Top Ten New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Puppy

10. Proper grooming

If you have a long-haired dog, chances are you're already well-acquainted with brushing out those long locks, but did you know that short-haired dogs need brushing as well? You might not have to brush your short-haired pooch as frequently, but a good brushing distributes the oils from the skin throughout the dog's coat, removes loose fur, and cleans at least some of the everyday soil from your dog's coat. Daily or weekly brushing can also provide important bonding time with your dog and can help your dog get used to being handled, which will make future vet visits less scary.

In addition to brushing, some dogs need their nails clipped, and this can be really scary to a dog. A good way to avoid the necessity of nail clipping altogether is to take your dog for frequent walks on cement. The nails will be naturally filed down as the dog walks. However, if you decide to undertake the job yourself, it might be helpful to have two people involved. One person can hold the dog down and try to calm him while the other person trims the nails. Make sure not to cut them too short. When you do so, it causes pain, which just reinforces the dog's anxiety over nail clipping. Learn more about clipping your dog's nails.

An often-overlooked element of grooming involves the ears, particularly for dogs who have a lot of ear hair or who have long, droopy ears like a Basset Hound. Either situation can cause moisture to accumulate in the ear canals which leads to yeast infections. If your dog has lots of ear hair, dip your fingers in talcum powder, then gently pluck the hairs from the ear canal. If long, droopy ears are the problem, make sure to dry under the ear flaps every time your dog's head gets wet.

Depending on your dog's leisure activities, at some point you will need to undertake the dreaded bath. Make sure you use a shampoo made for dogs as the shampoos made for humans can dry out your dog's skin and fur. Read our article on dog shampoos to help you choose one that's right for your dog. Equally as important, be sure to thoroughly rinse all of the shampoo from your dog. Shampoo residue can cause itchy, flaky skin which will make your dog uncomfortable until he is able to scratch off all of the residue.

9. Make frequent trips to a daycare or dog park

Unless your dog is aggressive, there's nothing that beats an opportunity to run around off-leash and play with other dogs. Sending your dog to daycare while you're at work can help ease separation anxiety, destructive boredom, and noise complaints from your neighbors. In addition, it provides socialization which helps your dog learn manners for future dog encounters.

Even if your dog doesn't have any behavior problems when you leave him alone, going to daycare may give him an opportunity to really stretch his legs and run, which may not happen much at home, particularly if you don't have a large fenced-in yard. Learn about choosing a doggie daycare.

If you want to share some quality time with your dog, consider taking him to a dog park. They're springing up all over the country, and they provide a wonderful opportunity for your dog to play with you, as well as with other dogs. Whether you bring along a ball or Frisbee or just allow your dog to romp with the other dogs, he'll enjoy his time at the park like no other experience. Find a dog park in your area.

8. Subscribe to Straight Poop

If you haven't subscribed, make it a point to do so in the New Year. Straight Poop is's bi-weekly newsletter featuring all the dog news that's fit to print. Each issue contains full-length articles about topics like new puppies, activities to do with your dog, or health and nutrition. In addition, there is a featured website and a book in which you might be interested. Finally, there's a wrap-up of stories featured on the blog, in case you haven't been keeping up with all of the Dog Lady's musings. Subscribe here. Get link from Peter - or maybe you already have it!

7. Join a club

If you're looking for a way to spend quality time with your dog, as well as with other dog-lovers, check into the various clubs available in your area. Whether you're into conformation shows, obedience, dock-diving, agility, or some other sport, there's likely a club near you. And if there's not, consider forming one! Here are a few websites of national organizations where you can look to see what's involved and where local affiliates are located:
AKC Conformation/Breed Clubs
AKC Obedience Clubs
Dock Diving
North American Dog Agility Council
United States Dog Agility Association
North American Flyball Association
American Sighthound Field Association
American (Weight) Pulling Alliance

6. Interactive toys

Does your dog get tired of playing simple tug-o-war or chewing on sticks? There are some really neat interactive toys on the market that challenge your dog's intellect as well as satisfying his play drive. Most of them involve a hidden treat compartment that your dog must figure out how to access. Sometimes the dog need only tip the toy for the treat to fall out, as is the case with the Kong Wobbler. Other toys involve moving a sliding piece of plastic or wood to reveal the treat underneath. An example of this is the Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle.

