New Year's Resolutions For People And Their Pets

FOCUS ON PETS

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The New Year brings new opportunities to try something new and eliminate old habits that have been getting in the way.

For me, there is just not enough time to do the things I want to do. So this year's challenge is to simplify my life, get organized and make good use of the extra time resulting from these changes. Last week's column dealt with better health for pets and people with better eating and exercise habits. Here are some other resolutions for pet owners.

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Whether in a group setting or alone in your back yard, spend time working with your dog. With lots of treats and praise, you will be amazed at how quickly and happily he learns.

  • Read a dog or cat book or subscribe to a pet magazine. Whether it would help with a problem you are having with your pet or simply help you better understand your dog or cat, it would be worthwhile. Both the Pine and Payson libraries have a nice selection of books. Unlimited helpful information is also available on the Internet dealing with every aspect of pet ownership. The more you know about your pet, the more you will appreciate him.
  • Sign up for an obedience class. There are a few offered in Payson. It is best to observe the class before enrolling to be sure you are comfortable with the teacher and the methods used. If you are not comfortable, do not join the class. If you sign up and you are uncomfortable, quit. Some training methods are harsh and not suitable for our dogs and us. If you do quit, make sure that the teacher knows your reasons. Besides obedience classes, there are also organized activities that you can do with your dog. The opportunities are rather limited in Payson but if there is enough interest, more would be available.
  • Spend time working with your dog. Whether working on basic obedience or a few tricks, the dog will love the attention and you will be amazed at what he is capable of learning. But do make it fun. Use lots of wonderful treats and have a good time.
  • Allow your dog to play with other dogs. The Payson Off-Leash Dog Park provides a safe environment and there are almost always other dogs there to play with your pet. If the dog park is not convenient, arrange meetings so dogs can play together. Dogs need the companionship of other dogs and if they can run off-leash, that's about as good as it gets. Even a walk with other dogs is better than nothing.
  • Commit to a daily walk. It only takes a few minutes and it is good for both you and your dog. Once it becomes a habit, you will really enjoy it and your dog will love you for it.
  • Take the dog for a ride in the car, even if you only go as far as the post office. A car ride is pure utopia for most dogs, and some cats love it also. A change of scenery is good for us all.
  • Make mealtime special. Pick either breakfast or dinner and let the pets gather around as you make a big deal out of preparing the meal. In cold weather, make some oatmeal or give them some homemade soup. Add a little canned food and microwave for a few seconds to heat it up. Avoid table scraps, but what is good for you is usually pretty good for them as well. Vegetables are most always a safe bet. The other meal for the day should be dry food as it is needed for healthy teeth and gums and it prevents finicky eaters.
  • Feed good food. Check the ingredients and quality of the food you are feeding. Not all dog food is good dog food. Read the label. Talk with your vet. Inexpensive pet food is made from cheap, poor quality ingredients. The better the quality of the food, the less you need to feed and the less ends up in the backyard. Higher quality foods are more digestible. You get what you pay for. Read the label and buy the best quality food you can afford.
  • Weekly grooming is very important. Dogs do not need frequent bathing but they do need regular brushing. It feels good, gets rid of all the old hair and helps keep the pet hair off of the furniture and your clothes. During the brushing, check them over for any irregularities such as swelling, lumps, sores and stickers. Check between the toes. Clip the toe nails just a little every week.
  • Make sure your pets are current on all shots and vaccinations. A current rabies vaccination is most important in this part of the country. An expired rabies vaccination is worthless. Being current can mean the difference between life and death. A yearly visit to the veterinarian will ensure that all shots are current.
  • The most important resolution of all: spay or neuter your dogs and cats. They will live longer, healthier and happier lives and will be much better pets. They will be less likely to wander and much less likely to get hit by a car. But also, you will be doing your part to reduce the terrible pet overpopulation problem. Leave the breeding to the responsible breeders who work to improve the breed and reduce health problems.
  • Finally, resolve to enjoy your pet. This means spending time with him, talking with him, walking with him and just petting him. Sit on the floor with him while you watch the news or a movie. You will both enjoy it.

Happy New Year. May 2005 be a special year for you, your family and your pet. The more time you spend with your pet, the more you will realize and appreciate the qualities that make him wonderful.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@ earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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