Reflections and Resolutions for 2012

As the end of 2011 comes to a close, it is time to reflect on your experiences (both positive and negative throughout the year). As we reflect on our experiences, decisions, choices and actions, there are a variety of emotions we may feel. Many decisions will be cause for celebration and excitement, while some memories may cause feelings of sadness and mourning. Through all your transitions and opportunities you learn and grow as an individual. This past year I lost my mom and that was a difficult experience. She was my confidant, my cheerleader, my mentor and my friend. I still miss her but I keep her memory alive in my heart and every time I see a butterfly or bee I think of her. Leaving my job as manager of a dog daycare was bittersweet. I loved the clients and the dogs but really wanted to pursue my passion of training dogs’ full time. While it was scary and there was some uncertainty involved, I love coaching owners and helping to train their dogs. I save all phone messages and email stories of how well the dogs are behaving and the goals they are accomplishing. In October, I adopted a Golden Retriever and she has been a joy. Throughout the year I certified numerous therapy dogs and keeping updated on their progress and visits brings a smile to my face everyday. I truly love my job and working with clients-both 2 legged and 4 legged.

Every year the Association of Pet Dog Trainers sponsors National Train your Dog Month in January. It is a wonderful opportunity for trainers to encourage dog owners to build a positive relationship with their pet and find the fun, enjoyment and creativity of dog training. It is also a time for clients to set goals for their dog for the upcoming year. Whether you have an older dog or a puppy, you can set small or large goals depending on the health of your pet, your schedule and your interests.

A lot of times you can combine personal goals with dog training goals. For example, the best way to work on loose leash walking with a dog is to practice. By practice I mean taking your dog for a walk every day-even if it is a short walk. By walking your dog you are also meeting personal exercise goals. If walking doesn’t agree with you, running or biking may be other options. I always like to joke that a good way to practice down is to use the lure method and by doing this you can practice squats at the same time. Five to ten repetitions with your dog a few times a day is a perfect set.

Maybe exercising with your dog is not a resolution for you this year. Another option might be to pet your dog with purpose and massage them once or twice a week. This will lead to a bonding experience with your pet and also may become an early indication if you notice any lumps, bumps or bruises to get checked out from a vet. On that note, I would encourage you to sign up for a pet first aid class. “You won’t know what’s not normal if you don’t know what is normal for your pet.” The classes teach you rescue breathing, CPR, first aid, the snout to tail assessment, caring for the senior “petizen” and also the stages of periodontal disease. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) 1-out-of-4 more pets would survive, if just one pet first aid technique was applied prior to getting emergency veterinary care.

Maybe you just want to work on some better manners with your pet; Not jumping on visitors, chasing the cat or barking at squirrels in the yard. Taking a class or signing up for private lessons will help with all of those problems. If you have a dog that is shy or fearful or shows some aggressions, be prepared to be patient and take the time to work with your dog. Solicit help from a professional trainer to guide you in the right direction. Then again maybe you have a high-energy dog and want to compete in agility, rally or fly ball. If you have a dog that is confident and loves people, you might consider becoming a therapy dog team. There are numerous options to build a bond with your dog and involve your children whenever possible. Take a trick class, rally class or scent class or sign up for a doggie dance or doga class. Take time to research and investigate all the options but setting some realistic goals for your pet and putting them in writing ensures that you are more likely to follow through. Remember I said realistic. The same applies for personal goals as well. I know if you set an unrealistic goal, it is too easy to give up but setting a goal too low doesn’t encourage motivation or enthusiasm. As the saying goes, “If you shoot for the moon you will land among the stars”.

If you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, I would encourage you to consider adopting from a rescue or shelter. A lot of times dogs have been in foster homes and the foster parents can tell you all about the behavior of the dog and the perfect environment for the dogs or cats. Whether you adopt a puppy or an adult dog, they both need patience and love along with rules, structure, exercise and training. That combination makes for a perfect environment for a pet.

There are a lot of trainers to choose from and while there are numerous blogs and websites that talk about what credentials trainers should have, what experience they have, and what tools they do or don’t use, my personal recommendation is personal fit with you and your dog. Just because a trainer is the most expensive doesn’t necessarily mean you will like their personality or training method. A dog trainer is similar to a doctor or counselor. You want to find a qualified professional that will listen to your concerns, give you suggestions, and that meets your budget and the goals you have for your dog. Take the time to do some research, ask to observe a class and or ask for references since some trainers only do private lessons and board and trains and you cannot always observe a private lesson. The bottom line is to find a trainer you trust and that you enjoy and that helps you solve your pet’s problem. An ideal trainer should possess qualities of a coach, cheerleader and help to motivate and inspire you.

Another motto to consider is that “you are what you eat.” The same rule also applies to your dogs. Make sure to read the ingredients and feed your dog a quality food. Keep in mind that the most expensive food may not be the best one for your pet. Listen to your dog, feel their coat, check their stools, read the labels and choose a food that makes your dog happy and healthy. Check the labels for dog treats as well. Have your dog work for their meals and treats-ask for a sit, down or wait before feeding or feed them in a kong toy to help stimulate them mentally.

The best suggestion for following through on personal resolutions and/or goals with and without your pet is to put them in writing and share them with friends and family so they can help you.

I’d rather walk the walk than talk the talk so here are my personal resolutions and resolutions I have for my dogs. You will have to keep reading through 2012 to see how I am progressing on my goals (hint hint).

Personal Goals:

to finish all my scrapbooks
to attend at least one dog training professional development conference
to teach at least 6 pet first aid classes
to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay in shape
to enjoy and appreciate my friends and family on a daily basis
to take 1-2 vacations and visit places I have never been before

Dog Goals:

Sandy: to achieve our TDIAOV-Therapy Dog International Active Outstanding Volunteer (150 therapy dog visits-I need about 30 more)

Ranger: Tail Waggin tutor award (100 therapy visits-I need about 70 more).

Sheba-to get her CGC

Ginger-to get her CGC

Shelby-to get her Therapy Dog Certification and earn her Rally Novice Title.

I wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope the year brings peace, prosperity, and good fortune to all of you. Take time to enjoy your pets and the happiness, love and contentment they provide. Share your resolutions for 2012 with us.