New Years Resolutions for your dog

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 12/26/10
By: Gail T. Fisher

In January, I’m embarking on a year as President of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the largest dog trainers’ association in the world. Needless to say, with this responsibility I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the coming year, and focusing on what is important.

Every once in awhile I need to remind myself to “stop and smell the roses”—to do what I enjoy almost more than anything else in the world: freeing my mind of human concerns and simply watching and enjoying my dogs. It is this love of dogs, after all, that has been the center point of my career. It feels even more important to reconnect with this love as I start the new year. That makes this a great time to consider some New Year’s resolutions. If you’re of a mind to do this too, here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Do something fun with your dog that you’ve never done before. Has your dog ever been to the beach? Despite the cold, this is a great time of year to walk the beach, since many public beaches allow dogs during the winter months. Remember to bring a baggie and clean up after your dog. And of course, don’t take your dog off-leash unless you’re sure it’s safe—that is, your dog is well-trained to come when called and is either neutral or friendly with other dogs.
  • Resolve to teach your dog a new trick every month. Tricks are a fun way to increase your dog’s responsiveness. Teaching tricks is both fun and is a great outlet for your dog’s mental energy. From your dog’s point-of-view, any learned behavior is a trick, so teach useful new behaviors thinking of them as “tricks” and have fun! Consider that teaching just one a month means by the end of the year your dog will know lots of new and fun behaviors.
  • You know that New Year’s resolution you made about getting more exercise? Take your dog for a walk. Dogs need exercise too. The result is a healthier, calmer dog.
  • After the holidays, most of us feel we could lose a pound or two. The same is likely true for your dog. We rarely see dogs that couldn’t stand to lose weight. In fact, our visual standards have changed. Most dog owners view overweight dogs as fit. They’re not. They’re overweight (a gentle way of saying “fat”). So resolve to cut back on your dog’s fattening treats or increase your dog’s activity level. Overweight shortens lives, and our dogs’ lives are too short already. Don’t throw away even one precious month by letting him carry extra pounds.
  • Resolve to give your dog an outlet for his natural breed (or combination of breeds) instincts. Does he enjoy a good chase, pulling a sled or cart, or searching for hidden things? Does he love to race, wrestle, or retrieve? Giving your dog creative outlets for his natural drives doesn’t mean you have to provide mice for your terrier or sheep for your herding dog, but rather give him a job that uses his instincts and energies. For instance, hide some toys and treats and introduce the “find it” command. Not only will this keep his mind busy, it will make him a happier and healthier dog. And this is useful training. Lots of our students have used this “trick” for finding lost objects such as car keys.
  • And I would be remiss, especially as the new President of the APDT, if I didn’t mention that January is National Train Your Dog Month. More about this next week, but in the meantime, please visit the Train Your Dog Month website for loads of contests, stories, tips and more.
Happy New Year!

Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2010. All rights reserved. http://www.alldogsgym.com For permission to reprint this article or suggestions for future topics, please contact us.