9 to 5 Dog
30 Day Challenge
Each day you will learn a new tip and take another step towards having a balanced dog. Check daily to stay on track.
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30 Steps in 30 Days
First things first:
What’s your goal?
Where will you be in 30 days? For example, 30 days from now, I will have my dog exercised and stimulated on a daily basis without disrupting my schedule.
Choose a place to store your ideas—notebook, Google Docs, or otherwise. Write down your goal and tell your dog.
Figure out what makes his tail wag and what makes him howl.
Eager learner, athlete, couch potato? Get a clearer picture of who he is and what he cares about. Understanding your dog and what he loves to do will guide your strategy.
Kick start your research by reading the 9-to-5 Dog blog
Games give you a direct link to your dog.
Building a habit of playing games together. But what games to play? This is where the (ever so powerful) dog training comes in.
We’ll delve into the specifics of learning simple games in the coming days. First, familiarize yourself with the way you include games into your daily routine here.
Pack your bag. You will need it on your journey.
Now is the time to really commit to your dog and not leaving him at home alone to fend for himself. It’s never too late to begin building new routines and creating a better lifestyle for your dog.
Today, read 9-to-5 Dog blog to make sure you have all you need to start.
Allow your dogs to experience your world, and they will thrive.
A good way to enrich your dog’s world is to bring him along as much as possible.
Today, check your schedule for the day and see where your dog fits in.
Nothing? Then find some time to visit a friend, relative or a significant other that you haven’t seen for a long time. They will not mind your dog, right?
You should always welcome a new friend.
There’s something about making new canine friends: you have to make them. How? Well, first, take a moment to greet other dog owners and their dogs. Second, meet them again if you can.
Learn how to help your dog to make new friends and develop friendships.
Need help with your dog? Offer help yourself.
Is the weather keeping you from giving your dog a good long walk? Your dog’s friends are probably in the same situation. Invite them over for a fun play session. Their humans would be happy to get a break too. When you provide a helping hand, no-strings-attached manner, you’re creating a network of supporters that goes a long way.
Today, reach out to other dog owners to offer help. Suggestion: space it out a few days or even weeks before you need help yourself.
Keep him busy.
The few hours you have between work and sleep, you probably spend doing general chores, having dinner and entertaining. We all have to do a lot of things not related to our dogs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep him busy. Come up with some tasks to do or simple games to play to keep your dog entertained as well as exercised. And while you’re at it, let your family know what you’re doing.
Allowing your dog to actively participate in your routine helps to enrich lives and saves you time.
Put his bright mind to work.
No energy to exercise after a long day at the office? Teaching your dog new things is the key to wearing out some of that energy that bottled up during the day. If you can educate, entertain, and inspire him, he’ll look up to you.
What type of things can you teach? Focus on a simple trick you can develop into a series of exercises that makes your dog work hard. Build on your expertise, process, learning and approach. Get started by reading three tricks to tire out your dog.
It all comes back to your time and effort.
Make things easy. Add a combination of physical, mental and social activities to your dog’s day to ensure your effort is not wasted. Dogs will appreciate your effort and will be eager to please you, especially if you consistently provide them with more of the good stuff.
Make things as easy as possible for you to want to continue what you’re doing by setting yourself up for success. Develop a habit, set a reminder, treasure your commitment and don’t forget to reward yourself too.
Consistency is important. Make the new lifestyle your routine.
Gather new activities and schedule it in your calendar. Create your dog’s calendar in Google or even a good old-fashioned paper calendar on your wall. Remember, amateurs do things when they’re inspired or when they feel like it, professionals do things on a schedule.
Read this great post from Austin Kleon called Something Small Every Day.
Pick one exercise format that your dog can do well and make it a hobby.
Does he love to swim? Go to a dog-friendly beach or sign up for a daycare with a swimming pool. Does he enjoy retrieving? Tossing a ball is your best bet. Does he want nothing but treats? Tricks like “beg,” “crawl” and “dance” are an option.
Start by mastering just one game. Remember, you’re not limiting yourself to one activity into perpetuity. You can always add on and rotate in the future. Provide exercise in the morning, before you leave. The result you’re looking for is your dog flopping down on the bed to sleep.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Have questions about leaving your dog at home alone? Learn from other dog owners who’ve successfully managed their dogs’ home alone status and shared their experience.
Share your questions with 9-to-5 Dog’s online community and other communities online and offline.
Nobody likes to be left hanging.
Now that your dog is busy with activities, it’s time to think about ending it on a positive note by saying a release command, removing the toys and making him relax.
Today, use a release command to let your dog know that the interaction is over. It will help your dog to relax and leave you alone when you want it.
Practice guilt-free leaving and returning.
Stress and anxiety that some of us experience about leaving our pets alone at home transfers to them. They don’t understand that you’re telling them you’ll return soon. All they can comprehend is that you feel sad. Do you get worried when your loved ones are sad?
Give yourself a compelling reason to leave the house. Feel calm and confident about your cause. Learn how to leave and return without fuss.
Find a backup daycare, dog walker or someone who can take your dog out during the day.
What if you can’t leave the office for a lunch break? What if you absolutely have to stay late? What will you do if you’re away for few days? Have a list of people you can reach out to in case of emergency.
