By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Affairs and Alliances
I will open with a disclaimer. I am not a big proponent of resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise. I come from that “do the best you can ALL year long” school of thought, believing we have greater odds for success if we don’t set artificial start/end dates for things like improving our health, being kinder to others, quitting bad habits, starting good habits, etc. With that out of the way, I’ll get on with the subject at hand. I will bend my resolution rule by suggesting that we can ALL resolve to be better pet guardians in the New Year AND BEYOND. So let’s go…
1. FIX ‘EM! If you have dogs or cats who have not yet been spayed or neutered, DO IT! Surgical sterilization is a rather simple procedure that brings major benefits. First, it’s good for your pet. It reduces the risk of several forms of cancer. It eliminates that urge to roam in search of a mate, and a safely confined pet is far less likely to get hit by a car or go missing. And, secondly, spaying or neutering your companion animals reduces the number of unwanted litters. In a nutshell, spaying and neutering SAVES LIVES. To find a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in your area, visit the Humane Alliance.
2. TRAIN ‘EM! Far too many pets get passed from one home to the next, relinquished to animal shelters or abandoned due to behavior problems. More often than not, these behavior problems are relatively easy to solve. As with our human children (no, this is not lapsing into another mommy blog), pets NEED to understand our expectations and must be TAUGHT to meet those expectations. Rarely does a new pet enter a family with a pre-programmed understanding of appropriate behavior. When we, as pet owners, set our expectations at an unrealistic level, we are usually disappointed. A little training goes a LONG way toward making our pets better family members and better citizens!
3. EXERCISE ‘EM! To draw another parallel to our human children, a tired pet is much easier to live with than a pet with a surplus of energy! Consider the breed of your dog (hopefully, you did that before you got him) and design an exercise plan around his specific needs. If you adopted a herding dog, he’ll have high energy and high exercise requirements. If you adopt a kitten, she’ll need plenty of appropriate toys and scratching posts to use as outlets for her natural behaviors and pent up energy! Just think about the exercise you will get by taking Fido for frequent outings! Think of your dog as a cute, furry treadmill that burns calories and gives you unconditional love at the same time! To help your pet reach his goals, consider one of our Agility Sets or training tools for more adventures.
4. VET ‘EM! It is a bit too common for pet owners to take their new puppies or kittens to the vet for their first round of shots and then never darken the doorway again! To help your pets maintain optimum health, visit your veterinarian annually for a physical exam and any needed preventative health care such as vaccinations and parasite control. If you know what is normal for your pet, you are more likely to recognize symptoms of anything abnormal so you may seek treatment.
5. LOVE ‘EM! This is the most important resolution of all. Our pets need all the basics – food, water, shelter, veterinary care, training, – but they also need your love, time and attention. Dogs are pack animals who rely on a family structure. They do not do well in isolation (relegated to a fenced yard, kennel or chain). They are an integral part of the family deserving of the same level of attention afforded everyone else in a household. There is no more sound investment we can make than to love our pets. The return on that investment in unconditional love and affection is guaranteed! Most of us can’t say the same for our retirement accounts…
Follow these few simple suggestions and both you and your pets will benefit in immeasurable ways! Happy New Year!! Comment below to let us know about the resolution your making with your pet in 2012. I’m off to get on the treadmill now!
Jim Tedford serves as PetSafe’s Director of Animal Affairs and Alliances. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.