1) I will schedule my pet’s yearly wellness exam with her veterinarian. I will ensure that my pet remains up to date on her vaccinations and invest in another year of flea, tick and heartworm preventative for her.
2) I will speak with my veterinarian about the healthiest diet for my pet and work to feed him a high-quality diet. I will avoid overfeeding him, understanding that obesity in dogs and cats leads to many health problems and a reduced quality of life.
3) I will give my pet an informal in-home exam every month, being sure to look inside her ears, examine her eyes for discharge or other changes, lift her tail to ensure she has a clean and healthy rear end, and pet her carefully all over to check for lumps, bumps or wounds. I will contact my veterinarian promptly if I notice anything new or amiss.
4) I will invest in new toys for my pet. Even though he chews most of them up, I will find a way to incorporate chew toys into my budget if these are his favorite. When I cannot meet his demand for chew toys, I will invest in puzzle toys, activity feeders, bones and other enrichment items that allow him to chew and destroy without breaking the bank.
5) I will clean up after my pet so that her litterbox or yard is clean and free of feces.
6) I will practice calling my pet to come for a treat at least once a day, using a clear and happy voice and calling by name (“Fido, Come!”) I will try this from various rooms in the house and also the yard, and will practice more often if I notice he does not reliably come when called. I will remember that cats can learn to come when called, too, and will save my cat’s favorite treats or toys to be delivered when I call him to me.
7) I will provide a treat or toy when I leave the house or crate my pet as a “consolation prize” for having to be without me.
8) I will practice sit/stay with my pet, and I will practice in places and situations where I may really need her to sit and stay. For example, I will practice this in the car when I open the door and before letting her out and at the front door before we go out for a walk. If my cat has the habit of jumping into my lap and spilling my morning coffee, I will practice teaching her to sit when she comes up to me so that I will have the chance to put my coffee to the side before inviting her up.
9) I will turn my pet’s grooming needs at home into training sessions, using his favorite treats or toys to reward him for letting me brush him, bathe him or clip his nails. If my pet has more complicated grooming needs, I will invest in grooming services with a reputable and certified pet groomer.
10) I will provide my pet with exercise as appropriate to her breed, physical condition and personality. I will move in concert with my pet, understanding that movement for me is as healthy as it is for her. With my dog, I will try to increase her walking time by 10 percent from last year. With my cat, I will invest in interactive toys that can get her leaping and climbing as I am moving the toy around for her.
11) I will play with my pet every day. We will run around together, chase a ball together, whip a fishing pole toy around together, run around an obstacle course together, and share in the joy that comes from play. I will remember that sharing play with cats and dogs is one of the reasons we humans love them so, and one of the reasons they love us.
12) I will show my pet the love and care that he deserves. I will be sensitive to his medical needs, his behavioral needs, his play and enrichment needs, and his need for loving contact. I will remember that while my pet is lucky to have me to care for him, I am equally lucky to share my life with him.
Happy New Year! May 2019 be full of joy for you and your furry friends!
Megan Maxwell, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist whose column appears on the first Tuesday of every month in Extra. Volume may prohibit individual replies to emails. The information presented here may not be applicable for every pet and is not intended to serve in place of an individualized behavior or training plan.