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Dog Training: Toxic New Year's Resolutions & What to Do Instead

Dog wearing funny hat

Ah, 2024. The fact that the New Year started on a Monday just makes it so...promising. Everyone has their lists ready of things they are/are not going to do, and we all promise to behave ourselves this year.

Many of us feel the need to add our dog's behavior or puppy training to that list. We've come up with all of these grandiose plans of what we felt we shoulda-coulda-woulda done differently over the past year with our dogs. Maybe going for more walks. Perhaps finally tackling leash training with your dog, or working through your puppy's lingering housebreaking issues.

Whatever those New Years resolutions are, I want you to throw them out and resolve to never make a New Year's resolution again.

Not willing to do that? Fine. Maybe just let me tweak those resolutions for you, or at least allow me to share my goals for the upcoming year.

A good friend of mine, Dr. Dana Watts, has a blog that I love (you can check it out here), and as usual, she had something interesting to say about New Year's resolutions.

The fundamental problem with resolutions is that they force you to think of short-comings and failures and inadequacies. At the beginning of the New Year, when a brand new calendar lies open before you, all fresh and unmarked and full of possibilities and hopes and aspirations, you are suddenly brought short by the thought that you have to make your resolutions: lose weight, be organized, manage your finances, exercise regularly, spend less, be more patient, be on time, etc, etc...

Per doctor's orders, I'm jettisoning all of my New Year's Resolutions, and installing goals instead.

My Dog Training Goals for 2024

Outdated Resolution: Have more patience with my dog.

Goal 1: Allowing myself grace when training my dog.

If you've done dog or puppy training with me, you'll already know that I am definitely not a fan of negative self-talk. It's nonsensical. We've all pretty much already agreed that we are all flawed as humans, and that we are all doing the best we can in the situations we are presented with on a daily basis. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don't but we are each doing the best we can.

So many of my clients call me in what sounds more like a confession at church than a conversation about dog training. All I hear is how they feel they've failed their dog, they know they're doing it wrong, and they love their dog, but they just get so frustrated, and they know they shouldn't get frustrated!

Well, that's bullshit.

Rather than starting off by getting angry at myself for being frustrated with my dog's behavior, or after beating myself up for being frazzled after cleaning up puppy accidents all day, I'm going to allow myself to feel and accept that frustration. I'm not going to downplay my feelings and gaslight myself by trying to not be frustrated or angry when my dog chews my shoes.

I will feel that frustration and let it wash through me like water through a sieve. I'm not going to hold onto it like some sort of treasure, guarding it from ever leaving. I will not take out my frustration on my dog or puppy, but rather acknowledge my frustration, take a deep breath, and when I have control of myself, start again.

I'm merely doing the best I can in a human world, working through my dog's behaviors. I will give myself the grace to feel my emotions and be gentle with myself. Because I'm trying to learn how to dog, and my dog is still struggling to human.

Outdated Resolution: Walk my dog 30 minutes daily.

Goal 2: Exercise my dog daily. Walk my dog daily.

Dog walking in snow with owner

Okay, this one is a little more nuanced. Let's break this one down a bit more.

First, walking your dog is not sufficient daily exercise for most breeds.

hyper husky in snow

A walk gets Piloting Money into your piggy bank (learn more Piloting your dog here). Leash training your dog, and having a calm, positive walk with your dog builds bonds between you and your dog, and provides for some mental outlets. But if you're not exhausted at the end of your walk, most likely you haven't even scratched the surface of your dog's energy levels.

Rather than focusing on the walk as the means to exercise my dogs, I focus on easier ways to exercise them, and encourage my clients to do the same. From backpacks to flirtpoles (not what you think), agility and treadmill training...there are so many ways to wear out a dog beyond doing an Iditarod.

And now that your dog is pleasantly worn out, I can focus on a nice, pleasant walk with them. My goal is to go for a walk. No distance requirements, no time frames. And without these contraints put on me for my time, I find that I enjoy walking my dogs more. Once the leash and collar is put on my dog, and I'm bundled up to go outside and brave the Cleveland weather, I find that I stay out there longer than I expected, enjoying spending time with my dog.

