As 2013 winds down, many of us look ahead to 2014 and take pleasure in making a few resolutions, as a way to begin the year with high hopes and a fresh start. Below are a few resolutions I hope every dog owner will consider.
Most important, I believe, is to resolve to truly want any and all dogs you bring into your home. Like any domesticated animal, dogs rely on us to care for them, and that is a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Plan for and be prepared for all of the wonderful things adding a dog to your household can bring, but keep in mind that your dog is counting on you for proper care, training and nutrition.
Never expect your dog to learn or behave like a human. Although they are quite compatible with our way of life, dogs are very different from us. Take the time to discover a bit about the fascinating species you’ve brought into your world, and vow to better understand and appreciate them for what they are. A good start is to learn a bit about their body language, so you can better ‘read’ what your dog is saying.
As hard as it is for me to comprehend, I know there are people out there who do not share my passion for dogs. I think it’s important for those of us who do include dogs in our lives to, as a whole, present dog ownership in a responsible and positive light. This includes teaching your dog some basic manners so he integrates easily into public, and picking up after your dog. I believe that anti-dog people would become much more tolerant of canines if our parks, lawns and public places weren’t littered with pooh, as they are now. Resolve to put a plastic bag in your pocket every time you take your dog out for a walk, and use it!
Unlike cats, dogs aren’t great at self-grooming. Resolve to give your dog’s coat what it needs to be healthy – that may simply require a thorough brushing once a week, or regular visits to a professional groomer. If you have a dog that has any length of coat, it will require some attention to prevent matting, which can be very painful if not addressed.
Dogs generally don’t do well in isolation, but flourish when considered a true member of the family. This includes inside privileges and taking the time to teach your dog how you expect him to behave when in the house. Additionally, all but the heaviest of coated breeds will benefit from living in a temperature controlled environment.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, resolve to behave towards your dog in a way that builds trust, and does no harm. Be kind, gentle and understanding, and know that your dog wants to be compliant, to be included, and to be your best friend.
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.