Responsible Pet Owners Month presents an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we are caring for and treating our pets. Beyond our own home boundaries, February is an occasion to set an example, or pass on to others the essential aspects of being a responsible pet owner. Among them:
- Set an example when out in public with your dog. Keep your pet on leash and under control, and don't allow him to interact with others without an invitation; not everybody is a dog lover. Always have a bag to pick up waste.
- Providing your pet a nutritious diet is essential to his health. The market is saturated with various pet foods, but not all of them are wholesome. There is plenty of information available to help you find and provide the best diet for your pet. Talk to the veterinarian or a pet professional, learn to analyze pet food labels, and make smart choices when determining your pet's nutritional needs.
- Early training and socialization is crucial when raising a puppy to become a shining example of how great having dogs as pets can be. Without proper socialization, dogs often grow to be nervous, shy, fearful or aggressive around people. Proper training helps to solidify the dog's status as a true family member; a well-mannered, smart and gentle pet is a pleasure to be around. A primary reason that dogs end up in shelters is because of behavioral problems. This is especially frustrating, as most behavioral issues are a direct result of a lack of early socialization and training, and can easily be avoided.
- A pet cannot be considered healthy unless its coat is in good shape. Many short-coated pets require little grooming care -- an occasional combing or brushing, flea control and a nutritious diet for a glossy, healthy coat. But our long- or heavily coated pets require much more attention. Without frequent brushing and coat maintenance, your pet's fur can become tangled and painfully matted, resulting in skin irritations and secondary infections. Know what your grooming limitations are, and choose a pet with a coat type you can manage, or find a reputable groomer to gently and properly care for your pet's coat.
- It is vital that we all do our part to reduce the number of homeless animals that end up in shelters, which the Humane Society estimates to be 6 million to 8 million per year. There is no logical reason to abstain from spaying or neutering; low-cost surgical options are available, and your pet will live a longer, healthier life.
Owning a pet is as much a responsibility as it is a pleasure. Your pet doesn't have the option of selecting his caretaker, and when you choose to become a pet owner, it's on you to be the best you can be. Your pet is counting on it.
Lisa Moore's pet-behavior column appears once a month on the Weekly Pet Page. Write to her in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.