Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Looking through the current rotation of my many journals, I see a lot of things. I see bad and good hand writing, gratitude lists, pity parties and a ton of hopes and plans for the future. In particular I see my aspirations for 2019, and there are a lot of them.
I planned to stop complaining, start eating healthy, exercise more, meditate for 30 minutes each day, clean one room of the apartment every time I got home from work, and take out the trash already. Part of the problem is I wanted to (in typical fashion) go all in, right now. In short, I planned for perfection. What could go wrong?
Setting lofty goals is admirable, but it is often a great way to crash and burn. Before I even realized what was happening, March passed me by and now I'm stuck writhing in a pool of apathy. Not a fun place to be, folks!
As I look over my complaints, the untouched books on the shelf, the streak of daily meditation long since broken and the mountain of laundry and dog hair swirling around me, I realize that something has gone terribly wrong. In particular, I see the number of days that have passed since my last run.
Running is rather high up on my aspirational priority list because of it's many benefits. It not only improves my health and wellbeing, but also that of my dog. As our dogs age it becomes more important than ever to keep them strong and active. Leading a sedentary life is not just bad for us humans, it's also a guarantee that our dogs will experience a steeper decline with each passing year.
Let's face it, none of us are getting any younger. Sadly our dogs face the same reality at an even faster pace.
So far (knock on wood), my dog has aged pretty gracefully. My hope is to keep it that way, so that's why I'm putting this out in the world. I've read that making a public commitment to our goals helps keep us on track.
I do want us all to remember, however, to be kind to ourselves. Change comes gradually and we can often only create one new habit at a time (no matter how many we come up with on December 31st). It's important to see the small victories.
Though I haven't ran in a couple of weeks, this is still the longest "running streak" I've had overall. I've been running with my pup on a semi-regular basis since December. That's something worth celebrating.
Although progress has been slow, I've come a long way. Following a program that broke up each step into bite size increments made the progress seem easy and natural.
All of this also applies to dog training. But how?
1) Make your training commitment public, it will help keep you motivated. Right now I'm a huge fan of AniEd's 100 Days of Enrichment challenge. It's important to keep our dogs mentally engaged as they age! Do this in addition to giving them regular exercise.
2) Break your training goals into small, incremental steps. This keeps you on track and allows you to see just how far you've come. Our dogs don't learn calculus anymore easily than we do. All of us, no matter our species, have to start at the beginning - with basic addition and subtraction.
3) Just like us, our dogs can't be expected to change their habits all at once. They need to learn (and be rewarded for) new behaviors over time.
4) Celebrate the small victories. The communication that takes place between dogs and humans through the medium of training is nothing short of spectacular. Take a moment to revel in the awesomeness!
5) Don't expect perfection. It's not realistic for us and it's also not realistic for our dogs. Emphasize improvement over perfection and just enjoy the journey.
Now please excuse me while I go lay out my running shoes for tomorrow.
P.S. If you're at all interested in starting a running regimen with your own dog, check out DogFit. They have a great online Couch to 5k program. Remember to always consult with your doctor, as well as your dog's veterinarian, before beginning any sort of fitness journey together.