chewing on that.
    • A great way to modify your dogs behavior is to turn training into a game! Take the basics and make it fun! This the principle behind our Out of the Box Dog Training Game – mom and I wanted to make training and learning fun and rewarding for both dogs and humans. Different cards and different activities with achievable and desired goals – this is what I call a win-win for all!

In addition to the above common topics found on resolution lists, I thought it’d be a good idea to comment on additional dog-specific subject matters:

  • Prevent unwanted behaviors from occurring: Management is key, especially when you’re not around to monitor your dog. Is it time to fix that hole in the fence? Or to hire a pet sitter or dog walker to help out when you’re gone all day? If you’ve been putting it off, set aside some time to figure out how you can help prevent behavioral issues from happening. If training isn’t a viable option, then management is a realistic solution.
  • Be prepared:
    • Pet first aid kit: The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that pet owners have these items on-hand. Many of these components would normally be found in our medicine cabinet anyway, but you’ll want to make sure you have them and know where they are.
    • Pet First Aid Class: Yes, there are pet first aid classes that teach CPR (mouth to snout) along with basics in bandaging and wound care. Check out the American Red Cross website for information on classes near you.
    • Licensing: Is your dog’s license up to date? If it’s a law in your area, please remember to update it annually. The best way to find our more is to check with your local animal regulation facility. Many have made it even  more convenient by allowing you to pay online. The fees are quite reasonable and the money goes to help the many animals surrendered to these shelter facilities.
    • ID: No pet should be without one!
    • Microchip: Although it’s not mandatory, you never know when your dog might wander off. It’s a nice back-up for those times he or she might be without an ID tag.

We think it’s wonderful to start the year off fresh with new and exciting goals! It’s a perfect way to set your dog and yourself up for success. Remember, keep it simple. Asking too much of your dog or of yourself tends to backfire. Start with one goal for each, but remember, if you include one another in each activity then you’re doing double-duty! And that’s what this inquisitive canine calls ideal energy management!

I think my new years resolution will be to increase lap-time with mom and field play-dates with dad. Hmm…I wonder what new years resolutions mom and dad have set for themselves? Hmm..something for this inquisitive canine to ponder….


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