New Year’s resolutions for animal lovers: #3 – Be a better pet owner

Scout hates going to the vet, so we make it fun by playing "catch the bubbles" until the doctor comes in. Make the visit a game!

As we continue to talk about ways we can make 2012 a better year for our animal friends – or “anipals” – here’s #3: resolve to be a better pet owner.

I know that in my lifetime of having dogs, I’ve been a good, responsible dog owner – and a terrible dog owner. I confess I had the dog that ran the neighborhood. I didn’t always pick up poop. But twenty or thirty years later, I’ve learned more about my four legged friends and quite honestly I’m embarrassed and ashamed at the way I treated them.

So here are a few ways you can move from average pet owner to super fantastic:

Upgrade the food. If you’re feeding Fido or Fluffy commercial dog food that you get at the discount store or off the grocery shelf, make 2012 the year you promise your pet to give them actual food. Not all pet food is created equally – even if it meets the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommended guidelines. According to The Dog Food Project, “Meat”, for example,  includes “’4-D animals’ (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters and so on. It can also include pus, cancerous tissue, and decomposed (spoiled) tissue.” Learn more about what goes into your dog food at http://www.dogfoodproject.com.

Take a walk. Resolve in 2012 to get a little more exercise for you and your pet. Take a walk, even if it’s just around the block. Go to the park and play fetch.  Just get out and spend time together!

Take a training class. No dog is too old for training classes and neither is the owner. Even if you think you know how to train your dog – or your dog is so great he doesn’t need training – take a class. You’ll meet new people, and I guarantee you and your pup will learn something new. And if you’re still of the “alpha dominance” mindset – run to your nearest positive training facility and sign up for a class! Besides, there are lots of fun classes you can take that will help build your relationship with your pup. Try agility or fly ball or rally obedience!

Try something new in 2012! This pup is having fun at a doggie painting class!

Pick up the poop. There’s nothing worse than going for a walk and having to navigate around mounds of dog poop some irresponsible owner left. Poop bags are easy to  carry and super cheap – just use a plastic grocery bag! – so you don’t have any excuse not to pick up after your dog. And not just while you’re on a walk. Do yourself and your dog a favor and keep the yard clean, too. Poop left lying around leads to worms and parasites in your dirt, so even when the poop seems to have disappeared, the gross stuff is still in the dirt, ready for you to touch when you dig in the garden or the kids play in the yard. Blech. That’s a good way to get roundworm.

Obey the leash laws. No, you cannot let your dog run loose, even if it’s on your property. For your own dog’s protection, keep him fenced in or on a tether according to your town’s law. Not only could he be hit by a car, get into a dog fight, bite a child or wind up lost, but it also can be unhealthy if he wanders into the yard of another dog who’s sick and picks up worms or a virus. It’s just not worth the risk to you or someone else.

Take your pet to the vet – especially your cat. If you’re not taking Fido and Fluffy for an annual vet visit, you’re doing them a major disservice. Cat owners in particular tend to avoid the annual trek for an exam. But that can be dangerous, because cats are very good at hiding that they’re sick. So if you wait until you see a problem, it may be too late. And good vet care includes a dental check up. Our poor kitty Murphy  had a tooth that needed extraction. I didn’t even notice there was a problem, and I’ve got my hands on that cat all the time. But his teeth weren’t something I checked regularly. But the vet said the risk of infection was great if we hadn’t caught it at our annual visit.

Tomorrow: New Year’s resolution #4 – Volunteer!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR ANIMAL LOVERS:


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