New Year’s Resolutions: A Dog’s Perspective
‘Ok, Luna, it’s 2020 and it’s time to talk resolutions. You are going to march around the streets with me every day so that I can measure exactly how many calories you’ve burned. You are going to cut down on those treats you love, because while we’re grateful we didn’t have to use the hoover during the festivities, that hasn’t helped your waistline. You’re going to get organised and stop leaving your toys all over the house. You’re going to quit barking at other dogs when you’re in the car, that’s a bad habit you’ve got into and as of today, you’re going to completely ignore squirrels. Okay?’
With a confused head tilt Luna sank into her bed, no doubt thinking, ‘that sounds like fun, thanks human.’
Did you read that and feel excited for Luna as she embarks on her ‘best year yet,’ getting fitter, healthier, more organised and less likely to repeat the unhelpful habits that she had been perfecting throughout 2019?
No, I didn’t think so.
Have you said something like this to yourself? Have you decided that this is going to be your ‘best year yet’ and resolved to make the changes you wanted to make in 2019, 2018, 2017…?
It can be your best year yet, without a doubt, but let’s look at how you can set yourself up to succeed.
Luna only offered a confused head tilt when presented with her list of 2020 resolutions because she didn’t know why she needed to do those things or how she was going to go about changing her habits. Also, she’s a dog so all she actually heard was ‘Luna, blah, blah, blah,’ but stay with me as she’s going to help us understand how we can focus on succeeding with our 2020 resolutions.
Know why you’re making the resolution
This is the first step. If we want Luna to achieve something, it has to have a purpose, we have to know why. We teach recall so that we can call her back if there’s a risk to her safety. We teach leave it so that we can ask her not to pick up the mouldy pizza on the pavement. We teach drop it so that we can retrieve our socks without a game of tug. There’s always a purpose, even if it is ‘because it’s fun’ and anyone who has taught their dog the ‘bang bang you’re dead’ cue will know that there is no greater purpose.
Why do you want to exercise more often, change your eating habits or stop doing the things that haven’t served you in 2019? If the answers you’re giving are the same as the answers you have given before, when you gave up on your resolutions, dig a little deeper.
Know what the resolution is
The details matter and they are the key to success. Let’s say that Luna is going to achieve a reliable recall this year. What does that mean? Does that mean she comes back after you’ve blown the whistle six times? Does that mean she comes back on the first whistle, unless there’s a really good scent in which case she can take her time? Does that mean she turns on a penny, sprinting back to you at the speed of light on the first whistle and sits at your feet while you offer a smug grin to the other humans in the park?
If you’re counting calories, what does that mean to you? If you’re planning an exercise regime, what does that mean to you? If you’re going to organise a specific element of your life; go for promotion, start a business, write a book or simply aim to be on time for work four days out of five, you need to know exactly what the resolution is, link that to your ‘why’ and then you can make a step-by-step plan.
Plan to succeed
We’re at the park with Luna, we have decided that 2020 is the year of reliable recall and we told her all about it on the drive here, so she’s on board. We have a brand new whistle, – and another ten at home because we know we’re going to lose this one – we have a pocket full of treats and we have practised our smug grin. Luna’s enjoying her park-based adventure, she’s checking her pee-mail and she’s pretty sure she heard the sound of a whistle, but she’s busy so she chooses to ignore it. Does that mean we’ve failed in our 2020 resolution and we might as well give up?
Start small. You have a whole year ahead of you to achieve what you want to achieve. Deciding on day one that you’re going to go to the gym every day, eat healthily and not for one second consider gossiping over a smoothie at lunchtime is possibly unrealistic.
Set yourself up to succeed with a plan that’s not only achievable, but fun. If we want Luna to love running back to us at the sound of the whistle, we don’t start training the cue in the place of sniffy temptation. We make it as easy as possible for her succeed with small bursts of training, with limited distractions and we make it fun.
If one weekly trip to the gym, desserts only at weekends and saying one positive thing about someone every day over lunch sounds achievable, you’ll be celebrating success from now on.
Talking to Luna about our recall plan didn’t work, did it? Again, that is because she’s a dog, but you know where I’m going with this.
We can connect with why we want to achieve our goals, we can understand exactly what achieving our goals would look like and we can plan each and every step so we’re confident of success. That means nothing without action.
Follow the plan and while it’s important to stay focused on the end result, be flexible in the plan’s application. There will be days when the pee mail is just too interesting to walk away from, there will be days when our friends at the park convince us to stay for one more zoomie and there will be days when curling up on the sofa is much more tempting than another game of recall fun. That’s ok; luckily we have a whole year to work on achieving 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: www.canine-perspective.com/purina