Pets: New Year’s resolutions for dog people

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Encourage mental stimulation by teaching your dog new tricks. Practice them alongside those they already know to help reduce cognitive deterioration in older dogs and to keep younger puppies out of trouble. (file photo)
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By Kim Gilliam

Heading into 2019, you will inevitably think about things you wish to accomplish in the New Year – but these don’t have to be all about you. Alexandria is a dog-loving town, and as such I encourage the area’s dog owners to consider these New Year’s resolutions.

Increase exercise – make it fun:

Commit to taking your dog on one long walk each day around your neighborhood or find a new part of town each weekend to explore together. This will ensure that you are both getting off the couch and allows for bonding time and stress relief. If the weather won’t cooperate, you can run your dog up and down the stairs, set up an indoor obstacle course or make them search for treats around the house. Just have fun spending dedicated, quality time with your pooch.

Benefits of daily brushing:

You wouldn’t go without brushing your own hair for days on end, so how about you groom your dog daily this year? It may sound like a pain, but brushing removes excess fur, thus reducing the amount you find on your clothes and furniture, and helps distribute oils from the skin to the fur to keep the coat shiny and healthy. Plus, it’s another great way to show your dog love.

Teach new tricks:

Mental stimulation is critical to keeping your pup out of trouble and helps reduce cognitive deterioration in aging dogs. Identify a few new tricks you want your dog to learn this year and practice these alongside those they already know; it’s a great way to keep their mind active.

Support animals in need:

Contact a local shelter or rescue group to see how you can help. For example, my daughter’s Daisy Troop is using their service project to gather donations for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, which also needs volunteers to help with everything from dog walking to socializing adoptable animals. This year decide to give back to four-legged friends who don’t have as much as your own fur-ball.

Try fostering:

Many animal rescues need loving homes to provide safe and temporary living arrangements for pets. It helps reduce overcrowding in shelters, opening up space for another animal to be saved, but more importantly it helps prepare animals for adoption by giving them a chance to live in a home where they can fully express their personality, work to overcome fears or recover from trauma. What a great way to impact a pet’s life.

The best part about these resolutions is that while you are working to improve the life of your pup or an animal in need, you are also reaping important benefits yourself. Whether it be increased exercise, stress relief or community service, your days will be enriched by these activities as well. Best wishes for the New Year.

Kim Gilliam co-owns Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in Alexandria, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.

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