While dogs aren’t capable of resolving anything, December 31 is a good time to take stock of ways to help your dog become healthier and happier. Below, Dr. Trisha Joyce of New York City Veterinary Specialists offers suggestions for pet-centric resolutions.
Resolution No. 1: I will take my dog on regular walks.
“It’s a well-being issue in terms of both physical and mental health,” says Joyce. “The biggest health problem dogs have is weight-related, which is helped with exercise. When dogs are acting up, which we could think of as being related to mental health, the first line of advice behaviorists give is to make sure they get lots of exercise. If you think about it, your dog lives the life of a shut-in. It needs the stimulation of daily walks to feel content.”
Resolution No. 2: I will not feed my dog table food.
Commercial dog food is formulated to give dogs all the nutrients they require. Table scraps, however, can cause serious health problems in your pet. “Table food is the No. 1 thing contributing to weight gain in most dogs, and a lot of health issues are associated with it — from diarrhea to pancreatitis,” explains Joyce.
Resolution No. 3: I will brush my dog’s teeth.
Inflamed and receding gums can occur if teeth are not brushed, causing your pet pain and leading to expensive medical procedures. “Dental health in dogs is generally really poor,” says Joyce. A bit of fluoride just once a week helps stave off teeth extractions or difficult cleaning procedures that require anesthesia — which can be risky, especially for older dogs.
Resolution No. 4: I will play with my dog.
“Everybody’s so busy, but your pets still need time that’s devoted solely to them. Resolve to play five or 10 minutes a day — tossing a ball, tugging a rope. The attention makes them feel important and loved,” says Joyce. “Making that effort benefits the owner too: You’re reminded that you have this creature that loves and depends on you.”
Resolution No. 5: I will put an end to my dog’s behavior problems.
Nothing prevents an owner from enjoying his dog like persistent behavior problems. Identify any issues — from urinating in the house to begging for table food — that keep you from fully appreciating your pet. Consult with a dog trainer or a training manual on how to eliminate the behavior. “It doesn’t take long to train your dog if you do it consistently. In a couple of weeks, you can train out behaviors you don’t appreciate,” says Joyce.
Resolution No. 6: I will help myself while helping my pet.
While you’re making resolutions that will benefit your dog, why not think about yourself too?
- Guarantee your pet-related financial health by starting a pet savings fund. Stock away a little money each month in case of a pet emergency.
- Get organized. Clean out old, dirty toys that neither you nor your dog enjoy.
- Make sure your dog has adequate ID, either on its collar or in the form of a microchip. If your pup is regularly on the run, this will help reduce your stress levels.
- Do a good deed: Consider taking in a foster dog. Inquire at a local shelter about good matches for your current pet.