Give Your Dog A Fresh Start

You may be considering how you can improve your life in the new year – but what about your pet's?

For humans, the goals aren't necessarily just about losing weight. They may decide to improve eating habits, exercise more or take better care of their teeth. You dog could also benefit from those life-improving intentions, and you can help.

Eat Your Broccoli
Nutrition is obviously important, and you may feel you have that covered with a high-quality dog food that is age and breed appropriate. According to the American Kennel Club, that's only part of the equation: Dogs, little beggars that they are, will insist on people food whenever they can, but since people and dogs have different nutritional requirements, it's usually not a good idea. There's an exception to that, however. Most dogs like vegetables, so think about adding broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, peas and beans to the snack menu. Along with nutritious dog treats, you can give your pup dessert in the form of bananas, apples and melon. All are low-calorie and dog-friendly – and will make him think he's getting people food after all.

Run, Spot, Run
Dogs are less complicated than people in terms of exercise, so you can skip the gym and accelerate the run. For less active dogs, simply walking them more frequently will make a difference.

Inclement weather is no obstacle, either. Noted dog trainer Cesar Milan identified some indoor activities that you can share, such as running your dog up and down the stairs, creating his very own Stairmaster. According to Milan, the steps engage different muscles than those worked on a walk or run, and the change in elevation ramps up the level of difficulty.

With you at the top of the stairs and your dog at the bottom, tell him to come, maybe with the help of a squeaky dog toy. After a few minutes of play, your dog will be as winded as you would in his place.

Brush Your Teeth
Good oral hygiene is important for humans and canines alike, but you dog can't brush his own teeth. With dogs, it's not about pearly whites – it's about the potentially harmful bacteria that can cause bad breath and periodontal disease. Prevention is the key, so brush your dog's teeth using a good toothbrush and canine toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste, since it usually contains fluoride, which is extremely poisonous for dogs.

A new year is a great time for new beginnings, so this year, help your pet follow your good example.