Another year has passed… this new year is a 366 page book of blank pages. What goes on those pages is up to each one of us. As we make traditional resolutions involving personal growth, physical fitness, and financial stability, it is also a great opportunity to take stock of our dog’s needs and make sure that his New Year is also a healthy and happy one. Need some specific ideas?

  • Most of us could benefit from dropping a few pounds, and the same is probably true of your faithful four-footed companion. Estimates indicate that half of all companion animals in the U.S. are overweight—a condition that can lead to major health concerns. Take a look at your dog from above…he should have a waist—a narrowing of his torso behind the ribcage, and in front of his hips. When you view him from the side, his tummy should tuck up behind his ribcage and in front of his hips. Finally, if you place your thumbs on his spine, spread your hands, and run them down his sides from shoulder to tail, you should be able to feel his ribs without pressing too hard. If any of these tests fail, your dog is probably overweight! A better exercise program, and fewer treats may be all that is needed!
  • Annual exams are important for both humans and canines. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to make an appointment for your dog to receive a thorough checkup from a veterinarian. Exams are important because animals can’t tell us when something is abnormal, and by the time they display signs of illness, the problem might be advanced, making effective treatment more difficult. Don’t wait for a crisis to motivate you to schedule a pet exam.
  • Update contact information to ensure that your friend has a well-fitting collar with current information listed on the tag, just in case you and he become separated. Don’t forget to update microchip information too!
  • Training is not a luxury; appropriate training makes life with your dog more enjoyable for everyone. Yelling, or physically hitting our dogs is never productive. Dogs bark, dig, or chew, because what’s what dogs do, and because they have not been taught behavior that we consider polite, and refocused their energies. Our obligation is to teach them what we want them to do with consistent, proactive instruction (and a few tasty treats!) Good dogs are dogs that are TAUGHT good habits! Lifelong training keeps the bond with your dog strong, and helps you to continually build on your relationship.
  • Providing the right food, the right housing, adequate water, and comfortable shelter are basics, but sharing our lives with our animals is a privilege, and they depend on us to provide them more than just essentials if they are to thrive. They require toys, attention, and, just like the two legged toddlers, need love and attention on a daily basis. Interaction with an animal you love provides wellness benefits for you– emotional calming, mood enhancing, lowered blood pressure– as well as your animal friend. It’s a win-win situation.
  • Volunteering at your local animal shelter will not only enhance animals’ lives, it can make your life more enjoyable. Policies vary from shelter to shelter, but most shelters are thankful for volunteers, so contact your area shelter to see how you can help. It’s another win-win situation.

If you do something every day in 2016 to make life better for a needy dog… just a small act of kindness… at the end of the year you will have made 366 canines happy, or brightened their lives, and will also bring added joy into your own life! HAPPY NEW LEAP YEAR!