This holiday, take a few moments to remember that the things our dogs do that we might find challenging or annoying or even hair-pullingly frustrating, are not their fault. They are doing their best to adapt to our environments, our schedules, our families. And God knows, we don't make it easy for them. So if you find yourself getting impatient with your dog, take a couple of deep breaths and try to see things from their perspective. Behaviors that we label "bad" are usually matters of miscommunication-our dog may not understand what we want, or we may be asking for things that he or she cannot realistically achieve. "Bad" behaviors can also be a manifestation of frustration, boredom, or anxiety-all of which are forms of suffering and should be addressed with the help of a veterinary behaviorist.
4. A veterinary appointment.
I met a dog recently whose only veterinary visit during his entire life was his final euthanasia appointment. He had a large tumor in his mouth, which had metastasized throughout his body. This dog probably spent months if not years suffering from untreated pain in his mouth. And he is not alone. At least a quarter of dogs never see a vet in their lifetime-never once. And many more only see a vet when they are badly injured or are in the advanced stages of a serious disease. It would be far better for our dogs if we took the money we were going to spend on doggie sweaters, Thinkers treats, or new toys, and invested in a yearly checkup (and maybe even pet insurance). As with humans, preventive care is the best medicine. You might take your dog to the vet for a well-ness visit and spend $100 on "nothing"-the vet will tell you that your dog is perfectly healthy. Rather than thinking, "Dang, I just wasted a hundred bucks," think of this as an investment in your dog's total lifetime health. Annual check-ups once an animal becomes "geriatric" (which is around age 7 for an medium sized dog) are especially important. Regular visits, with blood work, can identify chronic and acute health problems early, when treatment is most effective. And many older dogs suffer from painful conditions like degenerative joint disease and need pain medications to keep them feeling comfortable.