Pets help reduce stress, improve your health, and bring joy to your life. It’s no surprise that a 2016 study shows shows that 98% of pet owners agree their pet is an important part of their family. National Pet Month is a great time to celebrate the connection you share — here are some ideas to show your pet some love. Grooming A grooming session is always a good start to bonding with your pet. Not only is grooming important for skin and fur health, it’s also beneficial for their mental and emotional health. Mammals of many kinds bond by grooming each other, from cats to apes. And anyone who has dogs has likely been the recipient of a tongue-bath from their pooch. Both cats and dogs need proper grooming, especially our long-haired friends. Pets can be skittish of the tools we use to brush and clean. If you dive right in to try to remove a mat or brush their teeth, it will probably result in an unhappy pet. But with a little time and effort, you can make the experience enjoyable for both of you. Start slow and small, introducing grooming tools for them to smell and inspect, offering plenty of treats and positive words. Wait until your pet is already relaxed, like after eating or a long walk. Continue with short sessions and stop when she seems uncomfortable. Dole out treats as you switch tools or at the end of the session. Once she’s comfortable and used to her “spa treatments,” remember to keep it up and make it part of your daily, weekly, or monthly routine. Walks, Walks, Walks Spending time outside together is a great way to bond and provide exercise and mental stimulation for both you and your pets. Walking with your dog or cat helps alleviate behavior issues stemming from boredom, provides opportunities for training, and helps reinforce your shared bond. If you have a dog, you’re probably already used to going for walks once or twice a day. For more fun, try mixing it up a little: Take a different route and go down some new streets or a different path Incorporate training, like practicing “wait” and “leave it” commands Let her sniff to her heart’s content for several minutes — it may seem boring to you, but the outdoors is a symphony of smells to a dog! And going for a walk isn’t just for dogs — try leash training your feline friend! For adult cats especially, you’ll want to introduce the harness and leash slowly and patiently. If your cat never quite gets the hang of it, consider installing a catio in your backyard instead. Catios are a great way to give your kitty access to the outdoors while keeping them and the local wildlife safe. Bring Fido with You Find places you can take your dog with you. Most cities will have at least a few dog-friendly places to visit, like cafes and bars with patios, certain retail shops, or outdoor events. Some will even have special treats just for your furry friend, like a biscuit or a “puppaccino”! Be sure to take into consideration your pet’s temperament and needs before you take her any place new. Crowded festivals, for example, are often overwhelming for dogs, even if they’re technically allowed. So pay attention to her body language and signs of stress, like barking, whining, tucking her tail, or trembling. As with any new experience, ease her into it with patience and care, and remove her from the situation if necessary. Celebrate Your Pet Year-Round From a new grooming routine to finding a place you can take them out with you, celebrating your pet is always a good idea. Keep the extra attention going year-round and the bond you share will keep growing.