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Have a happy, healthy 2023

On the 1st January, lots of us made the pledge to have a happy, healthy 2023, so what better way to start than with plenty of walks and fresh air? Walking is not only good for our physical state, but it is great for our mental health as well, especially walking in nature! In fact, being in or interacting with nature holds many of the same benefits as walking and exercise, such as improving your mood and reducing anxiety. After a long walk, you’ve probably noticed how much better you feel for it.

Just like humans, every dog has different exercise needs, and as a pet-parent you know what they can manage safely. Most dogs will need at least one walk a day to keep happy and healthy. To walk 1 mile will take around 20 minutes at a comfortable pace, which is ideal for smaller or older dogs who may struggle with longer distances.

Take on a challenge for 2023

Taking on a challenge can really give you something to focus on. There are many charity events planned throughout this year to raise greatly needed funds to support the many animals affected by the cost-of-living crisis, as well as pets given as unwanted Christmas presents. By raising money to help the charity to continue to care for these animals, you also have an incentive to keep going on whatever event you choose.

The RSPCA is launching a Campaign, ‘My Big Walkies’, which takes place throughout March 2023. You can sign up now, for free, here! Simply choose your own target distance, there’s no minimum fundraising target, plus your four-legged walking buddy will receive a free dog bandana!

The Blue Cross is organising a London Winter Walk which takes place on Saturday 28th and Sun 29th Jan. It has full marathon and half marathon options, both starting at The Oval cricket ground. There’s a free bobble hat and neck buff for all who register and participate, and you’ll be helping to raise urgently needed funds! For more info click here.

For those of you who are more active, Alzheimer’s Society are hosting ‘Trek26’ this year. Take on an epic 13- or 26-mile trek in breath-taking locations across the UK. You’ll join hundreds of others who are walking to stop dementia in its tracks. 

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, colloquially known as Guide Dogs, is a British charitable organization founded in 1934. The charity is finding it difficult to keep up with the demand for guide dogs. They have a shortage of volunteers to look after guide dog puppies and older dogs in training, which means some people with sight loss are having to wait up to two years for a dog. The charity explains that the shortage has reached a critical stage and means it’s having to limit the number of dogs in training.

If you are ready for a challenge that could change someone’s life for the better, and think you have the time and passion to be become a volunteer puppy raiser, why not reach out to Guide Dogs and offer your help? Click here.

Challenges can come in many guises

With January’s cold, dark mornings and wet, windy weather it not surprising people suffer from the January blues. But there are things you can do to help lift your spirits and increase motivation and happiness!

Self-care is very important. With the stress and strains of everyday life taking their toll on our mind and body, taking time out to focus on yourself is key to keeping the right balance. Meditation is one act of self-care that only takes 10 minutes a day and comes with a whole host of benefits, such as increased awareness, clarity, compassion, and a sense of calm.

There are many online Mindfulness and Meditation apps you can download such as Headspace and Mindful.

To find out more about how Mindfulness and Meditation can help you enjoy life to the full, click here.

Try something different

So, how about trying something completely different in the new year?… Have you ever wondered what Goat yoga is all about? Perhaps now is the time to find out!

Human-animal interaction releases Oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as “the love hormone.” It reduces stress and induces feelings of happiness when released during bonding activities. Some other health benefits from goat yoga include enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, and heightened flexibility.

Goats naturally like to climb, and with their soft hooves they can give a gentle massage which is reported to be like a Shiatsu massage. Goats are friendly creatures who like to interact with humans, so they enjoy the one-to-one experience too. So, if you’re feeling adventurous and fancy trying something that might be a bit out of your comfort zone, there are various wellbeing establishments around the country who offer this experience. If nothing else, it’s something to tell your friends! Click here to learn more.

If you’re leaning towards a less up-close and person experience, but would still like to try something different, you could try an afternoon walking with Alpacas. This is often presented as a package combined with a more convivial afternoon tea. Click here to learn more.

Returning to work

In our post-Covid world, the act of going to work has changed and many people are able to work from home, but, for some, this option is not possible, so going to work means leaving the house and their pet for most of the day.

Over the festive period our four-legged friends enjoyed 24/7 love and attention snuggled up with their human family but come January many are back to the reality of doggy day-care, pet walkers or, in some cases, left home-alone. This sudden change of routine can come as a bit of a shock and some pets will suffer from separation anxiety.

Anxiety can be expressed in many ways, so here’s what to look out for in dogs:

  • Refusing to eat.
  • Excessive barking.
  • Whining, howling when you’ve gone.
  • Clinging to owners.
  • Shaking and trembling.
  • Going to the toilet in the house.
  • Destructive behaviour such as self-harming, over grooming
  • Chewing furniture etc.

Similarly, cats also display behaviour such as:

  • Refusing to eat.
  • Excessive meowing when you’ve gone
  • Hiding
  • Destructive behaviour such as self-harming, over grooming
  • Scratching the furniture
  • Going to the toilet around the house, instead of outside or in their litter box.

This is distressing for pets but equally distressing for pet parents. However, there are steps you can take to help alleviate stress and anxiety and help pets settle back into their pre-Christmas routine:

  • Leave the TV or radio on whilst your gone
  • Set up a Wi-Fi camera that you can talk to them through
  • Leave an item of your clothing where they sleep
  • Provide them with things to occupy them, such as placing food or treats inside a puzzle feeder

You might like to consider a natural calming pet food or supplement to help manage their stress and anxiety. There are also various plug-in products to help comfort and calm your pets such as ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser for dogs or FELIWAY Classic Diffuser for cats, both are available to buy from your Vet or good pet retailer.

Your pet will have got used to lots of cuddles over the Christmas period, so now you are spending more time away, they might find comfort from a ‘calming bed’. This super soft bed envelopes your pet, like giving them a virtual hug!

Many animal charities offer advice on how to help keep your pets stress-free and deal with separation anxiety, but if your pet is struggling it is best to contact a qualified behaviourist, who can often be recommended by your local vet.

Dogs Trust separation anxiety in dogs advice.

PDSA separation anxiety in cats advice.

Final thoughts

There’s something magical about the calendar clicking over to the 1st of January, the chime of Big Ben, hailing a new start; 365 days of new possibilities to make a change to your own and other people’s lives. We often start the new year with multiple resolutions that fall by the wayside by February, so why not just have one?… To have a happy and healthy 2023.

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