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Top 10 Checklist for a Doggone Happy New Year!

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You and your best friend can make 2016 the greatest ever with these top-10 suggestions for a Doggone Happy New Year:

10. Begin 2016 with a wellness visit to your veterinarian.  It’s important to assess your pet’s overall fitness and general health to start the New Year off right.  Regular wellness exams will save you money and prolong your pet’s life because your vet can monitor and treat most health challenges before complications arise.

9. Plan ahead for your dog’s healthy years by securing a pet insurance plan.  There are many choices and a variety of price points to suit any budget.  As a matter of fact, you may want to include the wellness option as part of your new policy, and save money on your wellness visit!  First, check with your vet’s office to determine which insurance providers are accepted, and then purchase your policy before scheduling an appointment.

8. A refreshing start to 2016 includes clean teeth.  Oral health isn’t just about the look of those pearly whites.  Actually, if teeth go unattended, the bacteria that cause tartar can easily travel through the dog’s body and cause trouble for major organs.  In fact, studies indicate that your pet has a better chance at a long life if his teeth are brushed regularly.  Start by asking your vet during the wellness exam if a professional teeth cleaning is in order.

7. Gain some peace of mind this year by assuring that your pet can always find his way home.  Check the identification tag on his collar to be certain it’s securely fastened and to verify that the information is up to date.  If your pet’s tag needs replacement, many pet stores now house do-it-yourself I.D. tag engraving machines that are quick and inexpensive.  For more permanent identification, ask your vet during the wellness check about microchipping.  Microchips are seed-sized devices that contain emergency contact data.  Your vet will insert the chip under the dog’s skin, and it’s possible that the cost for the simple procedure will be covered by your pet’s health insurance.  The information contained on the microchip is accessed by passing an electronic scanner over the animal’s shoulder blades, where the seed is implanted.  It’s commonplace for shelters and veterinarians to scan stray animals for microchips, but it’s up to owners to register their pet’s chip information with a lost-pet database and to keep the information current.  Registries charge a small fee to maintain your contact information, certainly a worthy price to pay for the safe return of your beloved friend.

6. Next, it’s time for a beauty treatment.  Get in the habit of bathing, brushing, and clipping nails on a routine basis.  Not only does a bath and brush make your pet feel good, it also gives you the opportunity to check for any lumps, bumps, or parasites that may require attention.  Nail care is another important aspect of grooming.  Overgrown nails impede the animal’s footpads from direct contact with the ground, which is especially dangerous on slippery or uneven surfaces, and a particular risk for older pets with mobility issues.  If beautifying your pet seems like too much to tackle on your own, consider establishing a rapport with a friendly groomer in your area.

5. Basketball great Michael Jordan probably wasn’t talking about dogs when he said, “Just play.  Have fun.  Enjoy the game,” but he certainly could’ve been.  Dogs thrive on interactive play, and it’s a pretty good stress reliever for people, too.  So devote a few minutes of each day in the New Year to silliness with your good buddy.  Try hide-and-seek, stupid pet tricks, and tennis ball fetching for starters.  You’ll both be smiling.

4. Make education a top priority in 2016, especially if you and your pet plan to tackle some recreational activities this year.  Work on good manners such as walking on a loose leash and coming when called.  It’s best to reward your dog with lots of praise and a few treats when he complies with your wishes rather than scolding him for making mistakes.  If your dog is a handful, you may want to investigate group training classes in your area.  Ask to visit before enrolling to determine if the school’s methods suit your style.

3. Perhaps you and your pup put on a few too many pounds in 2015, and now it’s time to slim down.  Why not use those leash walking skills you’ve been practicing and hit the road!  Be sure you’ve both been cleared by your respective physicians before embarking on an exercise regimen.  Walking is a win-win on both ends of the leash.  Dogs relish the opportunity to savor the sights and aromas encountered on walks, and owners enjoy the company of a reliable exercise partner who never has an excuse.  In fact, since regular strolls are typically the highlight of a dog’s day, owners are motivated to walk rather than disappoint their companions.  Take the first step, and soon you’ll both feel great and look even better!

2. Ever feel inspired watching those talented canines on television perform amazing feats such as disc catching, dock diving, and negotiating the ups and downs of an agility course?  Then perhaps this is the year to become involved in the world of canine performance events.  Believe it or not, competitions abound in everything from freestyle dance to scent-based tracking tests.  Competing with your dog is a great way to have fun, learn new skills, and meet interesting people.  If competitive pursuits don’t entice you, another satisfying endeavor is training and certifying your pet as a therapy dog.  Therapy dogs share their love with ailing patients, senior citizens, and young children through regular visits to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and libraries.  Whether your dog is a budding athlete or a natural-born cuddler, there are plenty of rewarding activities to discover together in 2016.

1. Finally, make this the year that you and your dog inspire others.  Use social media to share your adventures and accomplishments and to document your journey of good health and good times.  Doing so will not only motivate your friends and followers, but it’ll also set the bar for your goals in 2017.  In the meantime, enjoy the ride!

 

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