One sure bet about New Year’s resolutions: They are always crafted with good intentions. In the upcoming year, I vow to eat more kale, reconcile my checking account and not trip over my feet during Zumba class.
Will I meet those goals? Maybe. Maybe not. But here’s one New Year’s resolution I vow to accomplish: amusing my dogs, Chipper and Cleo, at least once a day. I plan to unleash a pun, tell a joke, let loose belly laughs and make goofy faces at them.
There is a purpose behind my silliness. After the end of my “comedy act,” the three of us will be in happy moods. Guaranteed. After all, humor is contagious — it can even cross species lines. Acting goofy is worth the price of my dignity to elevate the attitude in my senior dogs, who have put up living with me for the past decade.
Now, it’s your turn. What’s on your pet New Year’s resolution list? If you need some ideas, I’ve got nine more for you to consider.
1. Introduce the name game.
Strengthen your dog’s connection with everyone in your household by playing “Find the Person.” Start by having one person — say her name is Deb — hold a favorite toy. With your dog watching, touch the person on her shoulder and say her name. Next, with a treat in your hand, guide your dog toward the person as you say, “Find Deb.” Treat and praise him when he does so. Once your dog is consistently finding a person in the same room, have the person dash out of view with the toy and then ask your dog to find her. Have the person immediately hand over a treat when your dog “finds” her. Now, do the same for others in the household. With practice, your dog will know names well enough to go to everyone on cue.
2. Take a Bowser break.
Hours can zip by easily when you are plowing through paperwork or working on a must-do home project. Dogs seem to know when we need a break and will often paw our leg or let out a little yip. When you find yourself with a pile of office work at home, don’t forget to take a “Bowser break” and play with your dog for even a few minutes or take him on a short walk. Chances are you will be in a better mood and able to focus better because of it.
3. Rein in trips to the treat jar.
Dogs are adept at ushering us toward their “gold mine” – the treat jar. If we’re not careful, we can overload them with too many treats each day until they have more waddle than wiggle in their movement. When your dog gives you those begging eyes, limit treat dispensing to no more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily caloric needs, and heap on calorie-free affection and attention.
4. Become a pet detective.
An effective way to save on vet bills is to know what’s normal in your dog: looks and dogitude. Once a month, spend 5 to 10 minutes to do a thorough head-to-tail examination of your dog. Write down any changes, such as a new lump, foul breath, goop near his eyes, or weight gain or loss. And take note of any behavior changes: Is he sleeping more or less? More vocal or acting suddenly like a hush puppy? Report these changes to your veterinarian. The quicker your dog can get medical attention, the better chance he can be treated with less of a bite out of your wallet.
5. Smooch your pooch.
Our dogs delight in showering us with affection, Take some time every day to interact with your dog on a purely emotional level. A quick pat or stroke, a scratch behind the ears, or a kiss on the nose is always appreciated. When Chipper and Cleo are sitting nicely and looking sweetly at me, I take my open palm and touch my chest as I say to them, “From my heart to yours, I love you.” This is a “Howl-mark” moment that your dog will feel and embrace.
6. Pump down the volume.
Think of yourself as a rock star? Love to bellow out songs or crank up the surround sound on your new high-def TV? L-O-U-D is not a four-letter word that dogs love. Their ears are far more sensitive to sounds than ours, so be kind and sport headphones when you want to rock out or at least usher your dog to a back bedroom with canine amenities before you feel the need for noise.
7. Learn pet first aid.
If your dog cut his paw, got stung by a bee or choked on a chew toy, do you know what to do? And more importantly, what NOT to do? In a pet emergency, minutes count. As a master certified pet first aid instructor, I urge you to enroll in a veterinarian-approved pet first aid class for the sake of your dog. Check for a class in your area and enroll now. The life you save just may be your dog’s.
8. Stop staring and swearing when your dog needs to do his business.
Until an effective indoor dog toilet can be invented that is easy for any pup to use, our dogs depend on us to usher them outside for bathroom breaks. Practice politeness and patience with your need-to-go dog, who needs time to sniff and find just the right spot to make his deposit. Would you like someone barking at you to poop on command? Didn’t think so.
9. Take the ho-hum out of daily walks.
Mix up the routes, pace and duration on your outdoor outings with your dog. Like us, our dogs need and deserve to be exposed to new sights, sounds and smells. So get out of that same-route-at-the-same-time rut and treat your dog the chance to explore new dog-safe places.
Got a favorite New Year’s Resolution you like to share with dog lovers? Share it here.