It’s January, so chances are, if you are like the majority of North Americans, you have made a New Year’s resolution or a commitment of some sort. Maybe you are starting a new exercise routine, a promise to your spouse to do a ‘date night’ once a week, spend more time cooking from scratch or perhaps try a new hobby. Whatever the goal is, January 2023 is a great time to take on a new challenge, to start something new for yourself, and also for your pets too! The holidays can get busy, and sometimes, despite our best intentions, our pet’s needs and routines can get a little lost in the shuffle. January is a great time to get routines ‘back on track’ or even a chance to try something new!
Step up Your Dog or Cat’s Exercise Routine
You might be trying to have more ‘10, 000 step’ days this year, but do you have an exercise goal for your pet? Your feline companion may enjoy crawling through a tunnel, chasing a laser pointer or a mouse on a string, so why not make a regular routine out of it. Two, 10 to 15-minute play sessions a day for a cat will do a lot to get their heart pumping and their joints moving.
Not only are adequate amounts of exercise necessary for dogs’ physical health and well-being, regular walks ensure dogs don’t end up with the need to release pent-up energy by engaging in hyperactive or destructive behavior in your home. People often forget about the secondary benefits of walks for their dogs, aside from the fitness boost – think about the ongoing socialization (with other dogs and people of all different shapes and sizes) that walks provide and the exposure to different stimuli which helps dogs get used to it and in turn reduce their stress and anxiety about it. Lastly, dogs who get more exercise are more trainable, which brings us to the next goal for our pets for 2023.
Set a Training Goal or Teach Your Pet a New Skill
Self-improvement goals of some kind are often near the top of many peoples’ New Year’s resolution lists. Gym membership sales increase and it is actually true that more self-help books are published (and released) in January than any other month of the year (Why So Many Self-Help Books Are Published in January By Rachel Kramer Bussel – Forbes). These goals challenge us to think differently and adjust our habits. They require self-discipline, practice and dedicating some extra time to achieve them.
The same is true for any pet training goals or any skill that we may want our pet to learn (yes cats can do tricks too). One more reason to teach your pet a new trick this month, The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (USA) has named January as ‘National Train Your Dog Month’. So clearly, this month is a great time to train a new skill. Working with your dog or cat towards the goal of learning a new trick or skill can not only make playtime more interesting and stimulating for your pet, it can be really rewarding for both of you. Putting in the time together, towards a common goal and then achieving it, not only provides a great sense of achievement and satisfaction, but chances are you will build a closer bond with your pet as well.
In Case of Emergency…
Though we never like to think about it, emergencies and accidents happen and when they do, it can mean outside agencies can become involved in our household in a way we never anticipated. Is everyone (your pet(s) too) prepared for a team of firefighters to enter your house? Keep in mind that firefighters don’t just enter the home in the case of a fire, they are often first on the scene in many types of emergencies where you may not be present or maybe even unconscious, in other words, unavailable to comfort or control your dog(s). So now is the time, before the emergency happens, to add signage (you can buy stickers on Amazon) to every entrance to your home indicating how many pets you have. Make sure that your pet(s) are included in your family’s fire escape plan. Keep pets near entrances, with their collars on and leashes nearby, when they are home alone just in case fire fighters need to rescue your pet in your absence.
Be Prepared and Plan Ahead
Perhaps 2023 includes a special ‘bucket list’ vacation for you and your family? Some exotic place where you can’t bring your dog or cat. Admittedly I am a little biased considering my profession, but hiring a pet sitter vs. boarding your pets at a kennel offers you better value, your home more security, and your pets increased comfort. Unfortunately, finding a professional pet sitter in your area with availability can take time, so best to start looking months in advance, and know what qualifications you are looking for. Does the pet sitter have specialized insurance, current pet first aid training, references and a clean background check? If you have caged, or exotic animals do you feel confident in their ability to take care of their unique needs? If they have employees with their business, how do they communicate the specifics of your pet sitting job to their staff members? Will the same person be coming to your house each time? There are lots of things to think about, but once you find a pet sitter that meets your needs, they can be an integral part of your family’s support team – just like an appliance repair person, snow removal team, hair stylist or cleaner. (Read my article “Questions to ask a potential dog walker or pet sitter” published in LocalPaws Premiere Issue: www.localpaws.ca/issue1)
Hopefully you’ve gotten a bit of inspiration or a few ideas from this article about giving your pets a fresh start to 2023. Perhaps you’ve thought of your own resolutions for your pets, like a change in their routine or including them in some upcoming family plans. Whatever the resolution may be, I hope that your new year is filled with lots of new memories and adventures for the whole family, furry family members too.
Article by Megan Despard, Owner of Wiggles and Whiskers
Megan Despard is the Owner of Wiggles and Whiskers. Her specialty is the creation of handmade toys and accessories for dogs, cats, and small animals. She also offers dog walking and pet sitting services for a wide range of animal friends, from dogs and cats to caged animals who might need some company. She also provides cat visits and a combination of dog visits and walking services in Waterloo and Woolwich Township.
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