Ideas for making the New Year better for you and your dog

Originally published in the Rolesville Buzz
January 2014

With a new year upon us comes the age old tradition of resolutions. When making your New Year’s resolutions this year, keep your dog in mind. Sticking to the plan can be difficult – especially if you are only accountable to yourself.

Try incorporating your own goals with a plan to improve your dog’s quality of life. Making small, positive changes in daily routines can make a big difference for both you and your dog. Plus, you will be reinforcing that special human-canine bond. Here are some ways to get started. Happy New Year!

Exercising more is probably one of the most common resolutions for people. Some of us want to lose weight; others just want to be healthier and more energetic. Your dog also needs plenty of exercise and he, too, will reap the benefits. Obesity in dogs is becoming more common, and lifestyle has a lot to do with it. With proper diet and exercise, you can help your dog lose weight or prevent weight problems down the road.

Try increasing the amount of daily exercise that you and your dog get. If you think you are getting the right amount, or you just don’t have time for more, you can just change it up. If you take your dog for a daily walk, try running or power-walking instead. Or, change around your usual route and play some intermittent games of fetch.

Indoors can be fun for those days when the weather isn’t permitting for outdoor activities. There are plenty of days when the weather keeps you and your dog stuck indoors. Your dog might love snuggling on the couch while you read a book, but he will also appreciate some activity. Try a game of tug-of-war or pull out an interactive toy. Your dog is bound to enjoy the extra attention and reap benefits from the bit of exercise, and of course you will too.

Realistically, many dogs are not as wellbehaved as their owners wish. But this does not mean they are bad dogs. In most cases, a little time spent working on those behavior problems will help. Working in 10-15 minute daily sessions will yield results in time. Dogs actually enjoy training and learning, as it is mentally stimulating and fulfilling for them. Plus, it’s a great way for you to bond with your dog. And remember, a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears with positive praise can be a great reward as well as any treat.

If you do use treats as a reward, make sure to use those that are low calorie, and keep in mind that small bits work just as good as large bites. Your dog won’t fill up as quickly and will work harder to get another treat.

Dog sports are becoming more and more popular every day. With so many sports to choose from, finding the right one for your dog should not be difficult. From agility and fly ball to conformation and obedience trials, there is a sport for just about every dog. Dog sports will engage the dog’s mind, exercise the body and promote the healthy bond between owner and dog. And best of all, the dogs truly enjoy what they are doing. There are several organizations offering this training in the Wake Forest, Raleigh-Durham area.

Another great activity is animal-assisted activities (AAA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT), and they are wonderful programs that give back to the community. If you like the idea of volunteering to help the sick, the elderly or anyone with special needs, you might be able to get your dog involved, too. Therapy dogs and their handlers need to go through a multi-step education, training and health assessment program to be sure the dog is up to the job. Not all dogs are right for AAA or AAT. Hyperactive, shy or skittish dogs are not ideal candidates. However, if you have a confident and easygoing dog that has mastered basic commands, you may have a future therapy dog.

If you are looking for activities with your pet, you can contact Vanessa at Dirty Dogs Spa at 919-453-0765 and join one of their many activities.