With the arrival of a new year inevitably comes a variety of new year’s “resolutions.” We vow to better ourselves through losing weight, quitting smoking, stop procrastinating, and so on. But how may we improve ourselves as pet owners? What new year’s resolutions should dog owners consider? Here are 13 suggestions for your consideration.
Vow to provide your dog with the highest quality nutrition possible. This means researching the ingredients in dog food and often, thinking outside the grocery store kibble aisle. The Whole Dog Journal is a fantastic publication which publishes annual dog food reviews. WDJ offers unbiased reviews as a publication which subsists entirely on subscription revenue – they do not accept advertisements from manufacturers.
Be realistic about your dog’s weight. It’s scary how few people recognize weight problems in dogs and equally scary when people think their pet’s obesity is funny or a joke. Obesity shortens longevity, both in dogs and people. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs easily, he is too fat. Ask your vet for guidance in regulating his weight and achieving healthy body condition.
Train your dog. Training is not a luxury, it is necessary Not only will appropriate training make living with your dog more enjoyable for you, it will make life more enjoyable for your dog by providing him with the mental stimulation all dogs need and crave.
Play with your dog. Play can take many forms – training, tug, fetch, food dispensing toys, nosework games and exercises, off leash adventures in safe environments, etc.
Keep your dog well-groomed and maintained. Mats in the fur, parasitic infestations, rotten teeth, overgrown toenails, embedded collars, yeasty ears, oozing or itchy eyes, hot spots, etc. are all unsightly and worse, uncomfortable for dogs. Routine care and maintenance can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life.
Make it easy for your dog to succeed. If your dog loves chewing on shoes, do not allow him unsupervised access to shoes. If your dog eliminates in the house, provide him with plenty of opportunities to eliminate outside by giving him frequent breaks. If your dog bites strange children, don’t bring him to your daughter’s soccer game.
Vow not to get mad at your dog for your management failures. If your dog loves chewing toilet paper and you leave the bathroom door open, it’s your fault, not his, that the toilet paper is now strewn throughout your house in 7,986,235 pieces. Simply clean up the mess and next time, close the bathroom door!
Be appreciative of how wonderful your dog is. One of the biggest elements of successful training is looking for desirable behaviors and reinforcing them with something your dog likes and appreciates – a treat, a butt scratch, a game of tug, the opportunity to go for a walk. Never miss an opportunity to thank your dog for good behavior.
Make time for your dog. This may mean rearranging your schedule. It may mean going out in the cold or rainy weather to give your dog a walk. It may mean skipping Wednesday night book club so that you can enroll in the agility class you wanted to take. It may mean spending less time on Facebook and more time playing, training, and exercising with your dog.
Be a responsible dog owner – keep identification tags on your dog, renew your dog’s annual license, make the annual veterinary appointment, clean up after your dog, respect leash laws, etc.
Keep learning and improving as a pet owner. What does your dog love? What stresses him out? How does he communicate his emotions through body language? Understanding your dog will enable you to be a better friend to him, this year and every year.
Help a less fortunate dog at least once this year. Remember that not all dogs are as lucky as yours. Not all dogs have regular meals, veterinary care, someone who loves them and will play with them, a home to call their own. There are many ways you can help less fortunate dogs – by making donations (either goods – beds, leashes, collars, food, toys, etc. or cash) to a local shelter or rescue, volunteering at a local shelter or rescue, organize fundraisers, help take pictures of adoptable pets for petfinder listings, apply to become a foster parent, etc.
About the Author: Casey Lomonaco graduated with distinction from the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior, and is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), CGC evaluator – AKC (American Kennel Club), TDF (Truly Dog Friendly), and the No-Shock Collar Coalition. She is also the author of Dogster’s popular Dog Training Guide.