New Year Brings New Chance To Be Better Pet Owner

FOCUS ON PETS

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It is time again for New Year's resolutions. The new year provides a new opportunity for a new beginning "with no mistakes in it," says Ann of Green Gables in the movie. The thought of starting a new year is energizing. I am determined to put in the extra effort to make changes for the better for me and for my dogs.

A woman who lost her sight was being interviewed on the news. She lived alone. How did she manage? She put everything back where it belonged so she could always find it. What a novel idea. This year as I start to set something down, I will remember this blind woman and, hopefully, put it back in its proper place. Keeping this resolution will save me about a quarter of a year, since I spend that much time looking for things.

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Dogs are pack animals and welcome the companionship of a best friend. Two dogs will run and play together and make amazing discoveries, which provides exercise and stimulation.

As you think about a pet you have or might have, and how life could be better for both of you, start at the very beginning. Basic rule number one -- if you do not want a pet, don't get one. If you have a pet you do not want, find a home for him with someone who will give him love and attention. No dog deserves to be left alone in the back yard or tied up. It is just not fair. If your dog is one of those, make a change.

If your dog lives in the back yard, spend 15 minutes a day visiting, playing, petting or brushing him. You will find that the dog responds, and spending time with him will bring pleasure to both of you. Hopefully that time will soon increase, and the dog will become part of your family.

Every dog deserves a little training. Too many dogs are turned in to the humane society because they are "untrainable," yet they are adopted by others who teach them to do amazing things. Get a book from the library or buy one on dog training. Sign up for a dog training class. There are several being offered in the Payson area at present, and more are being planned.

Keep food and water dishes clean. Rinse food dishes after each meal and rinse and refill water bowls daily. Feed twice a day.

Buy the very best quality food you can afford, both for yourself and your pets. You both will be healthier. Read the label on pet and people food packages. Avoid artificial coloring, flavoring and preservatives and avoid things that sound like chemicals. Ask questions at the pet stores about pet food.

If you and/or your dog are overweight, exercise, eat less and eat healthier. Get out for a daily walk. Walk a little farther each day. Being overweight can cause many health problems. Dogs, cats and people die of complications of obesity. You and your pet will feel much better when you are at a proper weight.

If your pet is alone a lot of the time, consider getting another pet for companionship. But make the decision and choice carefully. Having a second pet will change your life. It is easier to take one dog than two on vacation. If you do not take the dog anyway, he needs a companion. However, take time to ensure the two dogs are compatible. Fighting dogs are no fun. Before you get a second dog, make sure the first one has basic training. Taking walks with two dogs is manageable if they are trained to walk nicely on leash. Well behaved dogs are fun to walk and, therefore, walks happen more often. If the dogs pull, stop. Wait until they turn and look at you, and then move forward. They soon learn that pulling gets them nowhere. Set a definite time and walk every day. Once it becomes a habit, it is easier and the dogs will let you know when it is time.

Cats are easier than dogs and are quite skilled at getting their needs met. If you do not keep their litter box clean, they won't use it and you will be sorry. If they want attention, they will jump on your lap. If it is time for breakfast, they will stand on your face until you are up out of bed. Cats deserve clean litter boxes, clean dishes and a lap.

A weekly grooming for both dogs and cats is a good resolution. Scheduling a day and time each week for the grooming will help establish the habit.

Resolve to be a more responsible pet owner. Spend time with your pet and provide good food, training and your personal attention. You will be rewarded beyond measure.

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