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Inquisitive Canine: New Year’s Resolutions for Dog Owners

Get a jump on getting out, getting fit and getting organized

By Joan Mayer, Noozhawk Columnist |

Dear Inquisitive Readers:

Welcome to 2011! The new year is a great time to reflect on the past, as well as begin planning for the coming year. For many, this includes establishing “resolutions.” So my sidekick Poncho and I thought it would be the perfect time to explore a few of the most commonly discussed commitments found on resolution lists and help readers apply them to life with our inquisitive canines.

Whether you plan on giving back and getting organized, or resolving dog behavioral issues and enhancing your daily routine with your canine companion, this list of new year’s resolutions is designed to help set you up for success in the new year while enhancing the bond you and your dog share.

Get fit: Losing weight is at the top of resolution lists for many people. What about your dog’s weight? If that’s an issue, the new year is an ideal time to begin an exercise program.

As a professional dog trainer, I often recommend regular walking regimes or enrolling in agility classes to boost both physical as well as mental health. Note: You’ll want to check with your vet first to make sure your dog is medically cleared for an increase in any new exercise routine.

Evaluating your dog’s overall physical health is also important. When was the last time your dog had a checkup? Veterinarians recommend an annual physical — sometimes more often depending on age and health history. You’ll want to make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and any other age-specific assessment and/or treatment that would help improve his or her quality of life. Similar to humans needing different requirements with aging, our pets do, too. If budget is a factor, check into your local resources for inexpensive vaccination clinics and medical care.

Learn something new: Evaluating your dog’s overall behavioral health can also have great benefits as well. If your dog is already a perfectly behaved dog, then bravo! You’re doing the right thing: rewarding the behaviors you want and preventing or ignoring unwanted behaviors. If, on the other hand, you want to improve your dog’s behavior, consider dog training services that can empower you and your dog with a rewarding education that will help further develop and enhance your everyday relationship.

Similar to adults going back to school for a fun class, dogs enjoy sharpening their skills or learning new ones. Nowadays, there are more options for dog training classes and workshops than ever. It doesn’t always have to be “obedience” classes. Why not try something different? Agility, Rally-O, canine freestyle, scent and detection work, or Canine Good Citizen are just a few you could check out. For additional information on these types of activities, check out our Inquisitive Canine Resources page for helpful links. If you’re in a remote area or your schedule conflicts with class times, there are many DVDs and downloadable training programs you can buy online and complete in the comfort of your home.

Enjoy life more: Spending more quality time with your dog can be a great way to break away from a daily routine that has become too routine. Walking your dog at the same time every day, or not at all? It’s easy for us to get into a rut or to avoid the last item on the checklist.

How about changing it up this year? Try something as simple as walking in a new place once in awhile, or making arrangements to walk with a friend or neighbor. The novelty of a new neighborhood can be like Disneyland for your dog. Or, instead of going for a walk, you can play a training game or other interactive activities.

You may even want to consider turning off all of the electronics and simply hanging out on the couch or floor with your dog for some bonding time. You could read him or her a favorite story, talk about your day (dogs are perfect to vent to) or meditate together. What a great way to clear the mind and spirit!

Get organized: Is the toy box spilling over? Stuffed squeakies and old tennis balls under every piece of furniture? No need to wait until spring — go through everything now. Throw out the nonsalvageable ones, and donate the unused ones to local shelters or give to friends’ dogs. You can even machine wash some of them. I’ve found that using a lingerie bag and washing on the gentle cycle can refresh many toys.

Other items you might want to go through are dog blankets and beds, leashes, collars and crates. Check with your local shelter to see if they would want any of these items. Many rescues have a Web site with a list of items they would want and need.

Help others: Giving back to others in your community can take many forms. Besides donating unused items to local shelters and rescues, you might want to consider doing something more with your dog that allows him or her to give back. If your dog enjoys being around people and other dogs, consider having him or her certified as a Canine Good Citizen with the American Kennel Club or joining a group such as the Delta Society where you and your dog can apply to become registered Pet Partners. Programs that allow you to visit such places as schools and nursing homes are fulfilling to both humans and non-humans.

Please adapt any and all to your own situation, preferences and overall goals. Our objective is to set you all up for a successful new year! Poncho, myself and everyone at the Inquisitive Canine wish you and your family a very happy, rewarding and dynamic 2011.

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).




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» on 01.07.11 @ 02:17 PM

How about only allowing your dog to go off-leash at officially-designated off-leash areas?  See http://www.countyofsb.org/parks/parks01.aspx?id=9228 for SB County Parks off-leash areas. 
Please note that Santa Barbara County ordinances require dogs to be on-leash anywhere in the County.  County ordinance 7-11(a), “It shall be unlawful for any person owning or having custody and control of any animal to fail to keep such animal under restraint when such animal is in or upon any public or private property or area without the express permission of the owner or custodian of such property or area.”

» on 01.08.11 @ 02:59 AM

Great point Condor Hiker - Yes, as both a professional and “dog mom” I agree that dog guardians do need to abide by leash laws, as well as other pet related laws such as licensing. They also need to check other areas whenever they are traveling - leash laws, licensing and vaccinations change from county to county - Situational awareness is a beautiful thing. Let’s both hope that everyone adds this to their resolutions list for 2011!

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