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This new year, set your pet straight

Lose weight, exercise, take a class.

A local animal shelter wants those common people resolutions to also become your pet's resolutions.

The SPCA Tampa Bay says exercising together is a good way for man and his best friend to shed unwanted holiday pounds. For the dog that doesn't walk well on a leash, an obedience class can help.

The new year is a great time to get started, said Marissa Segundo, public relations manager for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Tampa Bay in Largo. "People are going to the gym. They get motivated and they want to do something for themselves and their pets.''

Like in humans, pet obesity can contribute to various health problems, including diabetes, kidney failure and degenerative hip disease in dogs. If left unchecked, it can shorten a pet's lifespan.

For dogs, the SPCA Tampa Bay has two-hour and six-week obedience classes to help owners better understand and communicate with their four-legged friends. For cats, the shelter offers a two-hour cat talk and cat care class, which covers nutrition and playtime. It also has a behavioral hotline at (727) 586-3591, ext. 133.

Classes strengthen the bond between owner and pet and help pets stay in homes. About 70 percent of animals returned to shelters are sent back because of behavioral problems, Segundo said.

Mary Birrell, a dog behavioral therapist for Bark Busters in the Tampa Bay area, said January and February are typically busy months for trainers. People got puppies for Christmas and now need help training them.

Birrell works with dogs wherever they may need assistance, such as a dog park where a pet might act like a bully. Common problems include ignoring commands, jumping on guests and tugging on the leash.

Some issues are resolved in one visit; others take several. For $500 to $700, Bark Busters offers a lifetime support training package for problems that arise throughout a dog's life.

"A lot of times, it's not the dogs that are digressing,'' Birrell said. It's the humans."

Sit! Stay! Good boy

The SPCA Tampa Bay is offering basic canine obedience classes from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jan. 18 and from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the shelter, 9099 130th Ave. N, Largo. Free for adopters and $25 for the public. Six-week courses run on Thursdays from 7 to 8 p.m. Jan. 8 to Feb. 12 and on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 to Feb. 28. $45 for adopters and $65 for the public. A Cat Talk and Cat Care class is from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 10. Free for adopters and $10 for the public. SPCATampaBay.org.

This new year, set your pet straight 01/01/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 1, 2009 7:23pm]

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