Megan's Musings: New Year's Resolutions for our Dogs

The New Year is a time of new beginnings and planning for a great year ahead. Many people set out a list of resolutions to make the next year the best it can be. Considering that dogs bring so much into our lives including happiness, unconditional love, and loyalty, we should include them in our promises to improve our lives in the upcoming year. I’ve outlined some ideas below on resolutions we can make with our dogs to enhance our bonds, ensure we enjoy our time with them, and help us both stay as happy and stress free as possible.

Look at Life Through your Dog’s Eyes
Dogs are a part of our families now that it is easy for us to forget that they are not furry little humans. When we think only in human terms, it can cause unnecessary stress and frustration in our dogs. Let’s start a new habit next year to look at the world from the eyes of our dogs and to take the time to think about how things may appear to them.

There are many ways we cause distress when we do not understand how our dog's perceive things. An angry tone may frighten them, even when it is not directed at them. New items may be scary and threatening. Changes in the household may be confusing and stressful which can lead to excitability, destruction, or other inappropriate behaviour. There are so many ways we think in human terms and don’t provide our dogs the support and/guidance they need. By considering your dog’s perspective, this will allow you to look at how things may seem to your dog and better help address their needs.

Learn a New Language
Not only do dogs perceive the world differently, but they also communicate differently. Most behaviour problems that I work with are a result of miscommunication between dogs and owners. And 100% of the time, the miscommunication is on our end. Every dog owner should have a solid understanding of how dogs communicate. For this next year, take the time to learn this new language. We offer a Dog Talk webinar which is an excellent way to learn and be sure to join our exclusive online membership to ensure you become fluent in canine communication!

Get Healthy Together
Our lives our busy and time flies. I understand it can be hard to fit dog walks in every day due to busy schedules and/or being tired. However, we must remember that our dogs only see and experience what we involve them in or provide to them. Life can get boring for them stuck inside and this can result in behaviour problems. Make a resolution to get them out regularly and do not beat yourself up if this cannot be done every day. If you struggle, hire a dog walker or get the into dog day school. For when you can take them out, make the effort to take them new places and let them experience and see the world. Take them to new parks, new neighbourhoods, pet friendly businesses and on special outings. This is a wonderful way to bond with them and the added benefit to us both is getting some exercise!

Learn Something New
If you have not done training classes with your dog, you are missing vital foundation skills and socialization opportunities. Training classes are a must for every dog, so if you have not done them already, put obedience training on your list of must-do’s for the new year! If you have already done obedience training, get out and learn a new skill with your dog. Try out agility, learn new tricks, let your dog’s problem solving skills amaze you, try Nosework or take a few of the wide range of fun classes you can do with your dog!

Lower Stress Levels
Did you know that studies show that petting your dog lowers your blood pressure and heart rate? Snuggling and showing affection to our dogs lowers our stress, so make an active effort to do more! If you are feeling frustrated or stressed, help yourself by spending quality time with your dog(s). For our dogs, studies also show that play is one of the most effective ways to keep them happy and stress free! Get out and let them run, play with other dogs, enjoy a variety of toys, and just be silly! I can promise that watching them play and experience such joy will also aid in some stress relieve for you as well.

Eat Well
Proper nutrition is important for the overall well-being and health of all living creatures. It makes us feel better, so in turn keeps us happier. Ensure you provide your dogs with good quality food. And offer them some variety and special treats (of course, ones that are safe for them and given in moderation)! Their time here is short and it is unfair to deny them the opportunity to try new and delicious foods. Feeding them some human food does not mean you will have a dog that begs for food – set it up correctly and feed them away from those areas or during the time you are eating.

Accept Things as They Are
Stop comparing your dog to your vision of an ideal dog or what you think may be a perfect dog. Every dog presents challenges because we communicate and perceive the world differently, and most things we deem as problem behaviour is normal for our dogs. The sooner you accept the dog you have and focus on appreciating all their good qualities, the better things will be for both of you. An added benefit is that you will find that things begin to improve once you improve your outlook and attitude towards them.

Don’t Take Things so Seriously
Be goofy. Lose your inhibitions. Splash in puddles together. Roll down a hill. Play hide-n-go-seek. Sleep in. Dance. Throw snowballs. Make funny faces. Speak in weird voices. Play peek a boo. And do whatever else comes to you. Our dogs love it when we are carefree and silly, so do it more often. Do not let the days of the year slip away without fun. Do this with the one individual who will not laugh, mock or judge you, but instead join in with immense enthusiasm!

I hope these ideas enhance the bond with your dog even further and allow you the quality time you deserve. Life has a way of slipping by quickly, so practicing these ensures we make the best of the short time we do have with our beloved canine companions. Happy New Year!