The New Year is a great time to make new goals for yourself but it can also be useful to make some for your dog. Fitness, diet and grooming are all important aspects of everyday life and if you got a new puppy for Christmas then some simple goals can make all the difference in the quality of your dog’s life (and your own!).
Goals can be easier if you’ve got the support (or responsibility) of someone else – in this case, your dog! Be firm and committed to the goals you set. A new dog, or any dog for that matter, can be hard work but if good habits begin to fall by the wayside then simply start over again! Don’t be discouraged as you’ll have a happier, healthier dog if you establish and maintain a few simple goals.
New Year’s Resolution #1 – Fitness
It’s a classic goal for the New Year that nearly everyone sets so why not make it a resolution for your dog too? Aim to go at least one half-hour walk a day if you don’t already and, if possible, let your dog run around off-leash given the area is secure and you have him/her under close control.
Depending on the breed of your dog, it may need more exercise than you think. Do a bit of research – does it need lots of exercise or is it a smaller dog suited to regular leisurely-paced walks? Is your dog older and can’t walk too briskly due to arthritis? Or is it a new puppy under 6 months who isn’t yet able to be walked or over-exercised due to soft bones and developing legs? Make sure your dog’s fitness goals are tailored to suit its health and age.
New Year’s Resolution #2 – Diet
We’ve all said it before: ‘This year I’ll eat more healthily’. But how long does it last? Balance and moderation is the key to keeping a good diet but establishing some new habits is a good way to start.
Dogs, like humans, can get fed up eating the same thing every day. Would you fancy sitting down to a plate of dried kibble every day?…Well neither does your dog. Try to vary your dogs diet. Add lots of crunchy vegetables like carrots, beans, broccoli, even cauliflower florets if your dog likes them. You can also give your dog bits of fruit like apple, pear, banana etc. but avoid grapes and obviously remove any core and stones. Cut up bits of raw veg and fruit and stuff into a Kong type toy where your dog can have lots of fun trying to get the food out. Fruit and veg are great appetite fillers and in moderation will not put on weight unlike most shop bought treats.
There is nothing wrong with some of your non-processed scraps but make it a resolution to scrape them into his bowl and in this way you will not encourage begging.
New Year’s Resolution #3 – Grooming
Look good, feel good is a motto you hear time and time again. It’s definitely important to take care of yourself but it’s equally important to look after your dog.
Spend time brushing your dog with a high quality brush to remove casting fur. If you have a long-haired breed then you may want to keep their coat trimmed so it’s cooler in summer and warmer for winter. A groomer can take care of this for you if you don’t feel comfortable trimming tricky areas like around the eyes and most will also clip your dog’s nails which can be troublesome if you’re unsure how to do it yourself. As for tear stains then gently apply cotton wool dipped in warm water to soften and remove the stains.
New Year’s Resolution #4 – Quality Time
A lot of owners simply don’t spend enough time with their pets. It’s crucial to your dog’s wellbeing that you spend at LEAST 15 minutes a day playing with them and 15 minutes working on training. If you don’t, then troublesome behaviours can develop such as incessant chewing, barking and destruction.
Set aside a short time each day to play a memory game with your dog like hide and seek or ‘find the treat’. Ball games are excellent but just watch your dog does not become so fixated on the ball he ends up training you to play when he wants!! If you use a toy such as a tug-o-war rope only play if you can be sure you win! Praise your dog when it gets it right. Spending time with your dog helps to establish your authority as owner while mentally challenging your dog so it’s more familiar with your commands. Sticking to a regular routine like this will be mentally stimulating, fun and encourage obedience.
Track Your Progress!
Try to stick to these simple New Year’s resolutions by using a calendar to tick off the days you’ve exercised or the appointments you’ve made for groomers/vets. Does your dog’s coat seem shinier? It’s probably the great diet. Is your dog happy and obedient? Then you’ve made the effort to find time to spend some quality time with your dog. Persevere and commit to small goals like these to ensure you and your dog are at your happiest and healthiest!