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Resolutions for you and your dog 2023

Happy New Year from Happy Hound University!

Three Dogs Standing Next to Each Other Waiting for a Treat
Buddy, Regis, and Phoebe on their New Years Eve Walk

This time of year is all about new beginnings and that can sometimes look like committing to resolutions. If you are someone who likes to set goals and resolutions for yourself, you might consider adding a resolution that will directly impact your and your dog’s relationship and life together! Below are listed some of my favorite dog-centric resolutions that I have focused on in the past or have had clients choose to do! If you have a resolution in mind, feel free to share in the comment section below!

1. Spend X amount more time with your dog every day

This doesn’t have to be a huge commitment! Even just committing to spending 5 more minutes of fetch, or walking, or brushing if they like it with your dog a few days a week will improve your relationship and add some variety to your pup’s days!

2. Aim to train at least X number of days a week

This is one I usually aim for because I am guilty of getting lazy training my own dogs. I usually will aim for 3-4 days a week of training, and if I do more I’m pleasantly surprised! Remember, resolutions and goals have to be something ATTAINABLE for you, if you don’t train your dog at all now, but you’d like to train them every day, start by just aiming for two days a week, and build on your successes as you improve!

3. Get into a dog sport or new hobby with your dog

If you’ve got the time and the funds, getting into a new dog sport with your dog is a great way to bond and get out of the house together. There’s a whole range of classes available, from nose work to barn hunt to agility to competition obedience! All of these options challenge you and your dogs mentally and sometimes physically, and when trained using positive reinforcement make for a great bonding activity. If you’re unsure about a local training facility that offers these classes, the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is a great online resource to learn more about dog sports:

4. Focus on positive grooming or husbandry this year

One of my favorite things to train and focus on is making sure that your dog is comfortable or at bare minimum tolerant of grooming and handling, since it’s something we HAVE to do to our dogs that we can’t opt out of. Focus on one specific thing (i.e. ear cleaning, nail trims, being brushed, having their harness or coat put on, etc) and really commit to splitting your end goal into small enough steps that your pup can succeed!

5. Get your dog out to more new places!

This one is simple and free! Resolve to get your dog out and about more to enrich their lives (if your dog is particularly worried or reactive outside of the house, skip this resolution until you work on your dog’s fear with a trainer! This resolution is most appropriate for dogs who enjoy leaving the house and who don’t have a difficult time coping with stress or novelty!). You could aim to go one new place a month or one new place every week, whatever works for you! Look into forest preserves and different parks in your area, or call local stores like Home Depot or your local nursery to see if dogs are welcome!

6. Try a group class with your dog

If your dog knows the “basics” but has never attended a group class before with other dogs and people, look into signing up for a good manners 1 class like the ones we offer! This is another great way to get out of the house, have fun, and mentally stimulate your dog! To see our current class openings go to this link!

7. Introduce one new enrichment toy or activity a week/every other week

I like this resolution because it’s relatively low effort, but will really enrich your dog’s life! Try to introduce new puzzle and enrichment toys to your dogs regularly to increase their mental enrichment opportunities. You can purchase toys like Nina Ottosson puzzles, the tricky treat ball, or Westpaw Toppls, or you can get creative with DIY items like throwing a handful of kibble into your yard for your dog to sniff out, wrapping kibble up in an old towel, or putting their meals inside of an old milk jug with holes drilled into it. This doesn’t have to be an expensive resolution if you can think outside the box!

8. Go on a trip with your dog!

This is a big one, but if you love to travel, why not plan a trip that your dog is able to go on with you? Check out some local state parks (we love Glacial Park Conservation area in Ringwood, IL, or heading up to Lake Geneva or into Michigan for the weekend!) Or some dog friendly towns like South Haven, Michigan!

Three dogs on leash sniffing
Regis, Phoebe, and their cousin Buddy enjoy visiting a local park together!

9. Practice more consent based touching and petting

If you’re not familiar with the concept of consent petting tests, see this video to understand what I’m talking about.

Because dogs cannot speak to us, they communicate with us using their body language but that can sometimes be missed or misinterpreted if it is their more subtle communication signals. When I am engaging with my dogs I try to be as mindful as possible about if my dog is actively consenting to the interaction and enjoying himself, or if he’s just tolerating it/letting it happen without protest. Consent test petting is a great way to teach your dog that they have a say in your interactions, and that you will listen to and respect them!

10. Aim to spend a little time every day just to sit and enjoy your dog

This one is about as simple as it gets, but I think it’s still worth mentioning. Even a minute of time just spent with your dog, not looking at your phone, not checking emails, just hanging with your dog, petting them if they’d like, and enjoying each other’s presence can improve your relationship and your day.

A beagle resting on a fluffy brown bed with a flamingo dog toy
Regis the beagle mix enjoying one of his new Christmas toys!

I hope these resolutions gave you some ideas and goals to work towards this year! Remember, just pick one, and make it a goal that you’re sure you can succeed at to start with! Don’t go too big right away to avoid frustration or failure, and when you’re having success keeping to your resolution celebrate your commitment!

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