Resolutions: for kids, for pets, for you

count-down-to-midnight

 

Happy New Year readers! We’ve once again reached that time of year when people take a look at their lives and try to figure out whether they are meeting their own personal goals and if not what they are going to change and how.  If you read my previous blog post, you’ll know I touched upon this topic with regard to dogs only a few days ago. OK, I admit it,  I am feeling particularly motivated to make positive improvements in my own life and trying to assist my kids and my dog in doing the same.

New Year’s resolutions are nothing new.  The tradition began in the 18th century BC, when the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year. Millions of people carry on with the tradition today and many have great results. According to the American Medical Association, approximately 40% of Americans participate in the New Year’s resolution tradition and 46% of those who make common resolutions such as weight loss or increasing exercise were over 10-times more likely to succeed compared to only 4% who chose not to make resolutions. Based on that data, it’s a great time to try to make a few simple changes.

Kids

As a parent you are continually helping your children achieve goals in every aspect of their lives. Encouraging them in making New Year’s resolutions is a good way to reinforce some of the behaviors you have already been trying to instill and to further develop some excellent character traits. So how do you approach resolutions without everyone wanting to give up after the first couple of days?

family-celebrating-new-year

Pick age-appropriate goals

The American Academy of Pediatrics gives suggestions of resolutions that are suitable for different age groups. For example, preschoolers can be encouraged to pick up toys and put them away after playing, while tweens can be persuaded to wear a bike helmet every time they go on a bike.

Be realistic

If the goal is not realistic, the child will not be successful.  Make sure that what your child wants to achieve is actually possible given their current age, development and other circumstances. If it is currently too daunting, maybe reduce it to more manageable tasks.  Alternatively, instead of picking one specific goal, you could aim for a selection of positive new life experiences throughout the year, such as trying a specific food, reading a particular book, or trying a different activity, etc.

Encourage tenacity

Using a reward chart can work well in getting young children to stick to a resolution they have set.  Younger kids respond well to small, frequent rewards, but it can also help in encouraging older children to remain on track. For older age groups try setting longer term targets with a larger reward at the end.

Lead by example

If your children see you trying to stick to your resolution, they are more likely to persevere too.  If your goals are along similar lines, such as trying to exercise more frequently, then try to do things in parallel.  Why not go for a jog while your son or daughter is at soccer practice?

 

Pets

dog-with-happy-new-year-hat

Making resolutions on behalf of your pets is also good in helping them to lead longer, more fulfilling lives and can further increase the bonds between dog and owner.  Again, typical resolutions like increasing exercise levels and reducing caloric intake are worthwhile goals to set (see my previous blog post).  If you already give your dog plenty of exercise, have plenty of interaction with other dogs, and don’t have any dietary concerns etc, there may be other areas of your pet’s life that could be improved in the coming year.  Have you considered whether they are riding safely enough in your vehicle?  If the answer to that is no, then maybe installing a vehicle-specific pet barrier to keep them secure on a journey would be a good, positive change in your dog’s life.

 

You

As with resolutions for children and pets, unless you choose a resolution for yourself that is realistic, you aren’t going to persist for very long, if at all.  Pick one aspect of your life that you really want to improve and then look at achieving it in workable, attainable segments.  For example, if you want to lose 10 lbs, break it down into a target of 1 lb per week achieved by doing specific activities, such as walking every morning or taking the stairs at work, within that time frame. Reward systems aren’t just for kids, give yourself little treats along the way for goals achieved. Equally, don’t lose heart if you don’t quite meet your target – maybe tweak what you are doing, but keep at it.

Do you have any tips or hints for sticking to New Year’s resolutions?  We’d love to hear them. As for my resolutions?  Well, enriching my vocabulary with a new word a week is one of my personal goals – blog readers, you have been forewarned!

