New Year's Resolutions For Pet Owners

FOCUS ON PETS

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Once again, we have the opportunity to start anew, to turn over a new leaf and resolve to be the person we always wanted to be. Now is the time to list those New Year's resolutions.

After the holiday festivities, most of us have gained a pound or two, hopefully not much more than that. And our dogs probably have been rather sedentary during this busy time. What better time to begin a daily walking program?

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Resolve for the New Year to get out with your dog for work, play and just plain walking. Dog training or agility classes are fun for dog and people socializing.

Exercise helps us and our pets stay fit. It has been on the news lately that taking too many pain pills causes long-term problems. Scientific evidence proves that regular exercise keeps our bodies healthier. Pain and stiffness are reduced with regular exercise.

Walking is the best exercise and an easy way to begin a healthier New Year for us and our pets.

Along with exercise, take a look at your pet. Can you feel the backbone and ribs? Being overweight is a very serious health risk for our pets and leads to many other health problems.

If your pet is overweight, and most of them are, feed twice a day and gradually cut back the amount. Walking with our pet will bring us both to better health and weight.

Making better food choices is good both for us and our dogs and cats. Because we make those choices for our pets, we need to study, read labels and compare products. You get what you pay for in dog food. Buy the best food you can afford. Read the fine print, not just the big words on the front. Meat or chicken should be at the top of the ingredient list. Carrots, apples and green beans are a good snack for us and our pets. What is good for us generally is good for our pets as well. Natural, non-processed foods are best.

Resolve to read a pet book. The more we know about whatever pet we might have, the better we can understand them and provide the proper care for them. Libraries and bookstores are loaded with good pet books.

The New Year is a good time to begin a training program. Dogs love to be challenged. Whether it is some fun new tricks or some needed obedience work, you will find your dog most willing. Keep some extra special treats in the refrigerator just for these training sessions and you will find that when you pull them out, your dog will be ready. For treats, I cut a hot dog in fourths lengthwise and then slice those pieces in half. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in a 200 degree oven until they are just a bit crisp. You need to keep an eye on them -- 20 to 30 minutes is generally enough.

Another favorite treat is liver. Boil it in water until it is cooked through and sprinkle it with garlic powder. Cut it up in small bites and bake in a slow oven just like the hot dogs. Training treats should be bite-sized, requiring no chewing. You will give them generously during training, so they must be small and easy to swallow.

Could you and your pet use some socialization? Take a dog training class. Be sure that the methods used are comfortable for you and your dog. Spend time during the week working on what you learned in class. You will find that the dog is eager to go to school.

If you only have one dog, find a playmate for him. Once a week or so, let the dogs get together in an area where they can run and chase each other. They will love it.

Most pets love to ride in the car. If you are running to the post office, take him or her along. Make sure he is safe. Dogs should never ride in the front seat nor should they ride in the bed of the truck. Seat belts are the best -- a pain, but the safest.

Check your pet's shot records and make sure everything is up to date. We all know the importance of keeping current with rabies shots. Too often, it is a matter of life or death.

Spay or neuter. This is a great gift for your pet. He will be happier, healthier, safer and a much better pet. We all know that more puppies and kittens are not needed.

Enjoy your pet. The more time you spend with him, the more you will want to spend. You will learn just what a wonderful friend he can be.

Get out and get moving with your pet. It is absolutely the best New Year's resolution you can make for yourself and your pet. You will both be happier and healthier. Soon, it will become a habit, and then you will actually look forward to it.

You will never need to worry about forgetting it. Your dog will remind you.

Happy New Year. May 2007 be the best ever.

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