New Year’s Resolutions…for your dog!

What to write?

Another blog post…. hmmm…what to write?

I was staring at my computer trying to come up with an idea for a blog post when, in an attempt to circumvent writer’s bloc, find an inspiration, and just plain procrastinate, I checked my email for anything that might require immediate attention. Lo and behold, there in my inbox sat an email from The Whole Dog Journal with this opening line:

Looking for an idea for a blog post, I just looked through my oldest posts, wondering just how long I have been doing this. The answer stunned me: since mid-2010. I got lost for a bit, reading through musings from years past. 

I came across one written at precisely this time of year in 2011, about making new year’s resolutions for our dogs.

“Great” I thought, “this is just what I need!” So I read the article and, disappointingly, it did not give me a wonderful (and of course totally achievable) list of New Year’s resolutions for canines. She did, however, say this:

I made a couple of resolutions at that time, and here’s another stunner (sarcasm alert): In the past six years, I absolutely haven’t done the two things I said I was going to try to do.

It’s probably smart to make small, achievable goals, instead of the big ones like “I’m going to make my dog’s food and compete in a new sport.”

Play in the snow!

Play in the snow!

Keeping in mind that it is hard to change old habits and that big changes like making your dog’s food* are hard to start (much less consistently maintain), I have come up with some “more likely to be achieved” goals for Zuzu and me. Maybe some of them will work for you too.

  1. Get outside with Zuzu everyday to walk, play or hike up the hill next door.
  2. Make sure she has mental stimulation every day in the form of intelligence toys, training, or problem solving games. (Note, I didn’t promise to do all three, though that would be ideal…).
  3. Clean her ears 1-2 times per month. (I have put this on my calendar for the 1st and 15th of every month. Not sure this will do anything other than cause anxiety and guilt twice a month, but it’s worth a try!).
  4. Learn a new trick or skill every month. (You’d think this would be easy for a trainer, but alas, I am a lazy owner. I’m hoping that by publicly declaring my intentions I will be forced to live up to them. First trick starts today. Hey, maybe this could be double duty with #2! That’s not cheating, right?)
Add some new toys to your dog's life on a regular basis.

Add some new toys to your dog’s life on a regular basis to help reduce boredom.

These are specific goals for my dog and me, but there are many things you could try to add to your routine that would enhance the quality of life for you and your dog. Here are some ideas that come to mind, but let me know what you want to achieve this year with your dog.

  1. Take a class other than obedience, perhaps a tricks class, beginning agility or Rally-O.
  2. Add an extra walk every week.
  3. Take your dog for a canine massage.
  4. Sign up for Barkbox or another pet toy/treat delivery service.
  5. Change out your dog’s toys. Gather up all of Bowser’s toys and throw out the ones he no longer plays with, are decaying or old, or unused (or gift the unused to another dog). Wash the soft ones, and put half of them aside to bring out later. (When I have washed the dog toys, my guys have responded as if they are brand new! I will put the toys in a laundry basket and let them pick out several, then put the other ones in a cupboard to bring out when a dog is bored or needs a special reward.)
  6. Look at his diet and see if there is something you can improve about it. Perhaps your dog needs a change of pace, or reduced fat, grain free, or higher protein. Chat with your vet about your dog’s nutritional needs for her particular stage of life.
  7. Spend 5 minutes each day utterly and completely focused on your dog: Give her a good ear or belly rub; play chase, tug, or fetch; hand feed her a meal; play hide and seek. It doesn’t matter what you do, just be all in when you do it.

When I read these resolutions to Zuzu she nodded in agreement (except for the ear cleaning one, where she put her ears back and looked at me as if I had totally betrayed her). I asked her if she had any of her own resolutions. She replied, “Just one.”

“And, what is that?” I queried.

“Spend more time with you.”

I think she summed up nicely what all of us really desire: more time with the ones who matter most to us. 

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*I did, for a time, make my dogs’ food and I too want to get back to that. As an interim step, I have added some raw food to Zuzu’s diet. Time alone will tell whether I get back to this ambitious goal..

Care and management or living together in harmony General

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