Before you make the decision to buy a holiday puppy or dog for your family or for someone else, there are many things to research, learn and consider.
TAKE YOUR TIME! The cost of the actual purchase or adoption fee is the tip of the iceberg when purchasing any new pet. There are ongoing costs of a high quality food, yearly health exams, dental care, and vaccinations for healthy pets. This doesn’t include the unforeseen costs of injuries and illnesses. ( MSN Money in Dec. 2010 stated in an article “Will Your Pet Bankrupt You?” that the average cost for a small-large dog is $1300-$1800 for the first year.
DO YOUR RESEARCH! Talk to several breeders or a find a breed club. Study the breed standard; learn about the genetic health issues and behaviors. Go to www.akc.org, look under breeds and breed clubs. Reputable breeders will ask as many questions of you as you are asking of them. If they don’t, they are more concerned about selling puppies instead of placing puppies in positive environments. They may be less concerned about breeding the good qualities into their line and keeping the genetic health issues out. Always get a health guarantee and take your new pet for a health exam within a few days.
GET AN OBJECTIVE OPINION! Consider a consultation with a trainer/behaviorist who will come to your home and help you to be set up for success. They will ask about your expectations are with your new pet. Behaviorists will council you on which breeds will be a better choice for your lifestyle, time you plan to invest in a new pet and other circumstances. This could be the best $75 you ever spend in connection to the cost of your new animal companion including preventing frustration and making sure you get the perfect match for your household. I am reminded of the quote “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
START TRAINING IMMEDIATELY! The time to start training your new dog (puppy or adult) is the moment you pick it up. Put the collar and leash on him, stuff your pocket with healthy, yummy treats and encourage him to FOLLOW you to the car, rewarding him along the way with tiny bites. Let him ride in the safety of a properly sized crate with washable bedding and IGNORE the howling (do not reward the howling with sweet words). It is SO much easier to start off encouraging “right” behavior from start than try to undo poor behavior that has become habitual. Set your new family member up for success by not giving it the opportunity to do something you do not want it to do. Do some puppy proofing of your home before it comes home. The time to teach your pup to be on a schedule, walk on a loose lead, to stay off furniture, not chew on shoes or jump on people is when it weighs 15 pounds not 50 to 100 pounds.
GET SUPPORT! Who is going to make sure the pup has a chance to relieve itself during the day? Can you come home mid-day? Can you hire someone? The general guideline is that a pup can stay crated for an hour per month of age. (4 months old = 4 hours) This guideline is as much for socializing as it is for potty breaks. It is unreasonable to expect a puppy less than 4 months old to not need a potty break after 4 hours! Many dogs will not become reliable to leave for 8 to 10 hours until they are close to a year old. If they have been well exercised and allowed a good opportunity to go potty they are more likely to be successful at being left alone. A tired dog is a good dog. A walk around the block isn’t going to be enough for an energetic young dog of any breed much less a working, hunting or herding breed. Hire a pet sitter that will continue to enforce any training you may be working on!
FIND AN EXPERT! Understand that training won’t stop after a few training classes. Training must be reinforced for the lifetime of your pet and builds the bond between you and your pet. It is a fact that the possibility of a health risk to a dog from being in a class is far, far less than the risk of possibly having to give the dog up for adoption or having it euthanized because of behavior problems. Don’t wait until an issue becomes big to contact an expert. Many times our solutions can make the issue worse! There are many professionals that can help you, get a referral from a friend or your locally owned pet place.
Keep working with your pet, building the bond between you and finding things you enjoy to do together! There are many MeetUp groups, obedience, therapy, agility and other interest groups that you and your pet would have a blast doing together! Animals are always to be treated humanely but please, do not do them the disservice of treating them like they are human, they are not. Treating a dog, cat or bird like it is human leads to many behavior problems and often a very unbalanced and confused animal. Find what they love and encourage them to do “dog things”!!
LAUND-UR-MUTT offers S.T.A.R. Puppy and Canine Good Citizen Classes as well as private behavior training in your home. Fran can do a consultation with you before you choose a new pet to give you tips and tricks on what to look for or to avoid. We also offer a Puppy 101/Survival Guide to get you off to a great start and your puppy gets to play & get tired!! We offer mid-day dog walking and puppy potty breaks. If you are trying to incorporate an adult pet into your home that may be overwhelmed or shy, take our Canine Massage for Pet Owners class that will help teach you how to teach trust and relaxation for your new dog!
Written by Fran Menley, Mindful Mutt Academy Instructor