Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions in the Year of the Dog

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2018 is already shaping up to be one of my favourite years. According to the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, it’s the Year of the Dog. And that’s definitely a year I can get behind. But what about your new year’s resolutions? Did you vow to become more active? Finally quit smoking, or take up rugby? While not every new year’s resolution has a four-legged solution, your dog can play a big role in helping you form new, positive habits. Here’s how:

This Year I’m Going to Be More Active!

Having a dog can have a huge positive impact on your emotional state - we’ll get to that later - but to me, the biggest impact of dog ownership is what you’ll see in your FitBit. When we adopted our rescue pup Clara, her vet recommended she lose a few pounds to stay healthy, so we got moving. Three walks per day, every day. Even in the winter! It started as a habit to help Clara stay healthy, and it’s turned into a daily ritual that we still keep up today. Now, I don’t go on every walk - my wife and I divide up responsibility for walks around our schedule, but we still stick to the same routine - a walk every morning, another one after work, and the last one right before bed. The results have been extraordinary for Clara and us.

For one, I feel better knowing that I’m moving more. In the winter, when the temperature drops below -20 C here in Ontario, it can be tough to find motivation to even get off the couch, let alone get outside and be active. While we cut back Clara’s walks depending on how cold it is outside, we’ve never deviated from our schedule. Three walks per day, every day. As a result of this schedule we discovered that Clara really didn’t have much of an upper limit on walks, so in the summer when we take her camping, 10 km hikes don’t phase her. She’s made us more active, and I like to think we’ve helped keep her happy, stimulated, and healthy. If your resolution is to get outside more, start with adding an extra dog walk to your day - you won’t regret it, and hearing your dog snoring away after a nice long workout makes it all the more worthwhile.

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This Year I’m Going to Meet New People!

I’ve always been a bit of a social butterfly, but moving to a new town or making lifestyle changes can make meeting new people difficult, even for someone like myself. But there’s one topic I can talk about for days - my dog. And you know who typically likes talking about dogs? Fellow dog owners! It’s why you’re reading this post, right?

When my wife and I started taking our dog to the off-leash park, we quickly discovered that everyone has a routine. We typically visit on Saturday afternoons, and so do a few other dog owners who we now see on a fairly regular basis. I won’t lie and say we’re best friends with our new band of dog park friends, but it is nice to run into the same people every week, pet the same dogs, and feel like we are starting to get to know our fellow dog owners. And as an added bonus, we get to pet a pile of dogs every week, and watch Clara frolic with pups of all shapes and sizes.

If you’re not the type of person who strikes up a conversation with random people at the park, there are plenty of options for more structured hangout time. Meetup.com is a great place to find local dog walking groups, and you may even find something breed-specific so you can wax poetic about wienerdogs, or band together about bulldogs. Some dog rescues like The Dog Haus even run scheduled group walks that are open to anyone. I’ve attended a few “Mediation Walks”, and the structured, calm socialization time was great for Clara to learn some more appropriate leash behaviour. BONUS: You can find out when and where these FREE events are happening in the ‘find dog-friend community events’ section of the Furevery app.

No matter how you approach it, dog owners tend to love talking about their dogs. If you’re just as obsessed with talking about your dog, take a chance and go surround yourself with fellow dog fanatics. Even if you don’t meet any new friends, chances are your dog will!

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This Year I’m Going to Save More Money!

If having a pooch is a great way to get out more and meet new people, there’s also some big benefits for folks who want to spend their new year putting a bit more money into their savings account. Whether you choose to spend the night in snuggled up with your dog on the couch reading a book, or spend some time doing a winter walk with your dog through the park, dogs open up some great opportunities to feel engaged and fulfilled without opening your wallet. While my wife and I aren’t party people to begin with, I’d much rather put some extra cushions on our couch and watch a movie with our snuggly pooch than throw on my snowsuit and try and get to the bar. When I do feel more active, I tend to opt for a long dog walk, or a hike through one of our local conservation areas rather than paying for a gym pass.

Once summer rolls around, the same rules apply. Beers at a bar, or pet-friendly BBQ in the back yard with some friends? Clara is great with other people and kids, so when we have friends over she’s always the life of the party. The older I get, the less I feel like dropping a hundred dollars on a night out, so whether it’s laziness or thriftiness I’m always up for a night in catching up on naps with my dog. And the less money I spend going out, the more money I’m putting in the bank for a rainy day.

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This Year I’m Going to Relax More!

This one is probably the most difficult resolution to keep up, because it depends on so many external factors. A bad day at work is usually all it takes to throw any signs of calm relaxation right out the window. Doubly so if you’re stuck in traffic on the way home. But, studies have shown that dogs can dramatically lower stress levels, and even help lower your blood pressure.

Over the past year, I’ve focused a lot of my attention on being more mindful, and living in the moment. And one of the biggest helps towards that goal has been spending unstructured time with my dog. Dogs don’t worry about the future. They don’t have bad commutes or arguments with baristas over too-foamy lattes. For the most part, they just want love and attention, and I find when I focus on that, it typically melts the stress right away. Rubbing Clara’s dog belly for half an hour doesn’t make me more productive, and it doesn’t take away any of the workload of tomorrow’s big presentation, but it does help me focus on living in the moment, and just being present. Clara likes it too - belly rubs are her favourite thing in the world.

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There’s a reason many Universities and even some offices are bringing in therapy dogs as a stress relief tool. Interacting with a dog is an easy way to put a smile on your face, and make your pet feel appreciated and loved. So when you’re feeling like you’re at your wits end, and about to break that last new years resolution, ask yourself, what would my dog do? Then do just that - lay down on the couch, call over your pooch, and just lean into the cuddle.

This post was written by our guest blogger and fellow dog lover Jon Spenceley. Comment below to let him know how your dog is helping you with your New Year’s Resolutions.

Written on February 1, 2018