The same goes for leash training (hint: either you're walkin your dog, or you're leash training. Confusing the two skews your expectations and leads to frustration.) By simply putting on the leash and collar, and working with my dog's training, without a preset time limit, I have the power to say "Enough for today", even if it's only been 5 minutes. By allowing myself to stop based on my needs rather than a time period, I find I have more patience, and work more effectively with my dog's training.

Outdated Resolution: Teach my dog all the tricks.

Goal 3: Have fun learning together.

I love my Ellis. I really do. He's the sweetest pitbull, and is the world's best snuggler.

He, however, is not Mensa material.

He's not dumb. He's just not as well-equipped to learn human things as other dogs are. Think of learning tricks for a dog like learning a new language; some of us excel at langauges, and others spend 3 years in French 101.

My Border Collie, Arwen, and my Aussie, Hazel, both pick up being human pretty well. But Arwen is sucky at cuddling, and Hazel is 8 months now, and in her absolute peak adolescent/toddler phase.

So rather than focusing on a trick, I'm going to focus on a journey. I'm going to start my journey of teaching all three of them to do the same trick. Maybe Ellis won't get to the same destination as Arwen and Hazel, but I'm going to thoroughly enjoy the process of learning with my dog.

When I don't enjoy that particular journey anymore, that will dictate when we've completed learning the trick. But I will be proud of the bond we have in learning together.

Outdated Resolution: Being the perfect dog owner.

Updated Goal 4: Doing my best for my dog.

Dog playing with owner in snow

Okay, maybe this goes along with the whole "grace" thing, but seriously people, please stop comparing yourselves to each other! During our weekly pack walks, I see it. A dog and their owner I've trained with passes by a newbie. Newbie's dog reacts negatively, prompting newbie to declare, "Why can't my dog walk nicely like that?"

Yes, it would be nice if your dog walked as nicely as some of the other dogs here. But that other dog you wanted your dog to be just like? He's working through separation anxiety. And his owner is wondering why his dog can't be just like yours.

Use other's as inspiration, not for degrading yourself.

My friend who I mentioned above...Dr. Dana Watts, speaks 4 langauges (maybe 5, ...6 tops). She has written and published a book. She has traveled everywhere. It's really tempting to try to compare myself, but that's a detrimental mindset. Her achievements are an inspiration to me, not a condemnation of me.

Flowers don't compare each other; they just bloom.

Dog Training vs. Dog Life

With the Piloting Method, dog training has never been simpler. This revolutionary approach to training focuses on clear communication, positive reinforcement, and building a strong bond between dog and owner. By embracing this method, you can simplify the training process and achieve remarkable results with your furry friend.

The Piloting Method takes into account the unique needs and behaviors of each dog, allowing for a customized approach. Whether you're dealing with a new puppy with housebreaking issues or a dog with frustrating behavior problems, the Piloting Method can help. By working closely with the experienced trainers at Darwin Dogs, you can identify the root causes of your dog's behavior and create a personalized training plan to address them.

One of the reasons the Piloting Method is so effective is its emphasis on consistency and structure. Dogs thrive on routine and predictability, and this method provides them with the stability they need to feel secure and confident. By establishing clear boundaries and consistent rules, you can simplify the training process and reduce anxiety and unwanted behaviors.

Simplifying dog training with the Piloting Method is not only effective but also enjoyable. Say goodbye to the frustration and overwhelming feelings that often come with training a dog. With the lifetime guidance and support of Darwin Dogs, you can simplify the training process and enjoy a happier, better-behaved dog. Embrace the Piloting Method today and experience the positive impact it can have on your relationship with your furry friend.

many dogs lying down together

Learn more about our Piloting method of dog and puppy training here.

Find out more about our private in home 30 Day Best Dog Ever and 30 Day Best Puppy Ever training packages here.

Have questions about our puppy training or dog training?

border collie dog staying

Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training and Puppy Training

Located in Cleveland, Ohio


Thank you for this timely post and for your comments about my blog! Very much appreciated! Yesterday, the topic of resolutions came up in every one of my sessions. Everyone feels tremendous pressure to carry out all those resolutions that will supposedly make them perfect and worthy. You call a spade a spade!

I love your comments about giving oneself grace and kindness. So very true! Self-blame and negative thinking are a downward spiral that create more of the same. Thank you for your inspiring post.

Replying to

Agreed. The New Year should be bringing joy and optimism, not punitive mindsets and negative self examination.

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