New Year’s Resolutions for Better Living with Dogs

Two Dalmatians playing on the beach at low tide during winter sunrise

Make it a true year of the dog! This post was first written and shared heading into the Year of the Dog, but every year should be a year for the dogs. Since that was 2018, there are 18 ideas to help give your dog a happier and healthier life. I’m also sharing some of my own shortcomings, learnings, and New Year’s resolutions at the end of the post. Dogs make our lives better in so many ways. Let’s invest the time and energy to try and do the same for them. Here are our ideas for making New Year’s resolutions for better living and loving with the dogs. 

18 Ways to Give Your Dog a Happier Healthier Life

  1. Healthy Diet. Just like with people, a quality dog diet and moderation are key to good health and maintaining a target weight.  I’m a huge fan of treats, and sometimes we can get a little treat crazy. But quality treats can be a small part of a healthy diet, too. Research, learn about options, and make informed choices on food, treats, and supplements. Seek help from a trusted vet or veterinary nutritionist if needed. The right answer is different for every dog and owner.  See our Pinterest Dog Food and Nutrition board for handy links.
  2. Clean Water. There’s more to clean fresh drinking water than just filling the bowl. The water bowl (and food dishes) should be washed daily, either by hand or in the dishwasher. Refresh the water frequently, too. Stainless steel or glass bowls are best, especially if your dog(s) have outdoor drinking water. Plastic can start to break down and leech into the water, especially with high UV exposure, and surface scratches can make it easier to harbour bacteria. See our tips for keeping a (mostly) clean home with dogs for more ideas.
  3. Safety and Security. Make sure that your yard is secure and pet safe, including suitable sturdy fencing and gates, and secure latches. Check your home with a mindset similar to child-proofing. Ensure that there are no fall, topple, toxin (food, cleaners, chemicals, plants, etc.), or other lurking hazards. Check collars and leads regularly to ensure they are still secure and well-fitted to your pet.
  4. Comfort.  In addition to the obvious shelter from the elements, provide your dog with a comfy haven (or several) where they can relax and rest. Everybody loves a nice squishy bed, but it’s especially important for senior dogs to help reduce aches and pains.
  5. Identification. Make sure that your dog’s registration and microchip contact information (if applicable) is kept up to date. Keep a copy accessible for quick access away from home, such as on your mobile phone or email, in case of emergency. If you pet isn’t already microchipped, consider microchipping. You’ll have a greater chance of being reunited if you’re ever separated or the dog is lost/stolen.
  6. Emergency Preparedness.  In addition to identification, be prepared for possible medical issues with a pet first aid kit and basic pet first aid knowledge. Include your pet in home emergency plans (including if you are absent), natural disaster prep, and emergency evacuation strategies. Check out our emergency planning with pets post for helpful ideas, links, and a free worksheet.
  7. Direction and Core Training. Establishing accepted behaviours (such as curtailing barking, jumping, etc.) and core obedience training is more than just good manners and tricks. Maintaining control is an essential part of being able to safely navigate the world together and avoid incidents or complaints. Training can also help to reinforce the bond and trust between you and your dog.
  8. Exercise. Regular exercise is important for weight control and general health. Just like in humans, it also releases good endorphins and lowers stress hormones. Adventures are a great opportunity for socialisation and important mental stimulation, so stop to sniff the world along the way. Activities may need to be moderated for young pups who are still developing their bones and joints, seniors who need a slower pace, or other factors. Make sure that your exercise program is well suited to your pet and seek advice from your vet.
  9. Mental Stimulation. Dogs need to exercise their brains as well as their bodies, and different dogs prefer different types and degrees of brainwork. Continuing training with reinforcement of learned commands and fun new tricks is great for mental stimulation. So is problem-solving oriented enrichment such as scent games, treasure hunts, puzzles, etc. Discover what brain activities your dog enjoys.
  10. Patience and Consistency.  Try to be the model of cool, calm, controlled leader you dog needs. Be consistent with routine, behaviours, commands, consequence, and praise.  If you are a multi-owner household, try to ensure that everyone applies the same rules.
  11. Be Present. It’s easy to get busy, rush, be distracted, and only give partial attention. Spend some time each day completely focused on your dog and what you are doing together. Engage, have fun, build and strengthen the bond, and make your dog feel valued. Slowing down to take time when you are adventuring together to allow your dog to stop for plenty of sniffing along the way is also an easy way to add more mental stimulation to your dog’s daily outings. It can be great for your own well-being, too. 
  12. Play. Have fun together! Whether it’s playing with toys or other playful activities, having fun together helps to strengthen your relationship. Playtime is great for engaging the brain, too. Remember to play safe, ensure toys are suited to your dog, in good condition, and keep them clean. If your dog has a toy box, mixing thing up also keeps it more interesting – old toys are suddenly new again!
  13. Socialisation. If your dog is a social animal, make plans with furfriends on a regular basis. If your dog isn’t good in social settings, don’t put them in situations of social stress or risk. Always put the safety of others first, and in doings so protect your dog.  Be responsible and don’t take a fearful or aggressive dog to dog parks or off-leash public areas. Consider working with a behaviourist if your dog’s temperament is detracting from quality of life or poses a potential safety risk. It could make a world of difference to you both.
  14. Communication.  Learn to speak dog. Become familiar with how to translate your dog’s individual verbal and non-verbal cues, as well as better read other dogs in interactive situations. Dogs signal with noises, yawning, head movement, eye movements, and body language.
  15. Enduring Care. Accidents can happen at any time. If you don’t yet have an enduring care plan, consider making one. Make an emergency care plan for short term issues and absences. Make arrangements with a trusted friend or family member who could become a long-term nominated guardian, with provisions in your will for funding and maintaining ongoing care for the life of your pet.
  16. Cleanliness and Grooming. Looking a little scruffy? Different dog breeds and activity types have different grooming needs. A clean coat, regular brushing for skin stimulation (and feel-good bonding), healthy teeth, clean ears, suitable nails, and/or the occasional haircut can help to prevent health issues. Don’t forget to clean dog beds, blankets, and toys on a regular basis, too.
  17. Preventative Medicine. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Survey your dog regularly for physical changes (dog massage is a great way to check for lumps, bumps, and sore spots), be alert for changes in behaviour, keep an eye on what goes in/out (eating, drinking, peeing, pooping), have regular vet health checks, and keep your vaccinations (or recheck titre testing if you prefer) updated.
  18. Love.  Enough said!

