New Year’s Resolutions With Dogs In Mind

Improving ourselves for the sake of our best friends
By Karen B. London PhD, December 2019

It’s easy to want to improve ourselves and yet hard to do so. If our motivation comes from making our dogs’ lives better, changing things for the better in the new year can be just a little bit easier. Here are eleven of the most popular New Year’s resolutions and the ways in which a canine twist on them can make life better for you and your best friend.

Travel to a new place. Travel can be expensive and daunting. Luckily, when it comes to dogs, there’s no need to go to Paris or Singapore. Any place with new things to smell is an exciting adventure. Whether it’s a new park, a new trail or even a new neighborhood, going someplace new—even if it’s not very far away— will be a great joy for most dogs.

Make new friends. If you have a dog who is social, hanging out with friends more often will add joy to your dog’s life. Try to have people over more than you did last year, and allow your dog to join in the fun. Or, set up some play dates with canine buddies—hopefully those whose guardians you enjoy. If your social set doesn’t include a lot of dogs, ask around to find some good matches for your dog. It’s not just veterinarians and trainers who know a lot of dogs. Neighbors, stylists, yoga instructors, dentists and anyone else you know just might know the perfect dog for your best friend.

Stick to a budget. If you stick to yours, you might find money that you were spending carelessly, and then you can choose to spend it more purposefully—perhaps on your dog. Food, toys, leashes and things to chew on cost money. Include canine necessities as well as fun extras in your budget so that your dog benefits from your financial savvy. Deciding how you want to spend your money is the purpose of a budget, and that gives you the freedom to choose to spend it on your dog.

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Exercise more. More exercise is a win-win. Exercise provides many well-known benefits for people and dogs alike. For dog guardians, there’s an extra bonus that goes along with doing something good for yourself as you walk, run, hike or bike. You are making your canine companion so happy. If your dog can come along when you head outdoors to be active, there is no greater gift you can give.

Stretch each morning. Dogs do this consistently, and we would be wise to follow their lead. A morning stretch is something you can do together to start the day off right, get the body moving and prevent injuries or stiffness. It’s fun to see the reactions of many dogs as their humans join them in a morning stretch. Most dogs seem puzzled by it, but happy to be spending time together.

Eat more greens. Eating your greens is good for your health, and there is no need to resist this action. Just look to your dog, who will probably joyfully gobble up a Greenies dog treat, and you can both enjoy the benefits of fresher breath.

Spend more time with family. If you can afford to work fewer hours, consider it a great opportunity to focus more on the family. Dogs prefer it when we don’t work late, so whenever you can, do your best to work less or more efficiently so that you can spend more time with the ones you love, including your dog.

Learn a new skill. You don’t have to stress yourself out promising to learn to speak French or how to dance the tango. Many of us are far more likely to enjoy learning skills that enhance both our dog’s life and our own. Whether you are interested in taking up agility, signing up for a tricks and games class or learning how to give a canine massage, your dog will benefit from your new educational pursuits.

Lose weight. This resolution is extremely common, even though not everyone who makes it would actually benefit from losing weight. If your health can be improved by shedding some pounds, then it’s a great goal. The same goes for your dog. If you can do it together, so much the better if that means more walks, more energy and better health. Don’t do it for looks though—remember that you and your dog look great no matter what your size.

Get organized. Being more organized means less stress and more time to hang out with your best friend. It also means that you can get out the door faster for walks and that you’ll experience less angst over disorganization. Avoiding that negative emotion can positively impact your dog because many dogs are so intuitive and they do react to the way we feel. Start small when getting organized. Perhaps you can organize just one small part of your life each day, starting with your wallet, with the drawer or shelf that you use for dog treats or the place where you keep leashes.

Incorporate more play into your life. Take the time to have fun, whether that means romping around together playing chase, engaging in a game of fetch or tug, or any other game you like to play. In other words, be more like a dog—there’s no better way to add joy to your life.

A canine spin on New Year’s resolutions can be very inspiring. How will your dog motivate you to be an even better version of yourself in 2020?

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She has authored five books on canine training and behavior.

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