Starting now, prepare a list of at least two emergency contacts who are willing to help. Write down their contact information, provide them with access to your house, and have a trial run.
When it comes to sounds, don’t ignore the quietness.
Instead of leaving your dog in a house or apartment without any sound but occasional outside noise, use sound therapy to improve the behavior and health of your dog. Select a recording. Play it when you’re at home and the atmosphere is quiet and relaxed to build an association. And remember to record what your dog did to see what difference it makes.
I recommend digging deeper into dog’s audio preferences to begin to understand a potential influence with 'Though a dog's ear' recording.
What doesn’t get practiced doesn’t get learned. Practice calmness.
Does your dog follow you around the house like a shadow? Today, train your dog to stay on his bed instead.
Get your dog on his bed and ask him to stay there. Give him a stuffed toy to chew on if he’s having a hard time. Practice having your dog relax on his bed when you’re out of sight until he can do it for 30 minutes to one hour.
Don’t have the skills? This book can help you to teach your dog to stay on his bed.
Structure your walks.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to let your dog drag you wherever he wants to go, but there’s a lot more to it if you want to have a pleasant walk.
Structure your walk in a way that your dog knows when it’s time to sniff and when it’s the time to walk at your side.
Provide sufficient physical exercise.
We have already talked about giving your dog some exercise in the mornings. Tossing a ball for 15 to 20 minutes may tire out some dogs, but active dogs may need an hour or two. What if you don’t have the time? If you do any exercises that can involve your dog, like biking, running, jogging, power-walking or skiing, bring your dog along. Otherwise, start your dog on a treadmill.
Consult your veterinarian for an appropriate amount of exercise for your dog. Remember to introduce any sport slowly. A carefully planned fitness program will ensure your dog benefits from exercises.
Special treatment by YOU.
Does your dog need a bath or ear cleanse? Today, instead of taking him to groomers, do some things yourself. Does he put up a fight? Do something you can manage. Praise and reward for obedience.
While you’re taking care of their hygiene, dogs work on being patient, staying in place and allowing their grooming. It’s also an exercise in leadership.
It’s time to earn praise. Make your dog work for the food and praise you give to him. Make him sit for a treat instead of just giving it to him. Have him wait for someone to open a door. Have him come for a pet on the head.
Dogs repeat things that earn them treats and praises. Do not waste your major weapon.
Make time spent with your dog stress-free.
In today’s increasingly dynamic world, there’s a lot to say about stress. Are your neighbor’s kids noisy? Does the doorbell makes you jump up and rush to the door? The reasons for your stress can be completely unrelated to your dog. If you allow yourself to feel stress, you will create a stressed and anxious dog. Depending on how your dog deals with stress, it may come out as aggression or fear.
Our dogs are incredibly fine-tuned to us since we evolved together. Today, practice being a calm, confident owner.
Dive into your monitoring videos.
If you set up video monitoring of your dog as described in Day 4, by now you have hours on record. These videos will inform you of your dog’s behavior over time.
Go check out your videos in bulk to see what’s working and what’s not quite working. Compare the days your dog misbehaved against your calendar. Did a new activity such as learning new things, practicing “stay” on the bed and sound therapy result in a calm and relaxed state of mind?
Overall, good behavior is crucial, but so are individual aspects.
Pay attention to the specific things your dog is doing when you’re not at home. Does he bark, look out the window anxiously, chew things? Does he do it every day or only the days he feels like it? What can you learn from the previous steps?
It’s a great way to think about future activities. Focus on a particular issue that you want to correct.
Is your dog happy?
You’re killing this challenge. But how do you know whether your dog is happy?
Your dog is talking to you. You just need to understand his body language. Happy dogs are relaxed and calm. Their bodies are loose. They wag their entire rears, not just their tails. Unhappy dogs lick their paws and groom excessively, frequently yawn and scratch themselves a lot because they’re tense and anxious.
Take a look at On Talking Terms with Dogs by Turid Rugaas.
Status: Dog owner.
Remember to check up on the friends you recently made. Continue meeting with them.
Don’t just sit on it; relationships take work.
Leaving your dog at home is as easy as closing the door. However...
So, you practiced obedience, you’ve managed to squeeze in an exercise routine and you’re ready to leave. What, you thought it was just closing the door? Sure, it’s technically that easy, but keep your hand on the pulse.
Today, set up a system of ongoing monitoring of your effort and your dog’s performance - keep a journal or share your progress on 9 to 5 Dog's Facebook Page.
Dog parenting is an ongoing process.
You’ve improved your dog’s routine. You’ve (perhaps) changed your lifestyle. You’re done, right? Nope.
You’re creating a lifestyle, not a hobby. Your mindset should be about your next few years. What worked well? What can you improve on? Every dog is different, so there’s not a single perfect formula. Also, even after your dog is used to staying at home, it’s not over. Dogs are very intelligent.
Think about updates and continuing to bring diversity and challenge to your dog’s activities.
It is time to celebrate!
You’ve made a continuous effort to improve your dog’s life. It’s time to celebrate! Give yourself a special treat!
What is hard? Did you find it useful? Share your experience with other challenge takers!