It's that time of year again, where we look at our year in review and come up with our new year's resolutions. Many of us decide to make new year resolutions for our pets as well. Perhaps your goal is to help your dog shed a few pounds or put in more training so your dog can have more mental stimulation. Here are some helpful tips on how to stick to your resolutions and make your goals easier to attain.
Small Steps Equal Big Changes
The best thing you can do to help yourself stick to your resolutions is to make them simple enough and attainable. If you make them too drastic you'll be exhausted by the time you're through with the first week that you'll give up altogether. Set different goals throughout the year, so both you and your dog can get used to the changes and as you complete one "level" of your goal, you will be motivated to do more. For example, if you aren't used to walking your dog at all, don't let your new year's resolution be to walk your dog for an hour every day. Instead, maybe start with a 20 minute walk 3 times a week and let that be January's goal. Then for the month of February let your goal be a 20 minute walk 6 times a week. In March you can turn your goal into a 30 minute walk 6 times a week. April can bring the goal of a 45 minute walk 6 times a week. Then by May you can reach your goal of walking your dog for an hour every day.
Keep It Fun For Both You and Your Dog
One of the keys to sticking to a goal is motivation. One of the ways you can keep your motivation high is by keeping it fun. That goes for you and your dog. Not too much motivates a pet parent more than seeing their furry family member having a good time. If your goal is to help your dog lose weight but he's fearful and is scared on walks, then it'll be hard to stick to your goal if you feel guilty forcing your dog around the block and it won't be fair to your dog if you're adding enormous stress to your dog's life daily. Instead, find a way to get your dog moving that he enjoys. Perhaps you can help your dog do agility in your backyard over homemade obstacles, a game of tug or fetch, targeting objects and increasing distance so you send your dog out, or exercising on a doggie treadmill. Whatever you decide, make sure your dog loves it and chooses the activity.
Fit It Into Your Schedule
Whatever your goal is, make sure you do what you can to fit it into your schedule with the least amount of stress possible. Don't shy away from delegating some responsibilities too. If your goal is to walk your dog more frequently but you don't have the time to do it every day, perhaps each member of the family can pick 2 days out of the week to do so. If for some reason you don't trust them to do a good job, then delegate other responsibilities like washing dishes or picking the kids up from school. There's also no shame in hiring someone to do certain jobs if it will remove stress from your life. If you don't have time to walk your dog hire a dog walker or dog loving neighbor or friend, granted your dog is friendly and outgoing and wouldn't be stressed by this arrangement. If your goal is to get in more training with your dog but don't feel you have the time, do a few short training sessions during the commercial breaks of your favorite television show. Where there's a will, there's a way!
Write It Down, Share It, Get Support
Studies show that we stick to our goals much better if we share them with others or even write them down. If you find it helpful, you can even make yourself a weekly checklist so you can check off your goals as you complete them for the week. By sharing your goals with family or friends you'll have the accountability and encouragement you need to keep working toward your goals even when you feel like giving up. Gain support by working towards your goals with a family member or friend. Perhaps you and a neighbor can walk your dogs around the neighborhood together or you can take a training class with your friend and her dog so you can complete the weekly homework together. Sometimes having that accountability is all you need to stick to your goals.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Above all, remember that sharing your life with a pet is a lifelong commitment, so don't exhaust yourself trying to make so many changes that you won't be able to stick to them. It's commendable that you want to make your dog's life better, but make the needed changes one or two at a time. Otherwise you'll set yourself up for failure, and your dog will never benefit from your good intentions. If you live with a dog with behavior challenges this is even more true for you. It's OK to take a break once in a while, in fact you'll be better equipped to support your dog and help him live an as stress free life as possible. Perhaps you find it stressful and tiring to walk your dog or do a formal training session every day. Pick one day out of the week and give yourself a break from the task. On that day, engage your dog in a self-entertaining activity like a food puzzle toy or hide your dog's meal in some empty boxes. You want to enjoy your dog's company for as long as you're given the chance to be together, so it's important to help your dog live the best life s/he can, but just be sure you take a little time for yourself as well so you can be the best caregiver to your dog as possible.
I am a passionate animal lover, rescuer and trainer. Kindness is my goal. I never want an animal to feel intimidated or threatened. Training should be fun for both the dog and human, so the training methods I use reflect my goal of helping the animal to feel safe so they can learn and have fun. I desire the same for the human client as well. Life is too short to spend time training an animal in a fashion that is anything less than fun!