As the year draws to a close, Lennon’s lyrics: “So this is Christmas, and what have you done?” might trigger thoughts and motivation to make some lifestyle changes – beginning with New Year’s resolutions. Despite great intentions, 80% of us give up on New Year’s resolutions by the second Friday in January, it’s known as ‘quitters’ day’!
Whether it’s to kickstart more healthy eating, lose some excess pounds, take up running, do yoga or just practice mindfulness, it appears we humans give up!
Dogs don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Dogs depend on us to make so many choices for them, from what they eat, whether they wear a collar or a harness, to where they sleep. What if we turn the tables and let our dogs inspire New Year resolutions, taking the lead from how your dog just gets a lot of things right?
I’d guess that all ‘Fidos’ would suggest we all drink more water – preferably filtered and fresh. Keeping us hydrated naturally helps our metabolic function, bearing in mind our body chemistry is 70% water, just like a dog’s. Our dogs can inspire us to see the world from a different perspective. We can only imagine why a muddy leaf is so interesting to our dogs, but maybe we could be interested in appreciating another’s point of view.
For me, there’s nothing more fun than playing a great game of tug with your dog. Exercising together is a great bonding experience that can help reduce stress levels, boost confidence, and alleviate frustration. Reducing stress for you and your dog isn’t only about exercise. Activate your dog’s grey matter with fun puzzle games, or tap into their huge olfaction to encourage mental and physical dexterity, in the same way as we might learn a new language.
Dogs know when to rest and that’s something we could also aspire to in the New Year. Rest and restore to help manage stress and anxiety. Interestingly dog owners smile more than non-dog owners, which promotes wellbeing. Similarly, another study suggests that dog owners often live longer. More science concurs that stroking a dog will reduce your blood pressure and the flow of the love hormone Oxytocin.
Another resolution could be to ‘be more mindful and in the moment’. Dogs do this naturally; they do have memory and episodic memory, but they won’t be mulling over what happened yesterday or what’s happening tomorrow. I think our dogs can guide us, balance us, and become an antidote to technology overload, provided we take the time to tune into our ‘best friends’.
Through January, it’s #WalkYourDogMonth, an initiative to highlight the health benefits to both dogs and their owners. A commitment to walking your dog not only provides an opportunity to get outdoors but also builds routine, responsibility, and a chance to train and have fun with your companion. With 54% of owners engaging a dog walker at least three times a week, many of us are missing out on free canine therapy!
Let’s ‘paws’ for thought this New Year.
As a Canine Nutrition and Behaviour expert, Anna combines her psychology degree, with study at the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT) and over 20 years of experience. Host of the award-nominated A DOG’S LIFE podcast, she lives in London and is owned by Prudence, a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr. Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier. www.annawebb.co.uk