Wishing you a peaceful and fulfilling 2017.

happy-new-year-2017

 

 

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A Happier, Healthier New Year

After the excesses of the Holidays and discovering that clothes fit a little tighter than they used to, many of us start thinking about a healthier diet and working out. If this is true for you, why not think about whether your pet could benefit too?

Sadly, obesity in animals is an ever-increasing problem.  According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 54% of dogs in the US are classed as overweight or obese (10-15% over the ideal body weight). Interestingly, it is the most common preventable disease in dogs and avoiding it could help prevent other conditions such as arthritis, liver disease, diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure.

Particular breeds (Labrador Retrievers, Pugs, Dachshunds, English Bulldogs, Cairn Terriers, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Chihuahuas, Scottish Terriers, Pit Bulls, Boxers, St. Bernards, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Basset Hounds) are more prone to obesity than others.  If your dog is one of these breeds it’s definitely something to keep in mind, even if they are not currently overweight.

Although obesity can occur at any time, the risk increases with age, with middle age dogs being particularly susceptible.  Gender can be a contributing factor, with females faring worse than males. Also, it is important to be aware that obesity can be a side effect of certain diseases such as hypothyroidism, insulinoma and Cushing’s disease. So if your pet gains weight suddenly or is overweight despite a small appetite and plenty of exercise, talk to your veterinarian.

It is estimated that simply controlling weight can extend a dog’s life by two years. So what can we do to keep our best friend alongside for longer?

Determine whether your pet is overweight

There are 3 tips that you can use prior to getting out the scales:

  • You should be able to feel the outline of your pet’s ribs without excess fat coverage.
  • You should be able to see and feel your pet’s waist.
  • Your pet’s belly should be tucked up when viewed from the side.

dog-weight-chart

When you do get the scales out, make sure you know what the ideal weight should be.  The American Kennel Club gives advice on the appropriate weight range for each breed, but if in doubt check with your vet.

How can you help your dog lose weight?

If your dog burns more calories than it consumes, it will lose weight. It may be a simple equation, but it can take a lot of discipline to achieve.

It is always recommended that before embarking on a diet or exercise program to have your pet checked by a vet.  If given the green light, some of these suggestions may be helpful to slim down your pooch.

Establish a regular exercise program

Just as with humans, a regular exercise program is absolutely crucial for a dog’s physical and mental wellbeing.  If your pet is excessively overweight, introduce exercise slowly, increasing gradually as fitness levels and stamina improve. Aiming for at least 15 minutes of walking, twice a day is good.  Although there’s nothing better than time spent sniffing a hydrant, a brisk walk, rather than a stroll, is desirable.  If you can gradually increase the frequency and duration of the walks, add in some ball-play, or even progress to some jogging, all the better.

'Sorry, chubs, but those little circles you do before lying down don't cut it as exercise.'

Don’t feed your pet table scraps

Human food doesn’t always work well for dogs and some is simply toxic. If possible, stick to dog food. Whether you opt for wet or dry dog food, a diet rich in dietary fiber and protein but low in fat is recommended. Protein will boost metabolism and give a feeling of fullness, while dietary fiber stimulates intestinal metabolism.

Weigh out your pet food

Whether you are human or canine, portion size affects weight gain.  If you weigh out each meal you will keep portions to a sensible size.  Try to avoid using self-feeders, but if you must use these, try an automated version to dispense a set amount at specific times of day.  If your dog is still hungry after mealtime, offer fresh water.  If you have several dogs, but not all are overweight, try to feed the dogs separately and do not leave food out, so you can figure out who has eaten what.

dog-with-food-piled-high 

Limit treats

Treats are typically high calorie and where possible should be limited. For example a pig’s ear fed to a 40 lb dog is the equivalent of a human drinking a 6-pack of soda. Try to reward your dog using other methods such as making a fuss of your pooch, offering a favorite toy, or playing ball. Make sure the whole household is involved in this, as it just doesn’t work if Pop keeps slipping your pooch sneaky snacks.

