As dog lovers, there are many things we can do in our own households and communities to help canines everywhere, not just in 2011, but throughout our lives. Adopting even just some of these suggested New Year’s resolutions can bring more peace to your home as well as help common pet problems in your neighborhood.
What you can do at home:
* Before you bring home a dog, ask yourself if you are prepared to commit ten to twenty years of your life to this animal. Think of the bewilderment and heartbreak he will experience when he is surrendered to a shelter after having been part of a loving home.
* Never get a dog “for the children.” Even kids with good intentions will lose interest in daily pet care tasks or become involved with other activities as they grow. The decision should involve the entire family, especially the parents.
* See to it that your dog has current identification, including tags, a collar, and a microchip. A lot of dogs end up in shelters because they get lost and don’t have any identification on them.
* Take your dog for a walk every day. Physical activity will keep him better behaved and calmer. Plus, the exercise will help you both stay fit!
* Give your dog good quality food and clean water to maintain his overall health.
* Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date and take him to the vet should any health problems come up.
* Spay and neuter your pets; this helps curb the pet overpopulation problem across the country. The instinct to wander in search of a female is very strong in intact male dogs, and a lot of stray dogs are unneutered boys.
* Don’t keep your dog outside alone or confined for long periods of time. Canines are pack animals and do best when they are with people and other pets.
* Don’t lose faith in your dog if he has behavior problems. Enlist the help of professional trainers if necessary to resolve such issues.
* Spend time with your dog every day. This is essential to his mental and emotional development.
What you can do within your community:
* Say no to puppy mills. Never purchase online or from a backyard breeder or pet store, as most of the dogs from these places are bred and born in appalling conditions. They tend to have health problems and are subjected to unbelievable neglect and cruelty. Their parents suffer even more as they are forced to breed repeatedly and spend their whole lives in horrible living conditions.
* Adopt from a rescue group or shelter. About 25 percent of shelter pets are purebred, and many offer “pet match” programs to help you find the right dog. Three to four million adoptable animals are euthanized at shelters every year. Adopt a shelter or rescued dog and help save a life!
* If you come across a stray, take him to your local shelter. Always carry a spare leash and treats.
* Support your local shelter by volunteering your time or donating toys, food, or money. You can also organize fundraisers or donation drives.
* Report any suspected cases of abuse or dog fighting to local authorities. Chaining dogs outside is illegal in some states. The more we all speak up about these problems, the more attention they will receive.
Remember that every little bit counts! We wish dog lovers everywhere a “Yappy” New Year!