Ah, the beginning of a new year. The time when most of us make resolutions- we plan for how we are going to be better, do more (or less, depending on the thing!), start anew and dream of better versions of ourselves. Sometimes, we follow through and sometimes life (and old habits) get us stuck in the same old patterns. I’ve given up on making New Year’s Resolutions, have accepted that I am who I am, and just try to make the most of things as they are presented to me. Not sure if that’s lazy or kind of Zen. 😉

But, what about our dogs? What if they had resolutions? What would they strive for? Likely, they’d make a commitment to take you for more walks, eat more junk they find on the street, try to find ways to convince you they need more brain stimulation and get you to add to their toy collections. All very noble goals. Since dogs can’t make their own resolutions, I’ve taken the liberty of making a list of things that can make 2019 an epic year for your dog- and you!

  1.  Invest time in teaching manners. Most of us want well-behaved dogs. We don’t want them to jump on people or try to swindle guests out of a plate full of food. In this regard, a little bit of training can go a long way. Our course, Pestering Pooches with Kristi Benson is designed to help with just that. So maybe you didn’t get to training a nice sit to greet this holiday season, but it’s never too soon to start working on it for next!
  2.  Learn about the benefits of letting dogs sniff. This video on how dogs use their noses is one of my favorite things. It’s so important to let dogs check out the world- and their noses are one of the primary ways they do it. So, make a resolution this year to get out there for more sniffaris. You and your dog will be glad you did! Your dog will get some much needed stimulation and you’ll be engaging her body and her brain. PS- think of a sniffari as a walk where the only goal is for your dog to sniff and smell and scent to her heart’s delight. 👃🏽❤️
  3. Spend time on grooming and husbandry needs. We are so fortunate to live in a time where there are plentiful resources for helping our dogs feel more comfortable with things that formerly fell into the “get ‘er done” category. Courses like my own Nailed It: A Course in Canine Nail Care and our upcoming course on toothbrushing (YAY!) with my friend and colleague, Dr. Rachel Szumel, can really help make necessary care not only more doable, but actually enjoyable. Keep an eye on The Academy for Dog Trainers for information about The Husbandry Project which will feature vetted training plans for vet visits and procedures. Follow along on Facebook for updates and progress reports. Visit Fear Free Happy Homes to learn more about how the Fear Free movement is changing the way veterinary care is provided to our beloved furry family members.
  4.  Have some fun training tricks. Trick training can be so enjoyable! Teaching tricks is something we typically do solely for the fun factor, but they can also be a nice way to expand our dogs’ repertoire of behaviors and to wow your guests with some dazzle dazzle. Our course, It’s Tricky: Learning to Train Your Dog with Tricks with Sylvia Borghardt is a great place to dip your toes into the training pool. With tricks, the stakes are low, and you can learn some new skills while working with your dog!
  5.  Add more enrichment. Ah, enrichment. 2018 seemed to be the year when everyone caught the enrichment bug and I couldn’t be happier about it! My friend Joan, over at The Dog Abides, takes the humble work-to-eat toy to the next level in this great blog on frozen enrichment. Over on the blog for my nonprofit, Your Pit Bull and You, you’ll find lots of other ideas, and be sure to check out the Canine Enrichment group if you are on Facebook, where crowd-sourcing and genius comes together in ways to make life better for dogs!
  6. Commit to treating issues related to fear and anxiety. Our understanding of how dogs think and feel continues to evolve, and one thing is for certain: dogs can absolutely experience panic, fear and anxiety. Thankfully, we have more resources for helping with these issues than ever before. Experts exist in treating separation anxiety and other phobias. Veterinary behaviorists can provide expertise when medications are needed, and when they work cooperatively with skilled trainers, wonderful things can happen for people and their dogs.
    If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, consider taking our course Separation Anxiety: Mission POSSIBLE with expert, Malena DeMartini. This course is designed as a DIY process, but for those needing more one-on-one help, visit her website to get hooked up with a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT).
    If your dog struggles with more general issues related to fear and anxiety, watch this space for a course on working with fearful dogs, where expert Debbie Jacobs will offer a wide array of insight, techniques and advice for helping these dogs feel more comfortable in our great big world. In the meantime, check out her website FearfulDogs.com for lots of great information.
  7.  Get out for more walks. Most dogs love their walks, and for good reason. Walks are good exercise, they’re stimulating and can be a really nice way to just spend time with our dogs. But for some dogs (and their people!) walks can be stressful. Because not all types of stimulation are equal, things such as skateboards, bicycles, critters and even other dogs can cause reactivity due to barrier frustration.  Our course, Leave It: Help for Leash Reactive Dogs with Sarah Pennington can help walks more enjoyable again. For both of you! 🐶
  8.  Try a training class. Training classes can be a great way to get out and about with your dog. Whether you are looking for manners training, trick training or any other type of specialty class, if you’ve got a dog who loves to train, the opportunities abound! Lots of my colleagues offer 2-3 week mini-classes, as well as Nosework classes, Canine Good Citizen training and more. The Find-A-Trainer resource on The Academy for Dog Trainers website is a great place to look for someone near you! You can find similar resources through Karen Pryor Academy and the Pet Professional Guild.
  9.  Make some homemade treats. When you make treats at home, you can control the ingredients more than you can with store bought treats. You can also customize the recipe to your dog’s liking. This recipe for tuna fudge is featured in Nailed It: A Course in Canine Nail Care and is always a big hit!
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  10.  Be your dog’s advocate. Our dogs rely on us in myriad ways to be their voice. It’s not always fun and we don’t always do it eloquently (at least I don’t!), but we must do it. If something makes you or your dog uncomfortable, speak up. Ask questions of professionals if something doesn’t feel right. Subscribe to the blogs of good trainers to keep the good information coming into your inbox. Ask people to give your dog space if she needs it. Your dog will thank you for it.

On my own list of ways to make 2019 great for my own dog, Hazel, is to continue to take her to as many new places as possible. It took a long time and a lot of work to get to the point where we felt comfortable in public spaces, without risk of barrier-frustrated reactivity (SO MANY PEOPLE TO SAY HELLO TO!), and I am always looking for new opportunities to do more with her. I’m fairly certain she’d agree this is a most excellent plan! 😉

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💡All of our courses are on sale through January 15th, so if this blog inspired you to get to work with your dog, the time is now!
Leave It: Help for Leash Reactive Dogs is 40% off when you use the code LAUNCH at checkout.
Nailed It, It’s Tricky, Pestering Pooches and Separation Anxiety: Mission: POSSIBLE can all be had for 20% off with the code LEAVEIT at checkout!

Hope to see you there & here’s to a Happy 2019 to you and your dogs! 🍾