As the end of 2012 bears down on us, your mind may be turning to some New Year’s Resolutions in between all the holiday celebrations you’re attending. Here are a some suggestions for making next year even better for you and your pet. You shouldn’t try to adopt all of these at once; pick the two or three that appeal the most and give them a whirl.
These suggestions are geared to canine companions, but many could be applied to the other pets in your life.
Have More Fun Together!
- Dust off your Obedience 101 books and videos, chop up some yummy food into pea-sized training treats, and do some sit-stay-come-down-etc drills. Make them fast-paced and reward your pet enthusiastically for good behavior. Practice daily, and gradually expand when and where you ask your dog to perform -- out on a walk, while you’re visiting a friend, at the dog park or beach.
- If your dog is already good at basic obedience, expand your repertoire by learning some tricks. You can find books in the library or check out YouTube for all kinds of ideas and step-by-step instructions on how to teach them to your dog.
- Try something new! Find a new-to-you dog sport, such as Agility or Tracking. If you don’t have the time to devote to a new activity, look for a new place to hike with your pooch one weekend a month, take her into a pet store to let her choose her own toy, or take him to a dog show.
Share Your Pet
- Socialize your pet by sharing him with more people. Take him with you on visits to friends and family. Take her on excursions to dog-friendly places such as outdoor malls, wineries, and restaurants with outdoor seating.
- If your pup has a calm, gentle temperament, consider training as a therapy dog so that you can visit hospitals, senior housing, and schools.
- Capture your dog’s antics -- sleeping in a funny position, playing with a favorite toy, staring longingly at a loaf of fresh-baked bread cooling on the counter -- in photos or video and email them to far-flung friends and family.
- Friendly dogs can have a great time running around together. If your yard is big enough and well-fenced, arrange for a friend or neighbor to bring their dog for a “play date.”
- Dog-friendly Surfer’s Beach and many bay area dog parks are good places to let your dog make friends and burn off energy.
Improve His or Her Grooming
- Most dogs enjoy being brushed, and in addition to reducing shedding, regularly brushing your canine kid helps strengthen the emotional bond between you.
- Break out the tube of dog toothpaste you picked up on your last vet visit and let your pooch sniff and taste it. Over the course of a week, dab some on his teeth, then introduce the toothbrush, and soon you’ll be giving his mouth a good cleaning every night before bed. (DON’T USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE ON DOGS! It can contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as Xylitol.)
- Check with your vet about whether and how often you should clean your canine companion’s ears. If your pooch runs in the other direction when you reach for the ear-cleaning fluid, talk to the vet about getting a solution that doesn’t contain harsh chemicals such as alcohol. Gentle application of a non-irritating cleanser, followed up by a few high-value food treats or a play session as a reward, will get your dog with the program.
Here’s hoping that your 2012 holidays are happy and healthy and that the New Year starts off well for you and your four-footed friends!