By Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT, American Kennel Club
It’s that time of year again – a time of self-reflection and good intentions. No doubt you made New Year’s resolutions for yourself, such as losing weight or exercising more, but how about some resolutions that will benefit your dog, too? Simple changes will set you up for success and can enhance your dog’s quality of life and deepen your relationship. Here are five easy ways to make 2021 a wonderful year for you and your dog.
1. Change The Route Of Your Daily Walks
Walks don’t just provide your dog (and you) with exercise, they are a source of mental stimulation, too. But the same walk, day after day, gets boring and predictable. Try taking a different path every week, so your dog gets some new sights and smells. It can be as simple as turning right at the end of your street instead of left or reversing your usual route. You can even hop in the car and drive to a new park or neighborhood for a change of pace.
2. Rotate Your Dog’s Toys Weekly
Providing your dog with variety in his toys is another way of preventing boredom. Make sure he has enough toys to keep him busy at any given time and put the rest away. Then once a week, change them around. You don’t have to keep buying new toys to pique his interest – an old toy will seem fresh and exciting when it hasn’t been seen for a while. Be aware of any special favorites. Some dogs take comfort in certain toys, like a plush animal they sleep with, so keep those available at all times.
3. Play Mentally Challenging Games With Your Dog Every Day
Dogs love to play with their humans, and activities like playing fetch or cuddling on the couch are wonderful. But if you add some brain games into the mix, your dog will get a daily dose of mental exercise, which is an important part of keeping him healthy. There are commercial puzzle toys that you can play with together or you can make your own fun with games like hide and seek.
4. Train A New Trick Every Month
Your dog may have mastered all the basic obedience behaviors, but there are an endless number of tricks you can work on. Teaching tricks helps keep your training skills polished and provides your dog with fun and mental exercise. And by the end of the year, you will have quite an act to show off to friends and family. Make sure you start with easy tricks for novice dogs, and be aware of any physical limitations, such as rolling over in some deep-chested breeds.
5. Practice Obedience Behaviors Daily
Even though your life is busy, it can be beneficial for you and your dog to fit even one or two minutes of obedience practice into your daily schedule. It reminds your dog of the rules of the household and prevents his skills from getting rusty. It also keeps you from taking your dog’s good behavior for granted. To help make obedience practice a habit, link your training to an already established routine. For example, whenever you put down your dog’s food bowl, ask for a “sit” or “down” first.
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