A new year means new resolutions and goals. If you're a small dog owner, we have put together 10 goals for you and your small dog to shoot for in the new year.
1. Take more walks with your dog.
Fresh air, sunshine and a little exercise are good for you and your little dog. Your dog will love all of the exciting smells during the walk. You might meet some new neighbors and friends on your walk. Switch up your walking route regularly to keep you and your furry friend from getting bored with your walks.
When you have extra time, take your little dog somewhere different, like a different part of town or a park, so you'll both have new sights to see and explore on a walk.
You can even help raise money for your favorite animal organization just by walking with the WoofTrax app WoofTrax donates money to over 8,500 shelters, covering all 50 states.
If you're not walking your dog regularly because he or she isn't good on a leash, that behavior isn't going to change by not walking. One easy way to get your dog to walk better on a leash is to take him out in your driveway or front yard and walk your dog in a small area, changing directions every 15 or 20 steps. Each time you change directions and your dog follows, reward him with a "good boy" and a treat. This exercise teaches your dog you're the leader on a walk he has to follow you.
2. Sharpen your dog's obedience skills.
How good is your dog with basic obedience commands like sit, stay, down and leave it? Maybe it's time for a refresher course or to finally getting around to teaching your dog basic skills. It's not too hard to teach common commands and they're beneficial for both you and your dog.
There are plenty of YouTube videos to show you how to teach your pup to sit and stay. Need a little more support, many local dog trainers have basic obedience classes to help you train your dog to have excellent manners.
Here's a YouTube video show how to teach your small dog to stay:
3. Teach your dog new tricks.
Teaching your dog tricks can be fun for both you and your dog. You'll be rewarded by showing your friends how talented your dog is and your little dog will love the one-on-one attention, the rewarding treats and seeing you smile when he or she gets the trick right. Young and old dogs can learn new tricks.
All it takes to teach basic tricks is patience, consistency and keeping the trick training sessions short and fun.
Some easy tricks to teach are shake, wave, spin, ring a bell and jump. Watch the video below to learn how to teach your dog to spin. YouTube is a great place to find helpful trick training videos for your dog.
4. Get your small dog certified to be a therapy dog.
Have you ever considered getting your dog certified as a therapy dog? A therapy dog can go to places like hospitals, nursing homes, hospice facilities, schools and libraries to provide comfort to individuals. Doing therapy work can be extremely rewarding for you and your small dog. You feel good for helping others and your doggy gets the benefit of lots of extra petting.
Therapy dog work is a team effort. You must work with your dog to ensure he or she is well trained and obedient. You will have to keep your dog well-groomed and bathe him or her ahead of visits so as not to bring dirt and germs into hospitals or nursing homes.
In order to work as a therapy dog, your furry friend must be well-trained, good with strangers and calm in new places and situations in order to do therapy work.
The American Kennel Club has information about getting your dog prepared to do therapy work and you can search for local trainers who offer Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog classes. Therapy dog requirements vary from place to place, so it's best to work with local trainers who are familiar with the requirements of the organizations you want to do therapy work with.
5. Socialize your small dog by joining a small dog Meetup group.
Find new furry friends for your dog to interact with by joining a small dog Meetup group or Facebook group. You can find Meetup groups for small dogs and breed-specific groups, like French Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels on Meetup.com.
Meetup groups are a great way for you to meet new people while giving your dog a chance to socialize with other dogs.
DinkyDogClub.com has a list of small dog Meetup groups. Visit Meetup.com to search for small dog groups in your area or look for a local Facebook Group. Can't find a group in your area? Start your own Meetup or Facebook group. It's easy, fun and you get to set the rules.
6. Help your dog shed some weight.
One thing many people look to do at the start of a new year is lose some weight. Some little dogs are in the same situation. If your dog is a tad more round than he or she should be, it's up to you to help take the weight off.
The first trick to weight loss for your little dog is to determine the correct amount of food your dog needs per day based on his/her weight, age and activity level. Once you know how much food your dog needs, measure out that amount at each feeding. Use a measuring cup instead of eyeballing how much food goes into the dog bowl ensures you feed the right amount of food every time.
