Top 10 Gifts That Last a Lifetime

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The lingering aroma of hot cider, eggnog, and evergreen, sparkling lights that brightened each night, and my great hope for a wonderful new year, stir me to share a list of “gifts” that can enhance the quality of every dog’s life. Your thoughtful choices make a big difference-- from adoption to the twilight days.

1. Adoption
Consider adoption as a first-choice. There’s a wide array of deserving dogs that need families. You may find an already house-trained, obedience-trained, and socialized dog that fits in easily in your home.

2. Veterinary Care
Be pro-active about your dog’s health and ask questions. Personal recommendations from a trusted friend or professional are best. Consider integrative care that combines both standard and holistic treatment, and importantly, look for a vet that practices gentle handling. Check out pet health insurance, and don’t forget to take care of those pearly whites.

3. Spay/Neuter
Help stop the over-population problem by choosing to spay or neuter early and don’t breed except with excellent reason and planning. Reliable research tells us that spay/neuter prevents or decreases many behavior problems and has some medical benefits as well.

4. Training
Begin training at 8 weeks or as soon thereafter as possible. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior advises: "Training should be based on positive reinforcement with frequent rewards, praise, petting, play and/or treats. Positive and consistent training is associated with fewer behavior problems and greater obedience than methods that involve punishment and/or encourage human dominance" (2008). Socialize, socialize, socialize!

5. Nutrition
Be careful about what you put into your dog. Read the ingredients list. Feed a super-premium grade food with a specifically named meat as the first ingredient and avoid, fillers, by-products, artificial flavoring, preservatives, coloring and sugar. Rotate between meats and brands to achieve variety. Provide supplements of Vitamin/mineral and Omega 3/6 and feed at least a little wet food each day or soften kibble with broth or water.

6. Exercise
Provide your dog with sufficient exercise for her size, breed and activity level. Most medium, large and giant breeds need to run. The health and behavioral benefits of a happy, well-exercised dog are priceless.

7. Grooming
Please search out a gentle groomer.

8. Environmental Enhancement
Your dog needs and enjoys novel scenery, sounds, objects and activities just as people do. Provide a toy box, food-toys, chew items, a window with a view, and activities that will keep your hound stimulated and out of trouble. Consider re-landscaping a dog-friendly yard for your Bowser.

9. Twilight Days
In-home end of life procedures provided by a mobile veterinarian are often the kindest choice for an aged or sickly beloved pet.

10. Love...infuse all of the above with a big dose of your love!

Dogs are our closest, most beloved animal companions, so it behooves us to consider every aspect of their care and well-being carefully.

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: [email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at 

Originally published RanchCoastNews, Lorine Wright, Executive Editor.  All rights reserved.

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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


4 thoughts on “Top 10 Gifts That Last a Lifetime

  1. Karen

    Love the show. I work in the animal field as a pet nurse. I watch and learn so much from you. I utilize your methods on a daily basis in the clinic and at home. thanks so much and please keep sharing your wisdom.

  2. Barbara

    I so agree with your ten gifts list. I have a 8 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, named Chase.How much exercise in the way of walks would you recommend ? And at what age should I change him to adult food. I love your show, please don't stop, we need your wisdom and support.

  3. Najia

    This is such a sweet and inspiring blog post 🙂 Our dogs deserve the best, and you certainly summed up what we can do to help give them our best with your list. In regards to #1, adopting -- I was at the shelter on Gaines Street yesterday, and I had such a hard time walking around and seeing so many WONDERFUL dogs who just wanted one person to love them and give them a home. I really hope more people start to go adopt dogs instead of going to breeders -- every single one of those dogs deserves a chance, and it breaks my heart to know that at the current rate, many of them won't get it. In terms of nutrition, I've got to give a shout-out to my favorite brand, Wellness! 🙂

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