It’s a new year, and people everywhere are making resolutions to make the coming year better than the last. Not everyone will be successful, but having a friend to keep you going can help a lot. So why not involve your pet in this year’s resolutions? Your pet will be thrilled to have some more time with you, and you can apply the same principles used in animal training to your resolutions to increase your chances of success.
<strong>Resolution # 1: More play time</strong>
This resolution is great for you and for your pet, and who couldn’t use a little more fun in their day. The great news is when it’s play with your pet it’s really easy to squeeze in little sessions during the day. You don’t have to worry about finding more hours in the day, just making better use of the minutes you have. For me, training is play too, but you can do whatever you and your pet enjoy. Some great times to squeeze in a little fun, training or otherwise, are right before your pet’s regular meals, during commercial breaks while you’re watching TV, on walks, or even before you get out of bed in the morning.
The easiest way to incorporate more fun with your pet into your day is to prepare ahead of time. All that means is keeping a toy, or a container of treats, in the spaces you plan to have a few minutes. Next to the couch, on your nightstand, or next to your pet’s food container are some good places to start. You could also leave something in your closet, next to the door, or anywhere you might pause, just for a minute. Keeping a cat toy wand, a ball, or a baggie of treats around the house is a really easy first step. That’s what makes good training too, breaking your goal down into the tiniest manageable pieces and starting from there. So run, right now, to your pet’s toy box or bag of treats, or even the food container, and set something aside where you’ll see it and start incorporating more play into your life!
<strong>Resolution #2: Groom daily</strong>
Pets age more quickly than we do, and for the most part they have a lot more hair. Keeping those things in mind, it’s easy for us to miss little indications that their health may be declining. Grooming your pet daily will keep them looking (and smelling) fantastic, but it can also alert you to small problems before they become big problems.
This is another thing that’s really easy to make a part of your day, especially if you’re good at multitasking. Many pets find grooming relaxing, so keeping a suitable brush or grooming mitt next to the couch or bed is a great starting point. You can brush your pet while you’re watching TV, or even reading a book. While you’re brushing them out, just make sure to feel for any new lumps or bumps, notice if their coat has become dull, or if they’re shedding a lot more than usual.
Brushing teeth and trimming nails can be a little more difficult to fit into your schedule, in part because many pets have learned not to like those events, or were never introduced to them properly. Dental hygiene in particular can be a really big issue for pets and it’s important that you keep up on their regular dental care to keep them healthy. The really easy first step here, if we keep our training principle of breaking our goal down into tiny manageable steps in mind, is simply putting the toothbrush or nail clippers out where you’ll be reminded of their importance. Near your dog’s food container, or anywhere with a small supply of treats, is perfect. Once they’re out, you can start by showing your dog the object, and following that immediately with a treat (or their breakfast or dinner). The first step to making nail trims and tooth brushing a positive experience is creating a positive association with the objects themselves.
There will be more on making nail trimming and tooth brushing a positive experience in future articles.
<strong>Resolution #3: Catch them in the act of doing something good</strong>
This resolution is a big one for me personally. If you haven’t done it already, run, right now, seriously, to your pet’s toy box or treat container, and set aside something to reward him with when you catch him being good. Behaviors that are reinforced are repeated. If you like it when your dog hangs out on his bed, stops before going through a door, waits for you to get all the way up or down the stairs before he rushes on them, drops the toy or other item at your feet instead of engaging you in a game of chase the dog around the living room, you need to reinforce those things. If you like it when the cat sits quietly at your feet, climbs on your lap, or stays out of the kitchen, you need to reinforce those things.
There is nothing more satisfying than training your pet to have great manners without having to put in a whole lot of effort, and never having to worry about giving a correction. You’re relationship will be better, you’ll love the good manners, and your pet will love all the positive reinforcement.
It should be easy to succeed with any of the resolutions I’ve listed above, but you can do the same thing with any of your goals, even if they don’t involve your pet. Just remember to break your goal down into tiny little behaviors, and give yourself plenty of positive reinforcement along the way. Happy New Year!