New Year's Pet Resolutions

by Dr. Shelby

Ahh...the beginning of a New Year. What comes to mind first? Maybe it's the annual New Year's resolutions list. If you're like me, you make your list and start the year with a very ambitious and energetic attitude, but life takes over and your resolutions start to fall by the wayside. Maybe this year, though, you should try to make a resolution list for your pet that mirrors and encourages your own! We should always be striving to improve the quality of our pet's life and, in the process, it will benefit you as well.

Maybe what starts the top of your list each year is losing weight or getting in shape… and for most people that will mean joining a gym or starting a diet. Your pet’s weight should be a concern on your list too, and by helping him with his, you can work toward your own goals as well! For example, did you know that January is Walk Your Pet month? We all are probably guilty of shortening those daily walks during the cold winter months. Or, even worse, maybe you skip them altogether, instead just huddling outside your door while Rover runs around the yard for a few minutes. Let’s resolve to do it differently this year and bundle up and take that walk! It's far more fun and healthier for your pup, promotes better health for you as well, and studies show that moving will make you warmer anyway!

Many people also include resolutions about their behavior, whether it’s gossiping less, helping others more, being kinder to friends, loved ones, or co-workers, or being on time for work. Well, January is also National Train Your Dog month. Even if you have the most well-behaved dog in the park, it doesn’t mean your dog wouldn’t benefit from further training, or your cat too for that matter! Training has many benefits from physical to mental to social. It provides the mental stimulation that all dogs need, since he needs more to do than eat and sleep all day. It also gives your dog (or cat) a time for more physical and mental exercise which, in combination with the morning walks, will help her sleep better while you're gone during the day and keep her much happier! So take the time and try to teach your dog or cat a new trick.

Yes, I did just turn tips for National Train Your Dog month into train your dog AND cat month, but you can do both, and our feline friends shouldn’t be forgotten at the start of the New Year either. If you use reward based training, offering treats, verbal praise and other rewards for good behavior, training time will be a positive experience for both you and your pet, deepening your bond and making your animal happier.

For dogs, it will enable you to have fewer restrictions, leading to more freedom and happiness for him. For example, many stores and restaurants will allow a well-behaved pet on the premises, parks allow dogs to be off-leash, and when you have company over to your home, a well-behaved pet won't have to be banished to another area. He will be a welcome member of the party and get lots of extra attention from your family and friends than an untrained dog. And for your cat, training her to sit on command and do cute tricks like shake or hug or fetch will win the ooh’s and ahh’s of all your friends and family (not too many people believe you can train a cat), and make your kitty feel more engaged in her interactions with you!

So include your pet on your new year's resolutions list and make a special effort to stick to those resolutions throughout the year. Your pet will reward you many times over.