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Be the Best Dog Owner You Can Be: Five Resolutions for New Year's and Beyond

Updated on December 18, 2012

Towards the end of every year, we think about how we can improve our lives and the lives of others through the ubiquitous New Year's resolution. Sticking to your resolutions can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be! If you're a dog owner, here are some simple and inexpensive resolution ideas to make 2013 (or any year) a wonderful year for you and your dog.

Resolution #1: Be More Active With Your Dog

Being active with your dog is good for both of you and your health. Whatever your current activity level, there's always room to increase it or add variety. Whether it be going on three walks a day instead of two, adding a weekly trip to the dog park or simply playing fetch in the backyard more often, you and your dog will both benefit. You'll burn more calories, gain extra energy and strengthen the relationship between you and your favorite companion!

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Resolution #2: Pamper Your Dog More

For many people, dogs aren't property - they're family members! Improving your dog's health and comfort will not only make him or her a happier companion, it may improve their behavior.

An easy way to pamper your dog is to feed them higher quality dog food and treats. Look for food and treats that have real meats and vegetables, fewer fillers and less additives or preservatives. Choose products that contain natural and organic ingredients and ask your vet if your dog has any dietary needs that should be considered.

Another way to pamper your dog is to increase the frequency of home-based grooming. For example, resolve to brush your dog's teeth on a more consistent basis. Clean teeth not only mean fresher breath, but also less possibility of dental problems or gum disease. If you have a shedding dog, consider brushing or deshedding them more often - you'll find they scratch less often and their coat will be silkier. Try doggie spa products designed to reduce dry skin or consider adding supplements to their diet. When your dog is comfortable and clean, they'll be happier and better behaved.

Resolution #3: Teach Your Dog Some New Tricks

Dog training is one of the most rewarding things a dog owner can do. You'll enjoy watching your dog learn and master something new, while your dog will appreciate the added stimulation, problem solving and attention they receive from you.

All dogs are capable of learning tricks - it's just a matter of practice. If your dog hasn't been formally trained or doesn't already know a few tricks, start with something simple like sitting or laying down on command. If your dog is quick to pick up new things or already has a foundation of basic commands, introduce something more difficult like rolling over, shaking (give me your paw) or even agility skills like jumping through a hula hoop. And don't listen to the old saying - even older dogs can learn new tricks!

Dog cuddling on couch with owner
Dog cuddling on couch with owner

Resolution #4: Spend More Quality Time With Your Dog

If you're planning to adopt any of the above resolutions, you'll probably already be spending more quality time with your dog. But if you have a busy schedule and can't incorporate more activities, pampering or training into your regular routine, simply try to improve the quality of the time you do spend with your dog. After all, studies have shown that physical contact between dogs and humans releases positive endorphins that improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of you and your dog.

Spending quality time with your dog is easy! If your dog likes the car, take him or her with you when you run errands. If your dog is a couch potato, sit next to each other while watching television. Or simply talk to your dog before leaving for work in the morning or when returning home - they can understand the tone of your voice and will appreciate the attention. Be creative!

Resolution #5: Be a Better Dog Guardian

The first few days of owning a dog can be the most exciting and joyful. Getting to know our new companion, discovering their unique personality, buying them toys and treats - what's not to love? But as the months and years pass, we can become complacent in our roles as dog guardians. Sometimes we all need to remember the responsibilities we assumed and the commitments we made on that joyful day we decided to welcome a canine companion into our home:

  • Make sure your dog always has access to fresh food and water
  • Ensure your dog gets enough regular exercise to keep them a healthy weight
  • Get semi-annual or annual check-ups at the vet and let your vet know if you notice any unusual behavior that could indicate a health issue in your dog
  • Groom your dog regularly
  • Be a responsible neighbor and pick up your dog's waste using poop bags or a pooper scooper
  • Provide basic training to ensure your dog is well-behaved around other people and dogs
  • Show your dog you care about them and appreciate them daily with treats, petting and playtime

Whatever day it is, we can always resolve to be better dog guardians. So while New Year's is the traditional time for resolutions, every day is an opportunity to be the best companion and caregiver we can be for our canine friends!

Tell us about your dog and how you aim to be a great dog guardian in the comments.

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