When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I admit to being one of those people. I begin each year with the best of intentions and an ambitious to-do list (drink more water, work out a few times a week, be nice … or at least nicer). But my willpower tends to break down a few weeks into January. This time around, I’m adopting a different approach. Each month, I will focus on manageable goals for me and my new pup, Louie B.
Hopefully, this public disclosure will help us stay on track throughout the year.
January: Focus on the walk
I didn’t always embrace daily dog walks. Whether a poop bag is full or empty, no one enjoys walking around holding one. But over time, I’ve come to embrace our daily walks as all-natural stress reliever. Rather than trying to capture shots of Louie in action, I keep the phone in my pocket and focus on the sights and sounds around us. Today, our walk included gently falling rain and the sound of my feet clumping across wet pine straw. When Louie stopped to smell leaves on a tree, I followed his lead.
This month, I plan to continue embracing the zen of our daily walks and even explore a few new paths in neighboring communities to mix things up a bit.
February: Schedule a dental checkup and commit to regular tooth brushing
If you’ve ever paid hundreds of dollars for a veterinary dental cleaning, you understand the importance of regular maintenance. I’ve already invested in a toothbrush and dog toothpaste for Louie, along with regular cleaning sessions. Since February is Pet Dental Health Month, I’ll schedule Louie’s annual checkup with a focus on his teeth. Most vets offer deep discounts during this time of the year. I also plan to show my stepdaughters how to brush Louie’s teeth so we all can share this weekly task.
March: Organize my ‘Louie file’
This month’s tasks include adding iPhone reminders to administer Louie’s heartworm and flea preventatives, posting his vet’s number in my stepdaughters’ phones (just in case), and identifying an emergency vet in our neighborhood. I also need to post the ASPCA Poison Control hotline (1-888-426-4435) and website link on our fridge so that it’s readily available to everyone in the house. Last, but not least, it’s a good time to confirm that we all are feeding him the proper amount of kibble based on his age and weight. Spring is coming; time to shed extra pounds.
April: Take a dog-friendly vacation
Inspired by my friend Lauren Janis, owner of Big Daddy Biscuits, I’m ready to take Louie on our next vacation. Janis took Big Daddy, her 10-year-old American Bulldog, on a family vacation to pet-friendly Palm Coast, Florida. The car ride from Atlanta to Palm Coast included plenty of water, treats, and breaks. Once they reached their destination, Big Daddy got to frolic on the beach, sunbathe on the porch of their three-story rental, and even take a dip in the pool. To keep him comfy in a new town, Janis brought his food and water bowls, as well as his bed.
“I wanted him to have that familiarity,” she said. “Even though he doesn’t play with stuffed toys, I brought one to put in his bed so he has that smell. It’s like when you board them; you need to bring the stuff they are used to having around them.”
It’s time to start searching for pet-friendly rentals.
May: Schedule a play date at a dog park
Louie lives in a single-dog household, but he loves playing with other dogs. In May, I definitely plan to revisit our favorite neighborhood dog parks and walking trails. It’s a great way to keep him socialized and reinforce good manners. BringFido.com features comprehensive lists of pet-friendly destinations – including dog parks and hiking trails – across the country.
June: Volunteer for a pet-focused group
The kids are out for the summer, making this a good time to tackle volunteer projects as a family. In addition to planning for our annual Dogtoberfest in EAV festival, we’ll look for opportunities to pay it forward for pets in need. Metro Atlanta has no shortage of animal shelters that need dog walkers or friends who will share information about adoptable pets on social media channels.
August: Find a training class
Louie mastered his basic obedience class, and I’d love to try something new this year. My friend dog blogger Diane Silver and her three-year-old Havanese Rocco compete in local agility competitions. I think my feisty puppy would excel at the sport, which requires plenty of focus as dogs dash through tunnels and weave around poles. We’re ready for the challenge.
September: Attend Bark in the Park
Each September, the Atlanta Braves invite four-legged friends to attend a game. I love seeing photos of dogs at the park. This year, I hope to follow Cyndy Hill’s lead. She and a few friends brought their fur kids to sit in the stands.
“It’s neat to be there and see the crowd over my dog’s head,” she said. “I don’t even know who played. We were watching the other dogs.”
Many MLB teams offer a dog day. Check their schedules, and be sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations. Hill also notes that it helps to tire dogs out with a marathon session of fetch before the game. Otherwise, the stadium can be sensory overload.
October: Focus on basic training commands
I plan to spend this month reinforcing basic commands so that Louie understands to “drop it” when he sees Halloween candy on the floor. We also can use this time to master “stay,” “leave it,” and “come.” Each command will come in handy when kids arrive in costume on Oct. 31.
November: Review list of approved/unapproved foods in preparation for the holidays
My family loves Louie. But I want to make sure that everyone understands the importance of maintaining his diet and avoiding too many table scraps during the holidays. In November, I plan to print and post the ASPCA’s list of people food that dogs should avoid. It will come in handy when relatives arrive for Thanksgiving.
December: Audit Louie’s gear
We just enjoyed our first Christmas with Louie. He got a few new toys, as well as a Christmas sweater – or two. December is a great time to check out his leashes, collars, and other items. Anything that no longer works properly should be discarded. Gently used items – including the sweaters he hates to wear – should be donated to local rescue groups.
Read more Dogster Tips:
- 8 Tips to Help You and Your Dog De-Stress During the Holidays
- How to Comfort (and Avoid Hurting) a Friend When Her Dog Dies
- 5 Common Mistakes That Make Dogs Hate Bath Time
About the author: Morieka Johnson lives in metro Atlanta with her husband, two stepdaughters, and Louie, their high-energy puppy. She enjoys writing about dog health, toys, and training. Morieka shares more of their exploits on www.SoulPup.com.