5. Cut down on table scraps

How can it be wrong to give your dog table scraps when it's fine to feed him a raw / human food diet? The key difference is in the spices. If you cook very bland food without onions, garlic, chocolate, caffeine, excessive salt, or MSG, it may be fine to give your dog your leftovers. However, most of us like the seasonings mentioned, and many of them are toxic to dogs. So, it's best to keep your leftovers for the next day's lunch, and make unseasoned "people food" strictly for the dog.

The other problem with table scraps is that most of us don't think to cut down on the regular dog food when we feed scraps. Obesity in dogs is just as much of a killer as obesity in humans, and adding table scraps to your dog's already complete diet can lead to big (pardon the pun) problems. An obese dog has a higher risk of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, joint pain, and early death.

There's nothing wrong with slipping your dog a few scraps of turkey on Thanksgiving or other special occasions, but if you make it a regular practice to bring home doggie bags from restaurants or to let your dog clean up the leftovers at home, make sure you cut down on his regular food accordingly.

4. Give more belly rubs

Few things make your dog as happy as spending time with you, his favorite person. Be sure you make time in your busy schedule just to love on your dog. Whether you cuddle with him while you watch television in the evenings or if you engage in a vigorous game of hide-n-seek or tug-o-war, spend some time each day bonding with your dog.

Dogs are very social animals, and must have interaction with other living beings each and every day. If you simply tie your dog outside and see him only when you deliver meals, why even bother having a dog? The rewards are tremendous for both you and the dog when you spend some down time together every day. The dog will be happier and healthier, and you will experience unconditional love. Studies have shown that spending time with animals can lower your stress level, lower your blood pressure, and improve your mood.

3. Support your local shelter

All shelter and rescue organizations rely on the generosity of local citizens to stay in business. Whether you donate your time, your money or other resources, you are serving an important function: providing shelter and food for a homeless animal. All shelters need volunteers, money, and basic supplies such as food, paper towels, and leashes, but many shelters have additional needs that you will only know about if you take the time to ask.

Visit the shelter in your community and ask what they need, or check out their website for a wish list. You might be surprised that they have a need for something you have sitting in your attic! If you don't know where your local shelters are, visit PetFinder's Shelter Center and search by zip code or state to find organizations near you.

If you have room in your home and your heart, consider fostering an animal. You simply volunteer to keep a dog in your home until he or she is adopted by a forever family. This keeps the shelters from becoming so overcrowded that they have to euthanize healthy dogs, and it puts the dog in a better situation than a cage.

And the best way to support your local shelter is to spay and neuter your own pets so you aren't contributing to the pet overpopulation problem. If you aren't a professional breeder, there's no reason to have an unaltered pet, and in fact, if you don't alter your pet, you are putting him or her at greater risk for cancers of the reproductive organs and mammary glands.

New Year's Dog

2. Take daily walks

Daily walks serve several purposes: they keep your dog (and you!) in tip-top shape, they keep the dog's nails short, they give you an opportunity to spend quality bonding time with your dog, and they provide important socialization experiences. On your walks, you may encounter other dogs, children, loud noises, and traffic. All of these are things to which your dog needs to become accustomed to prevent anxiety and possible aggression. Daily walks from the time you take the dog into your home will help the dog learn to handle these assaults on his senses.

As mentioned above, dogs have just as many problems with obesity as humans do, and walking is a great way to prevent your dog from becoming overweight. Exercise will keep your dog's joints supple and delay the onset of arthritis, which will help your dog remain pain-free in his golden years.

1. Serve healthy food

Serving good, healthy food to your dog is perhaps the most important thing you can do to keep him or her hale and hearty. Your dog needs protein for muscle strength, so the first two ingredients in your food should be protein sources such as chicken, beef, pork, or fish. Fish oils and other fats keep the coat and skin in good shape, as well as keeping the cardiovascular system healthy. Carbohydrates are required for energy, but should not be the main source of calories in your dog's diet.

Read more about canine nutrition in our doggies den article library.

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