Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for You and Your Dog

I’m not much for making New Year’s resolutions; I figure I should be working on myself all year long instead of just once a year. But then I started thinking about my dog Yankee and wondering if I should make some resolutions that include him. What about playing with him more? What about better training? So with that thought in mind, here are just a few ideas if you’re looking for resolutions for you and your dog.

• Spend more time with your dog. Dogs are pack animals and want to be around us. (Isn’t that one of the reasons why you got a dog in the first place – to have him around?) For example, take him with you when you run errands, when you’re window shopping, at an outdoor restaurant, or going to the farmer’s market. Whenever you’re going to be outside is a perfect opportunity to take your dog along.

• Take him for longer walks or walks more often. This will not only help his health but yours as well.

• Engage his mind. Teach him new tricks, work on his training, or involve him in new activities that stimulate his mind. It helps to keep him young and vibrant. You really can teach old dogs new tricks!

• Help your dog lose weight if he needs to. Look at diet options, food changes and exercise choices to make sure he loses the weight. Being overweight is very detrimental to your dog’s longevity, so if you love him as I know you do, get tough and get the weight off.

• Look at opportunities to get involved in competitive events if you think your dog would be interested in that. It’s not about winning; it’s about stimulation, exercise, fun, and bonding with your dog.

• Regularly massage your dog. You’ll help him stay healthy and live longer.

• Involve your dog in therapy work and community service if you think he has the disposition for that. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, children’s hospitals, reading programs, etc. are wonderful opportunities to volunteer with your dog.

I know I can work on several of these ideas for Yankee, and as one who doesn’t make resolutions, I will do my best to try to keep the resolutions I make about him. What about you?

Best wishes for a happy New Year for you and your dog!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Puppy? Think Again

Recently an acquaintance of mine told me with excited glee that they were planning on getting a puppy for Christmas. She was curious why I wasn’t equally excited. I asked her if she had really thought about it. To her defense, she and her family have done their homework, and have involved their children, so it’s not like Mom and Dad are making a hurried decision to appease the little ones with their desire to “have a puppy.”

But again, has she really thought about it? Does she have any clue about what’s involved in taking care of a puppy? Does she know it’s sort of like having another baby? I tried to educate her during our 30 minute conversation. First of all, I told her she needs to know she’s going to be getting up at 3am to let the new pup out to go potty. Puppies can’t hold it all night long. She will be doing this for several months. “Oh” she said, “I hadn’t thought of that.” Then she needs to make sure they take the little one out every couple of hours to help with potty training. If an accident occurs in their house, it’s not the puppy’s fault; it’s their fault for not paying attention.

Then there’s the issue of those sharp puppy teeth and the insatiable need to chew everything in sight. Don’t be alarmed if you aren’t watching your puppy and he chews up your favorite pair of dress shoes, or gnaws on the leg of your antique table. And that’s only the beginning. Puppies require work, they need training, walking, socializing, feeding, and other forms of care. It’s a huge responsibility, one that many people who bring home puppies are unaware of and unprepared for. And let’s not forget that puppies, who are so unbelievably cute when they first arrive in our lives, grow into dogs, often big dogs. If they aren’t properly trained while they’re still small, what once was such a cute trait now becomes a nuisance or a hazard. That’s why so many puppies brought home as Christmas gifts often wind up at shelters once they are a few months old.

So like my acquaintance, if you’re thinking of bringing home a Christmas puppy, please think again, especially if you are planning it as a surprise. Instead, talk to your family, decide on the type of dog you want, and do your research. If you must have a purebred puppy, research and find the best breeder you can find. Otherwise consider shelters. You can find any type of dog you want through various shelters. If you want a puppy, there are lots of puppies who are dropped off at shelters regularly. And finally, consider a dog who’s a bit older. Yes, you won’t be able to experience that “puppiness” but you also won’t have to deal with the challenges either. And you’ll have the joy in knowing that you’ve saved a dog’s life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

David Letterman Interview with Maryjean Ballner

I didn’t get the chance to see the interview Letterman did with Maryjean Ballner, a small animal massage practitioner and author of a couple of books on dog and cat massage, but I did see the YouTube videos of it. While it seemed that she focused on cats, and how massage can help socialize your cat, the message that massage for small animals is a viable complement to regular vet care is a good one.

Massage and acupressure have long been practiced on horses; it’s quite common on the racing and competition circuits to have your horse receive regular massage and acupressure treatments, but it’s not as common in the dog world. Some show dogs and agility athletes receive regular treatments but it’s not something that the average dog owner thinks about.

If you’ve ever had a massage yourself, you know how good it feels. It can quickly wipe away a stressful day and make you feel wonderful inside and out. The same is true for our animal friends. While they may be pampered at home, there’s still stress involved in living in a human world. So even if your dog is healthy, regular massage and acupressure treatments can help maintain his health, reduce his stress, and improve the quality of life for both you and your dog.