The Only Resolution A Dog Owner Needs

Well, when it comes to their dog(s), that is.  Right before the New Year I took an informal poll of my doggie friends and colleagues requesting their New Year's resolutions, and there seemed to be a recurring theme: to spend more time with their dogs.  We all lead busy lives and it’s hard to fit in that extra quality time, especially when you have multiple dogs as so many of us do, but there really are multiple ways we can use the time we do have more productively.

  1. Whose new year’s resolution list doesn’t include losing weight or getting back in shape?  A recent University of Missouri study confirmed what I've known all along, and that is people are more successful and consistent with an exercise walking program when it includes their dogs!  I will admit, I'm not a walker, and certainly am not a runner, but I'm much more likely to do so if a dog accompanies me.  In fact, the research further showed that people showed more fitness improvement when walking with their dogs than they did when walking with another human.  That makes a lot of sense too.  Dogs usually want to move and they certainly aren't going to distract you with chit chat and small talk!
  2. Another recent study revealed that dogs are smarter than toddlers, but even for those of us who do regularly train our dogs, how many are really living up to this potential?  According to Stanley Coren, the average dog can understand 165 words or more.  Though I've never counted I doubt any of mine know that many, even the ones I participate in rally, obedience and agility competition with.  How about a project to introduce and teach your dog a brand new word every week?  By the end of the year he may have an expanded vocabulary of 50 new words!  
  3. I know my professional groomer friends may get a little ticked off when I point this out, but I believe people really should do as much of their dog's grooming themselves, paricularly basic maintenance things like bathing, brushing/combing, nail clipping, ear cleaning and teeth brushing.  For those who don't know how to perform these tasks, most veterinarians and even some groomers are happy to teach and demonstrate how to.  Not only will learning how to do these things save you money, but it can also be a great training and bonding time as well.  Believe me, you really don't know your dog until you've expressed his anal glands!
  4. I tell people all the time that some of the most well trained dogs and some of the best dog/human relationships I've seen are between long distance truck drivers and their dogs.  I believe this great relationship is established because they go everywhere together and the two rely on each other.  That's why I encourage everyone to take their pet with them whenever possible whether it's on a quick errand to the bank, post office, or pick up some takeout.  If you're fortunate to have restaurants or cafes in your area with outdoor seating, make a lunch or dinner date with your dog!  Sure, you'll have to pick up the check, but what dog isn't appreciative for a good meal?
  5. Try something new you've always wanted to try with your dog.  It's amazing how many games, activities and dog sports are available these days, literally something that every dog could learn, regardless of size, breed or instinct.  We're all pretty familiar with agility, flyball, and dock diving, but what about scootering, carting and nosework?  Does your dog love people and you've always thought he'd make a good therapy dog?  What are you waiting for?  Make this the year you “just do it!” 

This is not only the beginning of New Year, but the beginning of a new decade.  There’s no better time like the present to make positive changes that will last a lifetime.  Happy New Year to all!