 

Aim for a weight loss of approximately 3-5% of body weight loss per month (or about 1lb).  Too much weight loss can be dangerous, so ensure that weight checks are done regularly and work closely with your vet to ensure that everything is safely on track.

before-and-after-diet-photos-for-cavalier

Putting on the pounds is always easier than taking them off, but sticking to some of these guidelines can be life changing.The problems associated with obesity can be reversible, so why not work with your dog so you can both achieve a happier, healthier 2017 and beyond? We’d love to hear of weight-loss tips that have worked for your pup; photos always appreciated!

 

Staying Safe on the Road

 

With the extreme weather conditions currently affecting many parts of the United States, and millions of Americans preparing to drive home for the Holidays, what can be done to keep your loved ones safer in snow and ice?

ice-and-snow

Prepare your vehicle for winter

  • Install snow tires on your vehicle, not all-season radials.  Snow tires give extra traction in ice and snow.
  • Make sure your spare tire is also a snow tire.
  • Ensure your tires are correctly inflated.
  • Chains add another level of safety.
  • Upgrade your coolant levels.
  • Use windshield cleaner rated for winter conditions.
  • Check your battery and replace it if unreliable.
  • Carry a bag of sand, both for weight and traction, and a snow shovel.
  • It’s not always easy to change your vehicle, but if you will be travelling in winter conditions as a matter of habit, choose a vehicle with front wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or 4-wheel drive.  Rear wheel drive vehicles are more difficult to handle in icy conditions.
  • Install a Travall vehicle-specific pet barrier
  • Keep locks from freezing up by using WD-40

man-putting-chains-on-tires

Know the road conditions 

First and foremost, if the conditions are not safe, do not go! If you absolutely must, then plan your route well in advance.  Check road safety conditions before you leave and try to check conditions as the journey progresses.

Check the weather forecast before you leave

Try to check out the weather forecast for your current location, your final destination and for points along the route.  If you are aware of weather warnings, there will be fewer surprises on the way. Carry chains if snow is expected and if you’ll be travelling in hills or mountains. Ensure that everyone travelling has the appropriate clothing for the anticipated weather conditions. Having coats, hats, gloves and sturdy boots in the car is essential if you will be travelling in snowy conditions.

Fuel up

Start off with a full tank of gas and where possible don’t allow your tank to drop below half way. You may have to stop off at the gas station more frequently, but you don’t want to run out of gas in snowy conditions.

Prepare for driving in wintry conditions

Know how to drive in icy or snowy conditions.  Use an empty parking lot to practice steering out of a skid.  Drive more slowly than usual and slower than the posted speed limits.  Allow more distance between you and other vehicles. Pump brakes gently and use gears to slow down.

Carry an emergency survival kit 

  • First aid kit
  • Flares
  • Blankets
  • Garbage sacks that could double as a tarp or rain poncho
  • High energy food like granola bars or dried fruit.
  • A portable stove
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Candles (use for light and to keep the vehicle warm)
  • Tin can for melting snow for water.
  • Coats, wool socks, gloves, scarves and other winter clothing

first-aid-kit

Where possible use main roads

This may not always be an option, but try to stick to major routes, so if you do become stranded you can be found more quickly and easily.

Additional driving tips

  • Drive according to the conditions.
  • Reduce speed in poor visibility, where there is snow, or if ice may have formed.
  • Stay in a higher gear to help keep control of the vehicle and avoid harsh braking and acceleration.
  • Maintain larger safer stopping distances, you may have to double or even triple your stopping distance.
  • Use dimmed headlights in poor visibility and snow, so others can see you.
  • Use rear fog lights.

If you get stranded stay with your vehicle

If you need to keep the engine running to keep warm, ensure that the exhaust is not clogged with snow.

Try to keep mobile devices charged so you can call for assistance if necessary

 america-in-snow

Wherever you are driving during the Holidays, we wish you a good and safe journey. Happy Holidays!

dogs-driving-truck-home-for-christmas