It’s been yet another wonderful year shared with your lovable canine companion. While you’re writing New Year’s resolutions to improve your own health and well-being, consider some of these simple ways you can make 2018 even better for your dog.
1. Brush your dog’s teeth daily.
By age two, 80 per cent of dogs have some form of periodontal disease. Brushing your dog’s teeth with an enzymatic dog toothpaste removes plaque and prevents tartar buildup. If possible, brush your dog’s teeth daily, but you’ll still be able to improve your dog’s dental health if you brush at least a few times per week. A dental water additive and marrow bones can help clean areas of your dog’s mouth that are difficult for your to reach with a brush.
2. Learn to trim your dog’s nails at home.
If your dog’s nails are only trimmed when they visit the veterinarian or groomer, they may not be trimmed frequently enough. It is typically more stressful for your dog to have their nails clipped by a stranger away from home. Learning how to trim your dog’s nails at home allows you to gradually teach your dog to tolerate trims at their own pace.
3. Try new healthy treat recipes.
Store-bought dog treats are convenient for training, especially when you’re travelling with your dog, but fresh, homemade treats are healthier. Use tinned, low-sodium sardines or salmon packed in water as an ingredient rich in omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation, boost brain function and keep your dog’s coat soft and shiny.
4. Let your dog sniff on walks.
When you go on walks or hikes with your dog, you might want to spend some time training your dog to heel politely by your side. But it’s just as important to have unstructured walks. For dogs, taking in aromas is a form of enrichment, and allows them to utilize their incredible sense of smell. You can even use sniffing as a reward by letting your dog sniff after a stretch of a successful, structured walk by using a release cue like, “go sniff!”
5. Work on behavioural and anxiety issues.
Anxiety and fear is detrimental to your dog’s quality of life, and yours too. You may avoid leaving home if your dog has separation anxiety. It may be difficult to have guests if your dog barks the whole time.
The key to changing the way your dog feels about a situation or stimulus is with brief, positive experiences. This is known as desensitization through counter-conditioning. If your dog is afraid of thunder, you can play thunder sound effects at a low volume and give your dog a treat immediately after every thunderclap. You can gradually increase the volume as your dog builds up a positive association with the noise. It’s crucial that your dog is never frightened during these exercises, so avoid turning up the volume too quickly.
You can take a very similar approach to many other anxiety-related issues. If your dog has separation anxiety, you can leave your dog with a food-stuffed Kong for increasing amounts of time, starting with just a few minutes.
If your dog has severe anxiety or aggression issues, you should work with a qualified trainer or behaviourist. Even one consultation can help you better understand your dog’s emotional state so you can work with them on your own.