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Responsible Pet Ownership Month

February is National Pet Ownership Month, a time for pet owners to take special care of their furry friends. Pet parenting is a rewarding experience that can leave picture-precious moments and life-long memories. But, what makes a responsible pet owner? Here are things to consider:
ID Dogs and Cats
Before taking home a dog or cat, ID your animals. If your pet gets lost, identification tags will help locate the missing animal. Register dog microchips, if able. 
Dog Training
Whether you take your dog to a certified dog trainer near you, or train puppies in the fenced-in backyard, training dogs is necessary for proper growth. Untrained dogs tend to act out, not listen to their owners, and have poor skills.
Training dogs can be fun, especially with the use of dog treats for positive reinforcement. Teach dogs basic commands at an early age including "sit," "stand," "jump," and "wait." 
Exercise
Dog exercise is increasingly important as the dog ages and should be done at an early age. Physical activities for dogs can be combined with training exercises - making them "wait" for food or "jump" for a toy. These strength exercises help dogs achieve strong bones and will reduce the chance for cardiovascular problems in the future. Dogs that do not get daily exercise end up lethargic - and in some cases, obese. In fact, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, roughly 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
Nutrition
The combination of exercise and nutrition go hand-and-hand. Healthy pet foods provide proteins that will energize pets and help them stay lean and fit. As a responsible pet owner, it's important to read labels and know exactly what you are giving your pet to eat. Do not over-or-under feed pets. Give them the recommended food amount that a vet determines is appropriate. Overfeeding can lead to unhealthy dogs (overweight or obese --> causing arthritis, heavy breathing and other health complications.)
Regular Vet Care
Keep your pets up-to-date with shots and vaccines and follow their behavioral patterns. If your pet isn't "acting like his/herself" it's probably because something is wrong. Like humans, pets get sick, too; and annual visits to the vet are necessary for puppies. Senior dogs will need to visit the dog more often as complications arise or as owners feel is best for their pets - usually semi-annual visits are common.
Socialization
Socialization is part of improving animal wellness. Whether you take your animal to a dog park, or have a doggie play date in the backyard, dogs need a safe environment to run and play with other animals. While at home, dogs and owners should bond and exercise together. 
Grooming/Hygiene
Dogs and cats both should be groomed regularly. Matted hair is uncomfortable for a dog and can make them itchy. Remember, fur not only keeps animals warm, but also keeps them safe from sunburns and extreme cold. Gently run a brush through dogs and cats and be sure to check for ticks, especially around the legs, ears and chest. 
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