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Horses & Hounds: A Healthy Year Ahead — 2019 New Year’s Resolutions For Our Pets

Published: January 06, 2019 at 07:00 am

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I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. According to a personal survey conducted by my family and friends this holiday season, the most popular resolution was weight loss. Of all the year’s dreams, dramas, crises, and victories, the past year is summed up by berating ourselves for the few extra pounds we gained. How can that possibly be a positive way to launch ourselves into the New Year? So what I’ve decided to do is make a list of New Year’s resolutions for my dogs. There is a much better chance that I’ll keep those rather than the ones for myself!

1. Get more sleep! — I have total sleep-envy over my dogs. They sleep whenever and wherever they want to. When it comes to sleep, I try to follow their example. I am going to make it my goal to get more sleep. I am going to ensure that I get my dogs into a nightly ritual and will help them either with quiet cuddle time, reading a book, or by calmly petting them. My K9 pals are going to be the push I need to get some purposeful Z’s.

2. Get fit and reduce stress — I’m going to walk my dogs because it will keep us all happy and healthy. Athletic folks can enjoy the outdoors jogging and hiking with their dog. There is a scientific link between stress with obesity, depression, heart disease, and many other human ailments. Scientific studies prove that a dog can assist us in reducing stress for all those medical issues. Dogs help our military veterans and others cope with anxiety and stress-related conditions. Many dog behaviors provide laughter, thus reducing the stress we feel in that particular moment. We’ve all been told that laughter is the best medicine!

3. Eat healthier — A resolution that goes paw-in-paw with the goal of losing some weight and getting back into shape is to eat healthier. A poor diet not only adds to obesity in animals, but creates dental problems and other health issues. My suggestion to those highly motivated canines is to cut back on the fatty foods and rawhide chews. In no time, you’ll see that your dog’s coat is shinier and the overall health has vastly improved.

4. Try something completely new and different — Dogs can get bored of the mundane just as we do. So let’s go out on that limb and try a new activity in 2019 to liven things up. For example, you can take your dog on a hike or a camping trip. You can enroll in an obedience, agility, trick, scent, or rally class. Volunteer and help others at a shelter, create a bucket list for a senior dog, or schedule a photo shoot to create a lasting memory. Either way, these new experiences will create indelible memories of your pet.

5. Make health a priority — Schedule a wellness visit for you and your dog this coming year. Health is the greatest wealth we can have. To help your dog maintain their optimum health, it is imperative to visit your veterinarian for an annual physical exam and any preventative health care, such as vaccinations and heart worm and parasite control. If you understand what is normal for your pet, you will be more inclined to identify symptoms of any abnormalities so you can seek treatment in a timely manner.

6. Help yourself while helping your pet — While you are in the process of making resolutions to benefit your canine companion, why not think about yourself? Why not create a pet savings fund so you can guarantee your pets financial health in the event of an emergency? Be organized. Clean out dirty, old toys that your dog no longer enjoys. Be sure your dog has the proper ID either on its collar, on a tag, or in the form of a microchip. If your pup is regularly on the run, this will help reduce your stress levels.

7. Learn to let go — Who hasn’t accidentally stepped on their dog’s tail and been on the receiving end of a blood curdling scream? We’ve all done it, and we feel absolutely guilty about it. But, here’s the thing ... dogs don’t take it personally. Humans like to anthropomorphize dog behavior, but the fact is, after you stepped on their tail, they don’t spend the rest of the day thinking about it. Being angry or fearful in the present for something that occurred in the past is a human trait, not a canine. Dogs don’t hold grudges. This year, we can all take a lesson from our pups and practice a little letting go.

Whatever your resolution will be for the coming year, I wish you and all your pets a very happy and healthy 2019!

Margaret A. Reed, PhD, is the co-author of the best-selling book, The Dogs of Camelot, an AKC dog show judge, thoroughbred racehorse owner, principal of Canine Training and Behavior Services LLC, and serves on the board of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, James A Baker Institute for Animal Health.

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