New Year's Resolutions for Better Living with Our Dogs

Reflections and Resolutions

If you’re a regular visitor to our blog and/or social media, you know our dogs are very loved and well-cared, for but we live, learn, grow and improve. My own reflections are stirring up a few changes in habit around our household, and you’ll see some of those trickle over into the post we share here on the blog. What will you be doing to make this Year of the Dog (and every future year) a truly great year for your dogs? Are you making any New Year’s resolutions? We’d love to hear your reflections, thoughts, ideas, and resolutions.

Food and Treats

On the food front, I’ve already started actively working to include more superfoods and natural health supplements in our dog treats. In addition to my baked goodies and dehydrated meats, I’ll be trying to ensure that there are always gelatin gummy dog treats in our fridge.  I’ll also be trying to channel my inner dog during recipe development, so expect to see more meat, fish, and interesting flavour combos coming up in future posts. What I think is kind of gross might be doggone great. I should be taking more advice from my spotty taste-test team.

Training

Our boys are both trained, but Humphrey has always been rather wilful. He’s usually responsive, mostly, unless something more interesting is on offer. Not ideal. We worked with a trainer when he was young on his overly social nature and he now has much better recall. Unfortunately, he has never consistently responded to commands to leave, drop, or give when he discovers a “delightful” object (usually something dead, stinky, or both). Cue the neck dive and stink roll! I’m going to revisit that gap in our core obedience training. I’m not the most patient (understatement) when these showdowns happen, so I’ll be working on my own calm assertive consistency shortcomings too.

I’ve also returned to my habit of doing dedicated training activities with the boys daily as part of our routine. They’re not natural tricksters (at least not by command), but do enjoy showing off their favourite moves for a shower of praise and treats. It’s also great mental stimulation, especially for Oli who is less active in outings and play now that he is a slow and steady senior. Training can be a great stretch out opportunity for seniors, too. I’ll also try adding a few new tricks to the repertoire, especially for Humphrey. Hmmm…

Toys

On the toy front, I recently learned about dog’s colour perception as part of trying to assist Oli with his vision issues. See our post on dog vision vs. human vision for details. It’s been a huge eye opener (no pun intended) for our family. Our crafty craziness won’t change much, but expect to see a lot more blues and yellows in the mix for added visual interest to a dog’s perspective.

New Year's resolutions for better living with happier healthier dogs
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