Dog Behaviour and Training 

New Years Resolutions: A Dog’s Perspective

“Ok, Luna, it’s 2020 and it’s time to talk about resolutions. You will be marching the streets with me every day so I can measure exactly how many calories you’ve burned. They’ll be the goodies you love because although we’re grateful we didn’t have to use the vacuum cleaner during the celebrations, it didn’t help your waistline. You will get organized and stop leaving your toys all over the house. You will stop scolding other dogs when you’re in the car. It’s a bad habit you’ve gotten into. As of today, you’ll be completely ignoring squirrels. Okay? ‘

With a confused head tilt, Luna sank into her bed and thought no doubt, “That sounds like fun, thank you, man.”

Did you read this and got excited about Luna as she begins her best year yet, getting fitter, healthier, more organized, and less likely to repeat the unhelpful habits she perfected in 2019?

No, I didn’t think so.

Did you tell yourself something like that? Have you decided this will be your best year yet and decided to make the changes you wanted to make in 2019, 2018, 2017?

It could easily be your best year yet, but let’s see how you can prepare for success.

Luna only offered a confused head tilt as she put it on her list of resolutions for 2020 because she didn’t know why she had to do these things or how she was going to change her habits. Plus, she’s a bitch so all she really heard was “Luna, blah, blah, blah” but stay with me as she will help us understand how to focus on being successful with our 2020 resolutions.

Do you know why you are making the solution?

This is the first step. If we want Luna to achieve something, it has to have a purpose, we have to know why. We will notify you of Recall so we can call you back if your safety is at risk. We’re teaching leave it so we can ask them not to pick up the moldy pizza on the sidewalk. We teach to drop it so we can get our socks back without a full game. There is always a purpose, even if it is “because it’s fun” and anyone who has taught their dog the keyword “Bang Bang You Dead” will know that there is no greater purpose.

play with the dog in the park

Why would you want to exercise more often, change your eating habits, or stop the things that didn’t serve you in 2019? If the answers you give match the answers you gave earlier, then go a little deeper when you have given up your resolutions.

Do you know what the resolution is

The details are important and they are the key to success. Let’s say Luna gets a reliable recall this year. What does that mean? Does that mean she’ll be back after you whistle six times? Does that mean she’ll come back at the first whistle unless it smells really nice? In that case, can she take her time? Does that mean she’ll turn on a penny, sprint back to you at the speed of light at the first whistle, and sit at your feet while you offer a smug grin to the other people in the park?

What does it mean to you when you count calories? What does this mean for you when planning an exercise program? If there is a certain element of your life that you have to organize, go for a promotion, start a business, write a book, or just try to be on time for work four out of five days. You need to know exactly what the solution is, link it to your “why”, and then make a step by step plan.

Plan to be successful

We’re in the park with Luna, we’ve decided 2020 is the year of the reliable recall, and we told her all about it on the trip here, so she’s on board. We have a brand new pipe, and another ten at home because we know we’re going to lose this one – We have a bag full of goodies and we practiced our smug grins. Luna is enjoying her adventure in the park, she’s checking her pee emails and she’s pretty sure she heard the whistle, but she’s busy so she ignores it. Does that mean that we failed in our resolution for 2020 and might as well give up?

Start small. You have a whole year ahead of you to achieve what you want to achieve. Making the decision on the first day that you hit the gym every day, eat healthily, and not gossip over a smoothie at lunchtime for a second may be unrealistic.

playing with dog on the beach

Be prepared for a plan that is not only achievable but also fun. If we want Luna to love running back to us while we whistle, we don’t start by practicing the cue instead of the seductive temptation. We make it as easy as possible for her to be successful with small training spurts and limited distractions, and we make it fun.

If a weekly trip to the gym, desserts only on the weekend, and every day at lunch can make a positive statement about someone, then from now on you will be celebrating success.

Take action

Talking to Luna about our callback schedule didn’t work, did it? Again, that’s because she’s a dog, but you know where I’m going with it.

We can connect with why we want to achieve our goals, we can understand exactly what reaching our goals would look like, and we can plan each and every step so that we are confident of success. That means nothing without action.

Follow the plan, and while it is important to focus on the bottom line, you should be flexible in applying the plan. There will be days when the piss mail is just too interesting to go away, there will be days when our friends in the park convince us to do another zoomie, and there will be days when it will be much more tempting to curl up on the sofa as another game of recall fun. That’s okay; Fortunately, we have a full year to work on our resolutions.

Written by Marie Yates, director of Canine Perspective CIC. Marie was a finalist in Purina’s 2018 #BetterWithPets Prize, and you can find out more about her social enterprise here:

Marie Yates, director of Canine Perspective CIC

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