As we enter into a new year, this is the perfect opportunity to rethink your relationship with your dog and the things that you do together. Our dogs are our constant companions, something that many people have experienced even more of over the last year. Whether you have a new pandemic puppy or if your canine best friend has been at your side for years, a start of a new year is a new opportunity to show your dog just how much they mean to you. This year I’d like to encourage you to spend not just more time with your dog (something many of us have already been doing during the pandemic) but also focus on spending more quality time with your dog. As a dog trainer, my biggest passion is helping people to be more engaged and have more fun with their dogs. I’m including topics from my new book Chew This Journal: An Activity Book For You And Your Dog to help guide you into setting some goals for quality time with your dog.
What do you and your dog actively enjoy doing together? Dogs, like people, are unique individuals and although some dogs are the happiest curling up next to you in bed while you read, others much prefer hiking or playing. I’d like to encourage you to take this new year as an opportunity to find ways to incorporate more of what you and your dog enjoy most into your daily life and routine. Spend a few minutes thinking critically about the kind of life you want to have with your dog, and the concrete steps you can take to set goals toward making that possible.
Living the dream
The relationship you have with your dog is unlike any other relationship you will have in your life. Dogs see and love us at our best, our worst, and every day in between. None of us are the perfect guardians to our dogs. There is always room for improvement. It’s good to think about what kind of life you want to have with your dog. From training to qualification of life, what things do you want to do more or less with your dog? If you could dedicate even just a few minutes of your day to ignoring work, putting your phone down, and focusing entirely on your dog, what would you do together? Consider what your dog’s favorite activities are and how you can incorporate more of those in your daily life.
Dogs live their lives primarily by our schedule. We tell them when to get up and go outside, when to eat, and when it’s time for bed. What if you gave your dog the ability to have some control over activities in their lives. One of my favorite activities to do with dogs is to give them the chance to go on “sniff walks” where your dog is able to pick the direction you go and set the pace. you’re on the other end of the leash making sure they stay safe but otherwise not giving any kind of direction. It can actually deepen the relationship with your dog to take the time to see the world through your dog’s nose and pay attention to the different things that interest them.
As we go into this new year with our good dogs at our side there remains so much uncertainty in our world, but what isn’t unclear is the comfort our dogs bring to our life. Thinking about our dogs and the stability they bring this is the perfect opportunity to focus on how your dog has impacted your life. What you hope the future with your dog will bring, what your dog has taught you, and how your relationship has and continues to grow.
Especially over the last year many of us have had to adjust to living in a “new normal” and in many ways our best guides have been our dogs. Dogs live entirely in the moment. They aren’t worried about all the things we didn’t get to do last year. Similarly, they aren’t preoccupied with thinking about when life might return to “normal.” Our dogs are just looking to us for how much fun they are going to have today. None of us are born natural dog trainers or communicators. You might have a natural affinity for dogs and want to spend time with them, but each dog is an individual. We are all learning new things about our dogs, and in turn about ourselves.