Now that it's coming up to January 1st 2009, lots of people will be pledging to stop biting their nails, lose weight, get fitter or give up chocolate. Last night my husband and I agreed to take up some sort of volunteer work, which I suspect is also a fairly common resolution. But there are also the kinds of promises you can only hope the world will make.
Here are the doggy resolutions I hope people will make in the coming year:
1. I will do my research and be sure not to buy from a puppy farm
There's plenty of advice out there if you're looking for a specific breed, from pointing you in the direction of a breed rescue to giving you tips for recognising a reputable breeder. It can be tempting when you suspect that a puppy is being bred unscrupulously to buy it in order to 'rescue' it, but unfortunately all this is money in the pockets of those who would mistreat dogs.
If you think there's something suspicious going on, please report it to the local Animal Warden on the RSPCA. If the animals are taken in to rehoming centres you can always rehome that same pup after it's been checked over and is ready to find its forever home.
2. I will exhibit good doggy manners
If you have a dog, please make sure you clean up after them! Apart from being unpleasant for others, poo can contain parasites which can make children and vulnerable adults very sick.
If your dog's recall is less than perfect, remember to keep him or her on a long leash until they've got the hang of it. This will help prevent straying or bounding up to a person or dog who might be nervous and not appreciate it.
If you don't have a dog but often see them in your area, please make sure you ask the permission of the owner before approaching an unfamiliar dog. Some dogs are nervous of strangers and it's always best to check first!
3. I will get my dog microchipped
There has been a steady increase in the number of dogs reunited with owners who were very distressed at their disappearance but who had taken the time to have their dog microchipped. This quick, safe, painless and cheap process can save you and your dog from the heartache of separation and save local councils, Dogs Trust and other charities from spending time and money caring for a dog who already has a loving home.
4. I will consider neutering my dog
Any veterinary procedure is, of course, down to the owner. You can read more about the pros and cons of neutering on the Dogs Trust website, but we do believe that that benefits are very important. As well as reducing the numbers of unwanted pups, neutering helps avoid a variety of dangerous medical conditions. You might decide against it, as is your right, but please just have a think about it and ask your vet for more information.
5. I will consider adopting a rescue dog
For all sorts of reasons, people do buy puppies and that's understandable. If you have a specific breed in mind or want to raise a pup from infancy it is something you might want to do, and many people working at or supporting Dogs Trust have done so! We just ask that if you're thinking of getting a dog you remember that there are thousands of dogs out there waiting for a second chance in a home like yours. They'll be neutered, microchipped and vaccinated, and we'll be on hand for the rest of their lives to support you in their training.
Let us know about your New Year's Resolutions - doggy or otherwise - in the comments, and I hope you have fun whether you're painting the town red or disappearing under your duvet tonight.