Dogs are not merely pets anymore. They are deeply loved family members, so don’t forget about your four-legged relative when making New Year’s resolutions for 2015. Here are some ideas for resolutions that just might float your dog’s boat — or make him pee happily on the nearest fire hydrant!
1. Resolve to honor your dog’s incredible ability to smell
Set aside any embarrassment about looking silly and play hide-and-seek with your dog inside when the weather outside is frightful. When the day is pretty, plant some yummo treats around your yard or neighborhood and take Fido on a “Find It!”
Your walk will involve you pointing to a general area where you’ve hidden something good to eat (not boring, dry biscuits), telling the dog to “Find it!” and then letting him go to town finding and then chowing down on the treat.
Read more about how fun nose work is for your dog in our Dogster article “Train Your Dog in Nose Work, a New Canine Sport.”
2. Resolve to take a class with your dog
Any class will do. There are so many to choose from these days, everything from yoga with your dog, nose work, treibball, rally, agility, and more! Dogs love to learn, so resolve to be his leader in teaching him fun, exciting things to do.
If you have a particular problem with your pooch — say, getting him to walk nicely on a leash — spend time on YouTube watching videos from certified, force-free trainers, such as the free training videos posted there by Kikopup or Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution. Get up off the couch and see how much you and your dog can learn together this year.
3. Resolve not to overdo vaccines
Many veterinarians are moving away from vaccinating dogs every single year. Many vaccines last for years or even for the lifetime of your pet. Ask for titers (blood tests that are able to detect antibodies that the dog has produced in response to a vaccination) before you permit any new vaccines, so long as you follow your local laws about dog vaccinations. Resolve to take your dog in once a year for a checkup, because it’s a great way to ensure your dog stays healthy — all while resolving to be the best advocate for your dog that you can be by educating yourself on what vaccines are really necessary in your area.
Dogster resident veterinarian Dr. Eric Barchas has written about vaccines — read his take in “On Dog Vaccinations: 9 Things to Consider.”
4. Resolve to exercise your dog’s mind as well as his body
Humans leave the house and meet with friends, go to work, go shopping, go out to eat, etc. Dogs don’t generally get to do many of those things with us, so they are at home all day. Before you leave, PLAY with your dog! You can throw a tennis ball or a Frisbee, play tug, practice some fun obedience skills, or anything you can think of that kicks your dog’s mind into gear. Give him safe things to exercise his mind while you are away, such a Kong toy frozen overnight with good stuff inside like cream cheese. Check out this Dogster review of a new Kong toy called the Marathon Food Puzzle.
Also consider hiring a qualified dog walker to walk your dog a few times a week (read more in “Do You Trust Your Dog Walker?“). Really check out any doggie daycares (“Is Your Dog a Candidate for Doggie Daycare?“) to make sure that is something your dog enjoys before taking dropping him off. Vow to walk your dog every evening and let him sniff now and again during the walk. Yanking on your dog because he is busy sniffing is akin to being mad at a human for looking around at his environment.
5. Read a book or watch a DVD about dogs
This is the best time in history share your life with a dog, because scientists, certified trainers, and behaviorists are finally studying what makes dogs ticks and how best to help them learn to live with us complicated human beings. Increase your knowledge of dogs, and you will radically improve the relationship with your four-legged family member.
Some of my favorite books are The Other End of the Leash by Dr. Patricia Mcconnell, Dog Sense by John Bradshaw, The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller, Good Habits for Great Dogs by Paul Owens, and Citizen Canine by David Grimm.
Great DVDs include Do As I Do by Claudia Fugazza, From Leashes to Neurons to Psychopharmacology by Dr. Karen Overall, and Plenty in Life Is Free by Kathy Sdao.
Let’s all vow to make 2015 the most interesting and fun year for dogs yet. Your dog needs more than just the four walls of your home to keep his mind and body healthy. As your best friend is having fun, your joy will increase as well. Life is too short to be boring and un-fun! (Cover photo by Tica Clarke Photography)
Read more by Annie Phenix:
- Ask a Trainer: What Makes You a “Responsible” Dog Owner?
- 5 Reasons to Microchip Your Dog
- Effective Dog Training Does Not Require Pain
About the author: Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA, is a force-free professional dog trainer enjoying her mountain-filled life in Colorado. She is a member of the Pet Professional Guild and the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She takes her highly trained dogs with them everywhere dogs are welcome because of their exceptionally good manners. Join Annie on her dog training Facebook page.