Whole Dog Journal's Blog December 27, 2018

New Year’s Resolutions for Dog Caretakers

Posted at 09:19AM - Comments: (9)

I had to check last year’s blog posts to see if I had published any New Year’s resolutions last year; I didn’t, so I don’t have to admit how much or even whether I met any of my resolutions. But this year, I want to give public resolutions a go, to see if it will help me get any of them done.

1. Brushing My Dogs' Teeth

One of the things I have been meaning to do, and that I think many dog owners ought to do, is brush my dogs’ teeth. Argh! I really don’t want to! But I need to just do it! Neither one of my dogs minds having his teeth brushed; it’s just one of those things *I* don’t enjoy and have a hard time making myself do. But Otto has gotten to the age where his teeth seem to attract more plaque, and it’s certainly not healthy to let it build up and give tartar formation a leg up. And even though Woody is only three years old, his teeth are already looking like he’s going to need his teeth to be cleaned by a veterinarian sometime in the next year, so he clearly needs toothbrushing as well, so I ought to get it together.

Rupert, the dog I owned before Otto, died at 14 and a half years old and never needed a dental cleaning in his life. I miss that. Maybe you get just one of those dogs in your lifetime, I don’t know. But I need to get rolling with this basic maintenance. Of course, the vets say daily toothbrushing is most effective. I’m going to aim for a few times a week and see how it goes.

dog meet and greet training

I used Woody as a model for one of Pat Miller's articles on teaching dogs to greet, or not greet, and he responded well to the exercises in the article! But I need to keep up this practice.

2. Getting Woody His Canine Good Citizen Title

I want to work on the Canine Good Citizen exercises with Woody, with the goal of earning his CGC title. He is capable of all of the things in the test, but putting them all together on any given day would not necessarily be a slam-dunk for him. He can be spooked by strange people at times, and working on the exercises in the test would be a good way to help him get more comfortable with meeting people and improve his reliability in public settings.

I want to find a class to work on these things, or even start a Meetup-type group with other local dog owners who would be interested in helping each other with our dogs to accomplish this goal.

whole dog journal editor nancy kerns

Agility class graduation for Woody.

3. Agility Competitions!

I want to try an agility competition – even if it’s only once! – with either or both of my dogs. This is going to require more than a small investment of time, however. I have taken “fun” (i.e., not serious) agility classes with both of my dogs. Otto and I took a class years and years ago, and Woody and I took a class a few months ago. Both of my dogs love running and jumping and are even really good at the contact obstacles; but Otto is not crazy about weave poles and Woody has never even seen any. So this resolution, too, will require that we find a class and perhaps a practice facility, but it’s something I have been talking about forever, and it’s time I give it a shot. I really want to try it!

One of the reasons I am such a fan of agility has to do with the off-leash nature of the sport. If a dog doesn’t understand what his person wants, or finds the situation to be aversive in any way, it is painfully obvious to all observers, as the dog may take the wrong obstacles, decide to stop and sniff things, or even leave the ring! This forces the handler to be clear and precise, to have built a strong foundation of communication with her dog, and to have kept the training fun! I love the high-stakes nature of all that!

I think these three resolutions are PLENTY, and maybe even too much, but I am really going to try to get them all done in 2019. I will even commit to reporting on my progress as the year commences.

How about you? Anyone care to share some dog-oriented resolutions?

Comments (9)

We brush out dogs' teeth every single night. (On rare occasions, due to schedules, we skip one day.) I think this small task adds years to a dog's health. We have it as part of our daily routine after the last bathroom break for the night. The dogs now line up to get their teeth brushed every night. We don't feed raw, but feed a balanced, vet-recommended diet with supplements. Even an older rescue dog can learn the routine. They don't like the nightly brushing, but accept it as part of what is to be expected. (One dog also accepts daily pilling of medication. It's all in the approach: gentleness and attitude.)

