The start of every new year predictably comes with the inevitable multiple lists of new year’s resolutions, the blank canvas made to do things to improve your health, sleep, weight or diet, or decrease the negative forces from the previous year.

Unfortunately, many resolutions fail after less than a month. But instead of focusing on resolutions about you, why not adopt resolutions to become a more responsible owner? Throughout the year, you can check your progress against the AKC’s Responsible Dog Owner’s pledge at akc.org.

This will help you make certain you and your dog have a happy and healthy new year. Resolutions have a greater chance of succeeding if you prepare mentally and set specific, realistic goals.

The American Kennel Club shares the following tips to help maintain and improve the health of your dog this new year:

  • Schedule your vet checkup today. Schedule your dog’s wellness appointment now because most veterinary hospitals and clinics are working at or beyond capacity and it may take weeks or even months to get a wellness appointment, so don’t put it off. During your visit, you can check off several other resolutions, including checking for parasites with a stool sample, performing a heartworm test and making sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations.
  • Learn how to properly clean your pet’s teeth. Make sure you brush your dog’s teeth daily. Plaque builds up quickly, so daily brushing is best. Be sure to only use products approved specifically for use by dogs. Human toothpaste can have ingredients that are toxic to dogs, including the sweetener xylitol. You can learn more from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (vohc.org).
  • Have your dog microchipped. If your dog already has one, be sure the information with the microchip company is up-to-date, especially if you have moved or changed your phone number, address or email. A microchip is no good if your dog (or cat) gets lost and the information that is being scanned by a shelter or hospital is not accurate. If your pet is not yet microchipped, talk to your vet about getting one.

Talk to your vet about diet and weight. Obesity is the number one preventable health issue in dogs in the United States. A few pounds gained (or lost) could be very important, especially in smaller or older animals. A good way to keep your pet at an appropriate weight is to measure their food daily and substitute vegetables for other treats. Do not feed your pet vegetables that have been cooked with butter or sauces. You can learn more about how to keep your dog at a healthy weight through the American Kennel Club’s Fit Dog program.

  • Enroll in pet insurance. Just like people, all dogs get sick or have an emergency at some point in their lives. Unexpected veterinary care can be costly. Research the different insurance plans to identify the one that best meets your needs. Another option is to put away funds monthly in a separate account to use solely for your dog’s medical emergencies.
  • Provide daily mental and physical stimulation. Dogs are intelligent creatures that require regular activity. Dogs that don’t have these other outlets may instead get into trouble with destructive behaviors. Daily walks, training and puzzles are all great ways to engage with your dog and provide it the physical and mental stimulation it requires.
  • Be a good dog neighbor. When out on a walk, always keep your dog on a leash. Even if your dog is friendly, other dogs and people may be fearful of your animal. Always ask before approaching another person or dog when your dog is with you. Also, be sure your dog doesn’t bark unnecessarily and disturb your neighbor. Proper training can help your dog behave appropriately in your environment.
  • Dispose of pet waste. Wherever your dog does its business — either in your yard or in the neighborhood while out on a walk — be sure to promptly pick up and properly dispose of your pet’s waste, as it can spread disease.
  • Properly train your dog. Your dog should learn proper behavior so that it is not a nuisance to people or animals. Several national pet store chains offer training programs, or you can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation of a certified professional dog trainer.
  • Schedule a photoshoot. It doesn’t have to be a professional photographer, though there are many wonderful photographers that specialize in capturing pets.

For more information on responsible dog ownership, visit the AKC website at www.akc.org.