“The first one is … most of our pets need to eat less and exercise more,” said Cyd Oldham, a dog behaviorist and trainer in Reno. “Seventy percent of the pet population is obese and it is because of the way we feed them.”
Oldham suggested walking dogs more often instead of settling for the “big yard” excuse.
“A big yard doesn’t equal exercise,” she said. “It’s more than just for exercise. It’s a bonding issue also. That’s an important issue also for the dog.”
Oldham also said it might be a good idea to make a promise to spend more quality time with your dog. Or, another plan would be to set a goal on consistency with training.
“Dogs are really smart, we just don’t communicate effectively with them,” she said. “If we teach them the right behaviors, they’ll learn that quickly. Punishing them after the fact does not work with dogs.”
If owners can’t figure out behavior training, it’s best to get help, Oldham added.
“Most people don’t speak dog,” she said.
Katherine Simkins, owner of the Bark Busters Home Dog Training office in Reno, said making a pact to walk your dog more often is important.
“It’s going to be cold, but they still need to be walked,” she said. “They need to be mentally stimulated. It mentally tires them out. Especially working dogs. They need to be worked. If you’re going to be home for a while, you can get toys.”
Simkins also suggested changing your pet’s diet to ensure proper nutrition. She recommended the website www.dogfoodadvisor.com.
Trisha Hunter, cat specialist and owner of Hideout Cattery in Verdi, said owners also should look out for the nutritional needs of their felines.
“People tend to think about weight loss at this time of year,” she said. “It’s also a real concern with cats, because when a cat gains weight, they get diabetes. It’s becoming epidemic. That might be a good New Year’s resolution.”
After working with cats for 32 years, first as a veterinary assistant, Hunter said she has never seen such a problem with cats as she is seeing now. She suggests gradually changing a cat’s diet from all dry food to 3 ounces of canned cat food in the morning and another 3 ounces of canned cat food in the evening with a quarter or half-cup of dry food for a snack during the day. The kibble, she said, is full of carbohydrates, which turn to sugar and wreak havoc with the cat’s system.
Also, they need more fresh water to drink.
“Be sure they have plenty of water,” Hunter said. “Fresh water is important.”
She also suggested placing the cat’s water away from its food. This way, the cat will drink more often. Her theory is that a cat is a hunter, and in the wild the cat would first make a kill and seek water elsewhere.
Bonney Brown, executive director of the Nevada Humane Society, had many exciting New Year’s ideas for humans and pets.
“Need to reduce stress? Stroking a pet lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of a heart attack and allows us to enter into their world of contentment, even if only for a few minutes,” she said.
She also said to consider take a “pet-cation.”
“If taking a trip was on your list for this year, your dog can be the perfect travel companion,” she said. “The American Animal Hospital Association reports that 42 percent of pet owners have gone on vacation with their pets. A growing number of hotels not only allow pets, but cater to them.”
The Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta, for example, welcomes pets with biscuits created by its executive pastry chef and has chopped steak for dogs and filet of salmon for cats on its room service menu.