If you're doing training exercises with your dog, keep that in mind when feeding your dog. Let's say you sign up for agility training and you know on the class night your dog will earn lots of treats for his or her hard work, you'll want to cut back on the amount you feed your dog that particular day.
Just like with humans, an overweight dog has a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease and several other health issues. Extra weight also puts more stress on your little dog's joints.
Thinking about small dogs, an extra 1 pound on a six or seven pound dog is a lot of extra weight.
If you're not confident in your ability to trim your dog's weight, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to come up with a plan to slowly trim your dog down to his or her ideal weight.
7. Get your dog involved in a sport, like agility or flyball.
Dog sports such as agility and flyball are becoming more and more popular. Participating in a sport with your dog can be great fun and since most sports are a team effort, participating in one is a rewarding way to strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.
Dog sports also provide your small dog with important physical and mental stimulation.
Dog Agility is where dogs run through a course outfitted with jumps, tunnels and ramps. Dogs and their owners who run the course fastest win. Competing dogs are grouped by size to ensure fair competition.
Dog's participating in agility are grouped by size so your little dog is jumping over low bars to reduce the physical impacts of big jumps. There is even a Teacup Dogs Agility Association geared just for small breed dogs.
In Flyball, teams of dogs race in a straight line over hurdles to grab a tennis ball and return it to their handler. As with agility, dogs are paired up by size.
The North American Flyball Association has a directory to help you find a local flyball organization.
Watch Gabby the Papillon on the agility course:
8. Grow out a long beautiful coat.
Do you own a Maltese, Havanese, Yorkie, Coton de Tulear, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apsos or mixed breed that can grow a long coat? Maybe it's time to achieve your goal of letting that coat grow out.
The key to growing out your small dog's coat is daily brushing. While that may sound like a daunting task, it really isn't if you stick with it. Getting in the habit of daily brushing, assuming your little dog enjoys it, is a great way to spend some one-on-one bonding time with your furry friend. Regular brushing also makes it so much easier to avoid tangles and matting.
You will also want to have a good quality comb, brush, shampoo, conditioner and a detangling/moisturizing spray.
9. Take a vacation with your dog.
We know many people travel with their dogs and love having their furry friends with them. If you've never taken your small dog on a trip, try it out. Planning a trip with your little dog can get you out of doing the same old things when you vacation.
Traveling with your dog will have you seeking out pet-friendly sights and attractions, as well as restaurants with dog-friendly patios.
Some helpful tips to keep in mind when traveling with your dog include booking hotels directly to ensure the location you are staying at is pet-friendly. Airbnb and VROB have filters to find you dog-friendly rentals to stay in.
If you're going on a driving adventure, be sure your dog is used to car rides before setting out on a long drive. Remember to keep your dog in mind when you're planning your vacation activities.
Be sure you have a collar with ID tag on your dog at all times when traveling.
Download the BringFido app to help you find pet-friendly places to bring your dog wherever you roam.
10. Stimulate your dog's brain more often.
As with physical exercise, mental activity is also important for your small dog. Many little dogs love a challenge or the excitement of a new game or toy.
One easy way to provide some mental stimulation for your dog is by playing hide and seek with a yummy treat or bully stick. Place your dog in another room and let him or her sniff the treat you're going to hide. Then lock the dog in that room and hide the treat in another room. Next release your dog into the room where the treat is hidden and say, "find it."
You can make the treat easy to find the first few times. Once your dog knows the game, he will be super excited to play again and you can make the treat harder and harder to find. You can play this game indoors or outdoors.
Interactive toys are another great way to stimulate your little dog's brain. Games like Nina Ottonson treat-dispensing toys challenge your dog to get treats our of them. Nina Ottoson's Treat Maze is a good interactive toy to start with. As your dog gets the hang of that toy, you can move him up to more advanced toys like the Nina Ottoson Dog Brick treat-dispensing toy.