It’s January and although it doesn’t feel like a new year and there’s no fresh start from the pandemic, many of us are still thinking of making some New Year’s resolutions. If you’re a dog owner (or pawrent, if you like), then why not improve your bond by making a New Year’s resolution for you and your dog?
Making a resolution that benefits both of you, human and hound, is easier than you think. We all know exercise and the outdoors is great for our wellbeing and metal health, but fun dog walks, games and training can also help increase the bond between you and your pooch.
Here’s a handy guide to some simple New Year resolutions for you and your dog (and how to keep them).
Aim to keep a routine
Dogs like a routine, but with motivation at a low and the short days of winter, it can feel like a monumental effort getting out of bed never mind anything else! So, what tips can help with keeping a routine?
Well, first off, not everything needs to be set to a rigid routine. Do stick to daily exercise, play times and feeding. But don’t stick to the same games or walking routes as these can get boring – for both you and your dog!
Are morning walks a drag? Try setting your alarm early if you struggle to get up in the mornings. I set mine 20 minutes before I actually need to get out of bed because that’s how long it takes me to motivate myself to move! Put your dog walking clothes ready in a pile the night before, so you can just throw them on whilst you’re half asleep.
Dogs tend to be happier and less stressed with a basic routine for walking and feeding. This will be easier to stick to if it’s realistic. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself so fit in a full day of activities if you’ve got work or childcare to juggle as well.
We like to fit in a good morning walk so that Poppy will snooze until lunchtime, leaving us free to work. Then we like to use some of our lunch breaks to play a game or activity with her. Then, in the late afternoon, we’ll take her out again for a shorter walk. We stick to feeding times, so that she knows when to expect food, otherwise she tends to pester for food all day.
Go for more adventurous walks
This may be difficult for some of us at the moment, due to tier or lockdown restrictions. However, when guidelines allow, it’s good to get out and do a ‘proper’ walk in new surroundings.
Walking isn’t just good for our dogs but can improve our mental health and wellbeing too. New sniffs for the pooch and new scenery for us to look at. It’s a great way to improve your mood and stay positive.
In the meantime, why not think about changing your normal walking routes? Over the last year we’ve discovered new footpaths, woods and fields that we perhaps wouldn’t have without lockdown restrictions forcing us to get exploring our local patch. Even if you live in an urban area, there may be local nature reserves, canal paths, parklands or just quieter roads you can explore.
Cut down on the treats
This is a personal choice for humans, we know snacking is bad for us, but it’s comforting too! When we’re feeling a bit down, treats are a nice pick me up. However, for dogs it can be quite detrimental to their wellbeing. Giving titbits always seems like a nice thing to do, but regular treats can add up. Overweight dogs will find it harder to run around happily and may develop breathing problems.
We have a beagle, and they are notoriously hard to keep from piling on too much weight. However, we’ve found new ways to ‘treat’ our dog without reaching for too many treats. One thing I like to do is take some of her daily kibble allocation for enrichment games.
Try scrunching up bits of newspaper and hiding the kibble in the scrunched-up paper. Put the paper into a cardboard box or basket and give it to your dog to enjoy snuffling around for the kibble.
Bond over regular training activities
Many owners put a lot of effort into puppy training and then stop. But one thing we’ve learnt is that training should be ongoing. And training is a great way to improve the bond you have with your dog.
Whether it’s playing games to practise recall or teaching your dog new tricks (and yes, you can teach old dogs new tricks), it’s a great way to increase the bond between you and your dog.
Last year we worked with Poppy to get her comfortable with the nail clippers. Not only has it made it easier for us to cut her claws, but it has increased her trust towards us.
Play more games together
Dogs love to play games and it’s a great way to tire them out, especially when you’re limited by lockdown measures to one walk a day. There are classic dog games such as fetch and tug of war of course, but try new games to keep things fun.
Try playing games like ‘find it’, where you hide a toy or treat somewhere around the house or garden and get them to find it. Or how about hide and seek? It’s not just for children! We’ve found that Poppy loves to rush around the house trying to find us.
Games don’t have to take a long time, so don’t worry if your spare time is short. Just setting 10 minutes aside each day can be enough.
And that’s our suggestions for New Year resolutions for you and your dog. I hope these give you some ideas and inspiration to help you form a closer bond with your furry friend.