Posted by: Three Dog Mom | December 28, 2018 2:53 PM    Report this comment

I brush my greyhounds' teeth every other day. My vet says that's good and their teeth look great on that schedule. It somehow doesn't seem as onerous as brushing every day. If I miss a day, then I just brush on the next day and move forward from there.

Posted by: YIKMDLF | December 28, 2018 11:10 AM    Report this comment

Experience had taught me that shooting for brushing a couple of times a week makes it too easy to make excuses. Also I found that if I set a goal of brushing in the evening, I could find excuses to skip that day. Long day at work, club meeting, tired, sleepy, etc. Brushing as literally the first task of every morning left no room for excuses. It got the job done.

Posted by: Furrykids | December 27, 2018 4:40 PM    Report this comment

Been feeding raw along with some recreational raw bones. Dogs all have pearly white teeth.

Posted by: Diane Cummings | December 27, 2018 4:04 PM    Report this comment

I have found that dental wipes work better than a toothbrush for my little dog.

Posted by: MollyPurrkins | December 27, 2018 2:33 PM    Report this comment

I've been feeding my dogs raw for 20 years and never once in their entire lives have I needed to brush their teeth. When I switched to raw, I did it overnight, with all five of the dogs I had at the time. Within two weeks, they all had teeth as white as when they first grew in. And that's just one of the benefits. There are many more, but that's not relevant to this article.

Posted by: GiftofGalway | December 27, 2018 2:17 PM    Report this comment

I've been brushing my dogs' teeth daily for years now. I find that it helps me know as soon as anything goes wrong, which can be as valuable as the brushing itself. Sometimes it's as simple as something stuck between the teeth (which will make the gum bleed when you brush there); sometimes the dog suddenly jerks back in pain and you realize for the first time that they have broken a tooth (something that can be missed for a long time while the dog is in pain and the tooth becomes infected and then abscessed -- much better to know about it sooner rather than later).

The trick is to make brushing part of your daily routine, ideally at the same time you brush your own teeth or first thing in the morning. If I try to just remember to do it sometime during the day, it gets forgotten more often than not.

You don't have to spend a lot of time at it. Just brush the outside of the teeth, no need to do the inside. 15-30 seconds on each side plus a little time on the front will get the job done. Be sure to use dog toothpaste (or just a wet toothbrush); adult human toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed. For dogs not thrilled with the idea, the flavored toothpastes can help. I use a child's toothbrush for my dogs; no need to use a special dog toothbrush as long as the bristles are soft and the back is flat.

Posted by: Mary Straus | December 27, 2018 1:25 PM    Report this comment

I totally understand about the tooth brushing issue. I fretted about it for years and was very sporadic about it. But, my current vet doesn't push it. He says that chewing on chew toys does an amazing job of cleaning up dogs teeth. My little dog, Wookie, was building up some ugly stuff on his teeth and there are two things that have polished his teeth up very nicely while he has fun. I buy old denim jeans at thrift shops or garage sales, wash them well, and tear them into strips. I knot the ends and use them as tug toys. After the game of tug, both my dogs carry these off someplace comfy and chew on them for quite a long time. They last a very long time and don't make a mess. Second, I discovered Dream Bones. They last as long as rawhide, but without the digestive problems. Again, both my dogs love these and they really clean up their teeth. So, now I don't beat myself up for not brushing and my dogs have sparkly white teeth!

Posted by: Wookie's Mom | December 27, 2018 12:30 PM    Report this comment

I keep meaning to do all these things. I'm the one that's lazy. I'm so lucky to have my current dog that was tgiven to me a month ago. He has his advanced rally and obedience titles, therapy and CGC, but Agility for us would be a great idea. Now, I need to get out of the house and into the bitter cold for longer than his hour morning walk. He loves the cold and lies outside for hours with the wind blowing in his face and through his coat.

Posted by: Holly 1 | December 27, 2018 12:27 PM    Report this comment

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