Perfect Pet Dog TrainingMany of us make resolutions for ourselves every New Year (some are more successful than others). This year I invite you to include some resolutions to make your dog’s life better.

Make the most of it. Whether you want to work on a behavior problem or just do something cool with your dog, there is no time like the present!

Here are some ideas:

  1. I will teach my dog to come when called. A strong recall can be the most important command you ever teach your dog. It can keep him from all kinds of trouble, like traffic or a dog fight. (Perfect Pet Dog Training offers a four week Reliable Recall class – hint hint)
  2. I will exercise my dog’s brain. Mental stimulation is just as important for our dogs as physical exercise. The best part about mental stimulation is that you do not always have to be involved (aside from giving the dog the toy, etc). Food puzzles are a great way to work your dog’s brain. For some homemade food puzzle ideas see our blog. Other ideas are playing hide and seek, K9 Nosework and letting your dog’s nose lead the way on a walk.
  3. I will listen to what my dog is saying. Learn about your dog’s body language. Figure out what his habits, interests and fears are. If your dog tells you he can’t do something, or he’s afraid of something, listen. Don’t force him into situations that make him uncomfortable. No matter how well trained, dogs are not robots. Sometimes they’ll tell you “no, I can’t do that” and that’s okay. It’s very unlikely that he’s rebelling and trying to take over the household. And sometimes, your dog’s behavior problems are telling you something important: aggression or “stubbornness” may indicate that he’s in pain.
  4. I will take an agility class or try another dog sport at least once. Sports training can help with everyday behavior issues because it provides the complete package: physical and mental exercise, improvements in your training skills, and a closer bond between you and your dog. It doesn’t have to be agility; here are some other dog sport ideas: K9 Nosework, Frisbee, Rally Obedience, hiking.
  5. I will stop setting my dog up for failure. Sometimes your dog gets into trouble and there isn’t a darn thing you could have done to prevent it. But if you know your dog is going to chew on your shoes or go through the trash when you leave the pantry door open, then it’s totally on you when he does! Don’t be shocked and offended. Put your shoes away and shut the pantry door before you leave for work. This is called management and while it’s not the same thing as training, it is an important part of the training process.
  6. Set your dog and yourself up for success. We often tend to set ourselves up for failure with our New Year resolutions: I’m going to write a novel, workout every day and be positive no matter what life throws my way! Don’t do the same thing to your dog: I’m going to compete competitively in agility, train him to stop being reactive to other dogs and work on obedience commands off leash! Lofty resolutions like this will never last. Take things one step at a time. Dog training success gets accomplished through an accumulation of small improvements over time. Start with one small change – take a basic obedience class and see what both you and your dog enjoy about training. You probably won’t progress as fast as you want, but by the end of 2014 you’ll have a different dog.
  7. I will celebrate our success. Raising a dog can be a lot of work! Whether you’re dealing with a serious behavior issue or trying to improve your agility run time, it’s easy to get caught up in the pain-in-the-butt-ness of it all and overlook all the ways in which you’re making progress. Try to take a step back and notice all of the things you’re doing right. Did your bitey puppy go after a toy instead of your hands today? Did your rambunctious teenage dog refrain from stealing food from your toddler’s plate? Did your door dasher escape the house – but then come to you when you called him? Celebrate each small success.
  8. I will start a bucket list for my dog. My dogs (all 4 of them) are all now what would be considered middle aged for a dog. I know in a few years they will begin to slow down more noticeably and our hikes may be shorter and followed with more aches and pains. There are still many things I would like to do with each one of them before this time comes. I will be working on their adventures and training lists this year. A canine bucket list doesn’t have to be full of complicated or expensive items. For my dogs, just taking them on more walks by the lake counts. Start thinking about it now before your dog gets too old, sick or injured. What cool stuff can you do to make your dog’s life more of an adventure?

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