Your pet might like fancy toys, enjoy tasty treats and get excited when gobbling down a special mouth-watering meal, but those who give their dogs and cats gifts and food to celebrate the New Year should reconsider their approach.
Leading animal welfare organizations say that as much as your pet might appreciate toys and treats, those gifts pale in comparison to the most cherished thing in the life of a dog or cat, and that thing is your time and attention.
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So the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Kennel Club are urging owners to adopt this simple New Year's resolution: Spend more time and do more activities with your pet."Eighty-one percent of dog owners buy gifts for their dogs," AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson states in a media release. "But what you should really be giving them is consistent exercise, training and stimulation. Try to start the year off right by resolving to do more with your dog."
Dogs who spend more time with their owners are usually happier and better behaved, according to animal experts.The AKC offers these suggestions:
- Train your dog for competitive events. Every weekend throughout the United States dog events are taking place where pets can earn ribbons, titles and trophies. Competitive events help ensure that your dog is well-behaved, even tempered, physically fit and a joy to live with. And owners get to meet new people with a similar love for dogs.
- Put your dog into service. Dogs love helping others. They are invaluable in providing service to humans - visiting the sick, helping the disabled and locating missing persons. If a dog has the correct temperament, there are many ways dog owners can put their special skills to use in service to their community. Contact the volunteer director at your local hospital to find out how you and your dog can qualify to volunteer or visit a home-bound neighbor.
- Let your dog help teach children to read. There is no better listener than a dog. Many libraries have programs for children to practice their reading skills and gain confidence by reading with dogs. Contact your local library to learn about available reading programs or volunteer to start one with your dog.
- Travel with your dog. Planning vacations and getaways that include your dog will save you boarding fees and will keep your pet from getting lonely while you are having fun in the sun. More hotels are becoming dog friendly.
- Get fit with your dog. The National Academy of Sciences reports that one of every four dogs and cats in the Western World is overweight. Daily walks are a great way for dogs and owners to avoid gaining extra holiday pounds. According to a recent study, dog owners get more exercise walking their pet than someone with a gym membership.
- Visit your veterinarian. If it has been a year or more since your pet has seen a veterinarian, make an appointment now. This will give your veterinarian the chance to notice any developing illnesses and attend to them right away.
- Pledge to check your pet's teeth and gums at least once a week. Your cat or dog may need dental care if it has morning breath all day. Ask your vet to show you how you can prevent dental disease by brushing regularly.
- Start an exercise and nutrition program. Healthy adult dogs need at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise twice a day such as jogging, swimming and playing at a dog park. Cats can get fit with rousing play sessions of chase and fetch with furry toys, small balls or toy mice. Vow to lay off table scraps and consider switching to a well-balanced, high-quality pet food.
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- Begin a regular grooming regimen. This will make your pet feel proud, pampered and healthy.
- Make sure your pet has up-to-date identification. Outfit your cat or dog - even indoor-only pets - with an identification tag. Implanted microchips are also a smart option.
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