Have you let problematic or just plain slightly annoying behaviour slide? Or is your dog a “good dog” and so you’ve just stopped brushing up on training, which is really time to engage with your dog, bond, and work together? In either case, we’ve created a 30-day action plan of fun, doable exercises and activities that take hardly any time but can reap huge rewards where your relationship with your dog is concerned. Dive right in—it’s just one simple suggestion per day.
#1Identify the top three behaviours you want to work on with your dog—say a rock-solid recall, no jumping up, and not pulling on leash—and set aside 15 dedicated minutes twice a day to work on this skill with your dog. Set a timer on your phone. Rotate which skill you’re working on every day. (Find tips for working on these skills plus solving a host of other problems at moderndogmagazine.com/training)
#2 Have you heard the time-worn adage “a tired dog is a good dog?” It generally holds true. Commit to an increased exercise schedule, even if it’s just adding an extra block to your dog walk—it all adds up. Challenge yourself to a jog or a speed(ier) walk every other day. Increase your chances of sticking to it with LinkAKC’s very cool Smart Collar that precisely identifies your dog’s movement throughout the day (linkakc.com) and provides activity level recommendations based on your dog’s age, breed, behaviour, and size to keep you motivated and inspired. Plus it’s GPS feature monitors your dog’s location in case he ever gets away.
#3 Reward, reward, reward. Food is a powerful motivator. Make sure your dog stays interested in the training sessions by giving him some extra-delicious, high-value treats like Boo Boo’s Best (booboosbest.com), made of wild and free range ingredients.
#4 Keep those treats handy so that no matter where you are, you can reward your dog when he performs a desired behaviour, whether it’s a “stay,” a “drop it” or an excellent recall at the dog park. Co-designed with dog trainers, Doog’s awesome Good Dog Treat Bag (doogusa.com) is designed to effortlessly and stylishly keep treats on hand.
#5 Try clicker training if you’ve never done so before. An investment of just a few dollars lets you mark positive behaviours the second they occur, sans treats. Clicker training is excellent for trick training. Keep your clicker on your keychain so it’s always on hand or download the iClicker app in the app store (free; available only for IOS).
#6 Today you’re going to make your dog work for it. Feed your dog all his dinner by hand, delivered piece by piece in exchange for running through his trick repertoire.
#7 Engage, challenge, and bond with your dog while gaining deeper insight into how he thinks with Kyra Sundance’s Dog Training in 10 Minutes a Day. Her effective, positive, and humane training methods will inspire a confident and happy dog.
#8 Is leash pulling a problem? Upgrade your lead situation with the Otto Dog Harness (petsavvi.com). It reduces the amount of pulling force your dog can create and can be worn with or without a collar.
#9 Walk with purpose. Rather than just letting your dog loose at the dog park, find a friend with a well-matched dog and go for a walk together. This is an especially good activity for dogs who aren’t super with other dogs. United in a common focused purpose, they can get used to one another.
#10 Create a nose-powered treasure hunt! This activity takes all of two minutes to set up and it is super fun for dogs. Have your dog wait in another room while you hide small treats all over the house for her to seek out and find. It also let’s you work on “stay” until you release your dog to find the hidden treats (you may need to enlist a helper to help your dog wait while you hide the treats).
#11 New toyyyyyyys! Sign up for super-fun monthly subscription service like Dog Bundles (dogbundles.ca), which puts together a curated selection of toys and treats matched to your pup and delivers it to your door! What could be more delightful than opening a box of surprise goodies with your dog?
#12 If you have a fetch-aholic on your hands, gift your dog iFetch’s automatic ball throwing toy (goifetch.com). Dogs can play by themselves and you can set the distance so you can even play inside.
#13 Get out into nature, or the closest you can. Think of how mentally stimulating a new wild area is for dogs—and for you as well.
#14 Away for the day? Keep your dog busy with a food puzzle toy. Many of us stop using Kongs and other stuff-able toys when our dogs pass from puppyhood and inappropriate chewing is no longer a problem. But peanut butter-stuffable puzzle toys, like Jolly Pets treat dispensing Monster Ball (jollypets.com) remain a great way to occupy a home-alone dog. Bring back the food-stuffed toys!
#15 Swap out food rewards for play sessions. If your dog is crazy about tug or a particular stuffy, use that as his treat for doing as you ask.
#16 Rotate your dog’s toys so just a couple are out. Put the rest away and swap them out every week so they remain fresh and interesting.
#17Introduce a new trick,such as commando crawling (lure and treat) or sneeze on command (done by capturing and rewarding the behaviour). Encourage your dog’s new skill acquisition will an irresistible treat, like Jiminy’s Pea, Sweet Potato, and Cricket Chewy Training Treats (jiminys.com).
#18 Free day! The absolute best thing you can do for your dog is just spend time being present with him. Bring him along on some dog-friendly errands (the pet store, the hardware store).
#19 Grooming session. Take this opportunity to really check in with your dog and give him a head to toe once over, handling him from his feet to his ears.
#20 Get inspired! Read Guardians of Being by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell. This collection of witty and charming drawings celebrates the oneness of life as well as the wonder and joy to be found in the present moment.
#21 Canine massage. This is a wonderful bonding exercise and great way to keep track of any lumps, bumps, or sore areas. Get the how-to for canine massage at moderndogmagazine.com/caninemassage.
#22 Get your evening walk on! Reflective gear for nighttime or early morning walks keeps you seen and safe. There’s something to be said for dressing the part and willing it into being.
#23 Finally, give agility a try! Dog training centres typically offer short term beginner’s courses. In Toronto, ON, All About Dogs' six week foundation skill course is just $250 (allaboutdogs.ca). Afraid your pup won't commit? Check and see whether the facility near you offers one-time private lessons to test the waters.
#24 Try geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunt that’s the perfect outdoor activity to undertake with your dog! You’ll need a GPS-enabled device like a smart phone and your dog, and that’s it! There are millions of geocaches hidden around the world—there are probably some near you right now. Get started at geocaching.com.
#25Work on that “stay:” have your dog wait for your cue before you release him to go eat his dinner.
#26 Give your dog a long-lasting natural chew so he can indulge his desire to chomp on something. Dogs go crazy for braided bully stick beef pizzles from Jones Natural Chews (jonesnaturalchews.com).
#27 Make some new friends: find a breed meet up. Mixed or purebred, there’s meet ups of all ilk, whether packs of Pugs or eastside dog lovers. Find your new crew at meetup.com. Here’s a look at just a few of the Small Breed Dogs Meetups happening near Vancouver:
– Vancouver Dog Owner Meet-Up.
– The Small Dog Meetup.
– Teacup Pups Playgroup.
– The Burnaby Pug Group.
– Vancouver Boston Terrier Monthly Meetup.
– Lower Mainland Chihuahua Meet Up.
#28 Focused attention. Really check in with your dog instead of just running through obligatory actions. Everyone, our dogs included, bloom with this kind of consideration.
#29 Switch up your usual walk route so your dog can get fired up over all the new sensory info, particularly the smells. The same old trudge around the block is boring for you both.
#30 Day 30! Celebrate your improved bond and your dog’s better behaviour by taking your dog on an outing that really stokes him—a nature walk perhaps, or your best friend’s house or a trip to the beach. You’ve both earned it. Now keep up the great work! You’re one of the good ones.
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