The month of resolutions to make beneficial changes for ourselves is here. Gym memberships soar, we opt for salads over fries, practice more mindfulness, or read a new book each month instead of binging on Netflix so much. But what about resolutions that are good for both you and your pet? Lots of great options exist that are win-win, whether you have a cat or a dog. Let’s look at some great New Year resolutions to stick with throughout the whole year!
This might be the most obvious resolution for both of you, but it’s important enough to keep shining some light on. For all the same reasons that your doctor wants you to exercise more (healthy heart, healthy weight, strong body, stress reduction, longer life, etc.) your veterinarian wants you to do the same for your pets!
For dogs, plan to go for more or longer walks together, or make playtime with a favorite ball or frisbee in the yard a matter of routine. Get out and move together! But did you know you can engage in play with your cat in a similar way for their exercise? Even feline senior citizens still enjoy chasing toys around. Indulge them! While toy play with kitties may not exactly get you at target heart rate, the natural movement, proven stress-relief of interacting with animals, and healthy bonding time are guaranteed to be good for you as well.
You can teach and old dog new tricks. And doing so with the right approach is beneficial for both humans and dogs. What we teach them is less important in some ways than how we teach them. Hands down, the kindest and most effective way to teach a dog good manners or new tricks and skills is through the intentional use of positive reinforcement techniques. Simply put, this means rewarding positive progress consistently and strategically instead of punishing or scolding negative or neutral behavior. It’s proven to produce better results in training goals, but also it deepens your bond with your dog by encouraging trust and enthusiasm instead of fear or nervousness.
So how is this good for you (aside from knowing you’re being super-duper awesome to your dog)? When you’re focusing on coaxing and rewarding positive actions, your own headspace is in a positive working mode too. It’s a cup-half-full experience that’s just as good for you as for your pup. Now apply positive reinforcement to areas that are good for both you in your day-to-day routine: like the safety benefits of a dog with a reliable “come” or “stay” or the sheer cuteness of “high-five”.
Want to take that great training a step further? Some dogs can become well-suited to work as a certified therapy dog! This is a fun goal to work toward. It does take some effort and official steps, but doing so opens up the ability to work with people in situations where they really could use a little time with an animal to lift their spirits or settle their anxieties. Animal-assisted therapy opportunities include visits to hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, schools, and more. It’s a wonderful way for you and your pet to contribute to your community.
There are a number of opportunities to volunteer with local shelters, rescues, or other animal-centered nonprofits. If your New Year resolution is to volunteer your time working with animals, you might be well-suited to walk dogs for a shelter or spend a morning each weekend caring for cats in a rescue. There are even many causes that need help from people with certain professional skills like event planning, grant writing, or professional photography of adoptable animals.