The start of the New Year signals many things including change, growth, and taking steps towards better living. We humans often look to get in better shape, take better care of our homes and finances, and be nicer to each other among other things. New Year’s resolutions can also help us become better dog owners. We’ve picked a few of the best for your consideration:
Better food means better health. Improving or more accurately keeping an eye on your dog’s diet can make vast improvements to their health, and is one of the easiest changes we can make as people.
- Make yourself aware of portions. Many people simply eye or arbitrarily scoop food into their pet’s bowl making it difficult to watch calorie intake. Using a standard 8 oz. measuring cup will improve accuracy, and ensure your pup gets the right amount of food every time.
- Talk to your vet or a pet nutrition specialist about dog food. Not all foods are created equal, and brands range vastly in quality. Many foods are high in additives such as salt, fat, sugar, and oils which are often added to improve taste – too much can cause obesity, high blood pressure, and other problems. A higher price also doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be the best for your dog, especially if they are older and less active, have certain health conditions, or have food allergies.
- Keep track of treats. It’s incredibly easy to over feed with treats, especially since they are often used to reward good behavior. Most dogs enjoy attention and a good rub down as much as food so consider using praise instead of reaching for the bully sticks.
Schedule regular vet appointments. Preventive health care isn’t just for people, so make sure to schedule your pet in to see your vet at least once a year. It can be tempting to wait until vaccines are due (many such as rabies and distemper are now good for several years) but this can be dangerous since not all health problems are symptomatic and many require long term, regular treatment. Older dogs in particular are susceptible to conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and other chronic conditions that need to be monitored in order to be treated effectively.
Update your personal information. Have you moved house recently or gotten a new phone? If you have, chances are you’ve had to update your address and phone number with your utility providers, doctor’s offices, the IRS, and a whole slew of other companies. This is also the time to update your dog’s ID tags as well as their microchips. Haven’t moved and still have the same phone number? Check your pet’s tags for wear and consider getting a microchip if you haven’t already. The return-to-owner rate for non-tagged dogs is only 10% – 30% in most communities.
Play and exercise more. Playtime is vital to enjoying your pet, and your dog will certainly love you more for the extra attention. Throwing a toy around, playing tug-o-war, fetch, and even obedience activities are all pleasant pursuits to name a few. Playtime can also double as exercise, especially when shorter daylight hours and bad weather limit time outside. Extra walks and safe off-leash adventures are of course always appreciated, too.
Train more. Good obedience through training is a necessity for all dog owners. Basic training should be undertaken as soon as your pet comes home no matter their age, and well before issues start to arise. Your dog will be happier and more confident, and you will experience a much more enjoyable life together. Working through your commands for 15 – 20 minutes each day will ensure that your pet’s obedience is fresh in both their mind and yours.
Take away this risk. Most issues can be prevented by being aware of what your dog does and doesn’t like in both positive and negative aspects. If your dog loves to chew shoes or knock over trashcans, secure your shoes and trashcans out of reach behind closed doors or cabinets. If your pet is unruly with guests, utilize your crate or another safe place out of the way while company is over. It is unfair to both your dog and your sanity to not take precautions or nip problems in the bud early.
Here’s to a safe, happy, healthy, obedient 2015 !!