Friday, February 13, 2015

4 unusual ways to show your dog love this Valentine's day

Liam the pug with a sock monkey

There are all sorts of traditional ways to express your love for your pampered pooch on Valentine's day. You could bake treats (I did that last year), buy Fido a bone or invest in some new pup bedding. Any or all of these things could be super ways to show that you care.

But you know what? There are all sorts of other things you could do this holiday that could help your dog feel loved both now and in the future. Here are my ideas.

1. Check the microchip.

Every year, some 10 million pets get lost. Some scoot out from underneath the family fence, others zip off at the dog park and still others make a dash for the front door. It happens, and microchips are designed to help. Unlike a collar, which might fall off or get lost, a microchip is implanted. It's always there and always working.

But there's one problem.

Microchip data must be updated when you move, change phone numbers or otherwise have different contact information. And that's a step many families skip.

This Valentine's day, consider calling your pet's microchip company. Check on the address, phone number and other contact data the company has about your dog, and make sure it's all correct and perfect. That way, if your dog gets lost from your loving home, you'll be reunited in no time at all.

2. Read the dog food labels. 

Most of us find a dog food we like, and we stick with that brand through thick and thin. However, it's not at all unusual for dog food manufacturers to switch up their ingredient list from time to time, and that could mean that a food that was once a perfect way to show your love is now a food that's not quite right for your little one.

Once a year, read through that label and make sure it's still in line with your dog's nutritional needs. For me, that means looking for allergens (I don't ever want to see another reaction like this one). But you might also consider looking for words like "meal" or "corn" in your ingredient lists. These are additives that might not be best for your pooch, and might prompt a loving food change.

Sinead the Boston terrier in her bed

3. Make a training commitment. 

Why should Valentine's day last just one day? Consider making a commitment that lasts all year.

I'm focusing on training this year. Liam and Sinead are high-energy dogs, and it's sometimes difficult to wear them out enough to allow them to sleep soundly (although Sinead is doing a nice job of that here, I must admit).

Training helps because it forces these guys to think and plan and plot. They must use their wee minds to do it right, and that thinking tends to wear them out more than would a long walk or tough play session. Plus, tricks give dogs something to do when they're nervous or stressed. I use them on walks when Liam sees another dog he's desperate to play with, and I park Sinead in a sit when she's nervous in a crowd. By teaching them more tricks this year, I'm hoping to help them be even more lovable in 2015 (if that's possible!).

4. Donate to animal rescue. 

On first glance, this might seem like a crazy way to show your love for your dog. After all, your dog isn't in a shelter, right? So why should it matter?

It matters, in part, because so many shelters rely on the donations that come in from pet owners. With that money, shelters can do all sorts of amazing things that could help your pet down the line.

For example, my local animal shelter (Willamette Humane Society) holds a series of classes on dog behavior and training. Many of these classes are designed for dogs with aggression issues. At the end of a class like this, a dog that may have been a threat to my dogs could be a benign neighbor. By donating to the shelter, I'm inadvertently keeping my dogs safer.

And, shelters are at the front lines of the pet overpopulation issue that threatens the animals we love. Each time they spay/neuter a pet, they have the potential to keep hundreds of new pets from flooding our communities. I think that's something all dogs would support.

This isn't an exhaustive list by any means. I'd love to hear your ideas, too! Just drop me a comment with your thoughts, or pop over to my Facebook fan page to tell me more. I'd love to hear from you!

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