Downeast Dog News
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Celebrate Dogs This February

By Susan Spisak | Feb 01, 2021

February is the month of love with Valentine’s Day as its pinnacle. Some of us shower our important people with cards, candy, a nice meal, even flowers. Many of us dog lovers include our 4-leggeds in this ritual, too – after all they’re family. While the canines won’t give a hoot about Valentine’s Day gifts or the cash you drop on them, there are ways to celebrate them all month and beyond. And if you don’t have a pet – now may be a good time to open your heart to one.

Start February by getting in the habit of regular walks. Grab her leash after she’s downed her kibble and set out. Go at her pace and chat along the way – this serves to strengthen your relationship. The interaction and exercise are good stimulants, and once you make your way home, she can get busy with a snooze.

I’m not an extravagant buyer for my boys. That said, I do believe in using holidays to purchase necessities – a collar or leash, an ID tag to replace a faded one, a bandana, or a backdoor dog-themed rug that promises to grab garden mud. (I did buy a “just because” navy plaid vest for Teddy during a virtual rescue fundraiser - it was for the dogs! - and he thinks he’s all that in it.) If you are a shopper, pick up some goodies. A colorful winter sweater and cheerful rain boots are fun yet useful investments.

If you’re an all-in type of person, meaning you’d cook a Valentine’s Day dinner for your dog, go for it (make sure it’ll all jive with her system). I’m super careful as Ted appears to be lactose intolerant. I take the easy way out and head to a drive-thru for a few jr. bacon burgers – no pickles or onions, please. Always a hit. (I do this at birthdays as well.)

Treat your fur pal to an in-home spa experience. There’s nothing like a massage from her human to settle. Slowly massage the back, shoulders, and limbs. Don’t forget to gently rub her ear flaps. (My new rescue almost sighs out loud when I do this and fights to keep his eyes open.) All this attention will leave her feeling pampered. Now that you’ve mussed her fur, shed her coat. Brush it back into place, spritz with a scented finishing spray, and she’ll shine.

If she’s in need of professional services, now’s a good time to try a mini-makeover. I utilize a groomer for nail cuts, “slipper feet” fur trims, and a 15-minute brush out. The guys look and feel good, and again, it’s in the budget. They enjoy the car ride to the shop – and the cookies they’re given when finished.

Reboot any basic commands like sit, stay, off, come, and leave it that need fine tuning. Utilize positive reinforcement training that emphasizes rewards such as treats and praise for appropriate behavior. Check out tips at the Humane Society of United States website at tinyurl.com/yy8cthje.

Deepen your bond by working on tricks together. They can add a layer of stimulation to her day – and you can do them daily. For tricks and guidance - aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/fun-tricks-to-teach-your-dog/. Try the “Army Crawl” and “Take a Bow.” Also see the “shaping” technique in the training URL mentioned above and try it with tricks such as “shake.”

Now if you don’t have a pet but would like to become involved with a shelter or rescue, scan local websites and see if you can become a foster home. Ask if you can safely exercise their dogs outdoors, accustoming yourself to 4-leggeds. Maybe there’s a need for volunteers who can process paperwork or write grants virtually. And if your time’s limited, you can help those groups by donating goods such as food, blankets, towels, printer paper, and cleaning supplies. For a unique gesture, make a monetary donation in honor of a friend’s birthday or as a holiday gift to the nonprofit.

Perhaps during this month of love, you’re leaning towards adopting. Know that opening yourself to a homeless dog will add purpose to your life. Once you’re a team (it may take time for her to adjust – talk to the staff for advice), you’ll find that she’ll become your best friend. She’ll be your therapist of sorts, hugging you when you’re down, and snuggling you as needed. It’ll be nice to come home to her, or if you’re a work-from-homer, a co-worker who will lighten the day. You will quickly discover what dog owners already know - that having a special canine in your life will bring you happiness and joy, not just this month, but all year long.