Metro Weekly

Pet Resolutions

Here are five ways you can be a better pet parent

Image by Javier Brosch

Image by Javier Brosch

A week into 2015, maybe you’ve already started to let that diet lapse. And has the gym always been such a chore to get to?

You know what’s not a chore? Giving your favorite furry friend some extra love and attention. If you’re already at risk of breaking that new year’s resolution to be a better person, here are five ways you can opt to be a better owner instead — beyond the most basic, which is scheduling and adhering to that annual checkup with your pet’s vet.

Quality Time Together — Ultimately, the best new year’s resolution you can make to your pet is also the easiest to keep: More attention, more often. Take your dog on an extra leisurely walk around the neighborhood and on a different route than usual. Consider regularly visiting a second dog park for added variety and stimulation. Vow to get your cat’s favorite laser toy out more often for some fun and aerobic activity. At the very least, just resolve to carve out 15 minutes of your busy schedule several nights during the week to play and just be fully present with your dog or cat, rather than glued to your TV or chained to your devices. Give them a little extra attention and they’re sure to put on a good show (and maybe give you some good, uninterrupted sleep at night, too).

Dieting and Weight Loss — As with humans, fat cats have more health problems and a shorter lifespan than their skinny counterparts. Also, over 50 percent of pets in the U.S. are classified as overweight. Don’t let yours be a statistic. Resolve to feed them just enough — by using a measuring cup or scoop and giving them the same amount of food every time — and refrain from over-treating between meals. Regularly tack on some extra playtime or an extra walk to make this a one-two punch of a resolution.

Agility and Exercise Classes — In addition to regular walks and dog park visits, another way to bond with and simultaneously slim down your dog is to try a new activity. Rockville’s Zoom Room offers a whole slate of classes that can improve a dog’s agility, obedience and social skills, plus a growing category of “enrichment classes” including a sniff-detective class called Scent. But perhaps the most appropriate and necessary — especially if you’ve already given up on the gym — is a Canine Cross-Training exercise in which your dog will work out and shape up in tandem with you.

Dental Care — Vow to brush your pet’s teeth with a proper pet toothbrush every day — or at least once a week if you don’t currently have this as part of your routine. If your dog absolutely refuses to grin and bear this treatment from you, consider incorporating water additives and dental treats into his daily routine. And schedule an appointment to have your vet give a thorough cleaning once a year. Good oral hygiene offers much more than just a brighter smile and milder breath: It also helps prevent bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream and affecting the heart and lungs. If your dog is already active and doesn’t need to diet, this is probably the best resolution you can make for his long-term health.

Spa Days — Try to devote a few minutes every few nights, at least once a week, to brushing your dog. This removes excess fur and keeps it from clumping or shedding of course, but it also helps distribute oils from the skin to the fur to maintain a shiny and healthy coat. You could also treat your dog to a trip to the groomer’s. That may seem like more of a treat to you — and it is — but letting a professional trim and clean your dog’s coat and clip claws the right way will provide some relief to both of you.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.