A new year brings opportunities for change, growth and improvement – and most of us make New Year’s resolutions of some sort or another. If you’re like most of us, there’s only so much we can realistically follow through on, though, so we have to prioritize.
What’s important to you? What drives you, and gets you excited to face each new day? What role does your dog play in the aspirations you have for life?
At Western States K9 College, what drives us is seeing our clients build more meaningful relationships with their dogs. We’ve seen people blossom because they find strength and skill during the training journey they take with their dog. We’ve seen them discover a new clarity about who their dogs are, and how they can bring out the very best, most unique qualities in their dog. We’ve seen children discover respect and consideration for their dog as a valuable individual, and we’ve seen partners and families come together to help a dog in need of guidance.
This doesn’t just happen, though. These are people who commit, because they prioritize their relationship with the being they’ve welcomed into their home. They fully intend to include the dog as a full member of the family, and value the dog’s potential.
If this is YOUR goal, there are two resolutions we’d challenge you to take on for 2016. There are way more than two, but here are our two biggies for 2016:
(1) Resolve to be active with your dog, physically and mentally, every day. At minimum, do something together every day that gets your heart thumping and your brain working, for at least 20-30 minutes. That can be a walk, a structured game of tug, a recall game. But it should be something that strengthens core skills, not just exhausting your dog. If you’re on a walk, be working on leash manners, or building a habit of sitting when you stop, or improving your ability to successfully ask for your dog’s attention and focus during moments of distraction. If you’re playing fetch, ask your dog to sit and wait for your to throw the ball, and sprinkle in some recall drills.
(2) Resolve to create, clarify, and maintain routines. Our dogs are very adaptable, as long as they understand what’s going on and can take safety in patterns. Many times, we see behavioral issues arise when dogs are asked to make sense of what looks to them like chaos. If your dog becomes frantic at the sound of the doorbell, or the arrival of guests, find the routine that you can train and your dog can execute. Maybe it’s going to a specific place and waiting for guests to enter. Maybe your dog can accompany you to the door and take a seat by your side as you open the door and invite guests in. There is no single “right” way – it’s about finding what you’re willing to do and what your dog can learn to do, and putting them together into a routine you’re willing to practice over and over and over again.
So. If you only have room on your New Year’s Resolutions list for two dog-related goals, we recommend these. We know if you follow through on these two, you’ll see massive, foundation-level changes in your understanding of, and relationship with, your dog. Which is what having a dog is all about, right?