As long as you’re making New Year’s resolutions, make some for your dog! 6 ways to make your dog happier and better behaved, this year and every year.
Dog Resolution #4: Read a Book (or Several)
Our familiarity with dogs may not breed contempt, but it does often lead us to take for granted that we understand them. Fortunately, more than one actual scientifically trained person with a lively writing style has stepped up to explain various bits of how dogs act and how they think. Try Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog, John Bradshaw’s Dog Sense, or Patricia McConnell’s The Other End of the Leash. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery to dopey websites, pop charlatans, and, of course, “some guy at the dog park told me.”
While I’m at it, I’ll plug my own book, The Dog Trainer’s Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet, where you’ll find loads of tips and tricks to make your dog’s life (and yours!) better. Speaking of tricks …
Dog Resolution #5: Teach Your Dog a Trick
Any trick. Teach her to ring a handbell with her paw. Or come when called. Or stick her head in a paper bag in case her lunch is inside. Or take a bow. Or walk politely on leash. Or turn in a circle – clockwise, then counterclockwise. “What?” you ask. “Aren’t some of those ‘tricks’ really obedience?” Shh, here’s a secret: If you train with a light heart and plenty of rewards, it’s all tricks to Dogalini.
Dog Resolution #6: Practice the 10-Treat Countdown
Once a week, count out 70 small, tasty treats such as fingernail-size pieces of meat or cheese. (Or you could get fancy and make your own goodies. The Turkey Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce and some of the other fun recipes from Gayle Pruitt’s The Dog-Gone Good Cookbook could be divided into tiny bits for use as high-quality treats.) Every day, when you get home from work, take out 10 of your treats and find ways to get rid of them. Did Dogalini stay quiet when a person walked past in your apartment building hallway? Treat. Did she keep out from underfoot while you made supper? Treat. Treat again. Did she sit while you put her leash on for the evening walk? Treat. Does she look super cute lying down with her forepaws crossed, all elegant-like? Treat.
The rule in this game is that you have to get rid of all 10 treats, but there is no upper limit. Feel free to replenish your supply and start another round. If you’re home all day, challenge yourself to a 20-treat or 25-treat countdown. Get good at this game and you might find you’ve worked your way through Dogalini’s entire dinner.
I’ll admit that sticking to 6 resolutions is a tall order. But if you can manage even a couple of these, you might find the result – well, rewarding! Your dog will be happier, more physically fit, more attentive to your cues, and better mannered overall. Happy 2013. And 2014. And beyond.
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