Archive for December, 2010

Please don’t give a puppy as a holiday gift. As a professional dog behavioral therapist and trainer, I see cases year after year of puppies that were given as a “wow for now” surprise, but when the newness wore off and their owners became tired of all the daily puppy care responsibilities, they were neglected, given up or even abused.

A living puppy should not be thought of in the same category as a holiday toy. When a puppy is adopted, he should be carefully chosen as a permanent addition to the family who will contribute much, but will also have needs of his own, which require a serious commitment from all family members to meet.

Many dogs surrendered to shelters are young — just 6 months to 3 years old — and a good portion of these are puppies younger than 6 months old. In addition, people need to know that the No. 1 cause of death for dogs isn’t trauma or disease — it’s euthanasia due to behavior problems. In fact, 3 million to 4 million dogs and cats will be euthanized this year in the U.S. That number could include that cute puppy bought as a Christmas gift.
Adding a puppy to your life is, on average, a 15-year responsibility. Raising a happy, well-balanced puppy requires an enormous time commitment, so a young pup is not a suitable choice for every dog-lover. Remember, it may take several years for a rambunctious puppy to settle down into a calmer adult dog.

Giving a child a puppy does make for delightful photos on Christmas morning. But a puppy is not a toy. Most children under the age of 8 do not understand a puppy’s needs, that puppies cannot be carried around, poked or teased. Having a puppy or dog does not teach a child responsibility. Parents teach responsibility. In fact, it will be the parents who ultimately must do the majority of the walking, feeding and cleaning associated with pet ownership.

If the intended recipient seems ready for a puppy, be sure they can answer “yes” to these questions:

* Are you ready to participate in managing all aspects of the responsibilities of puppy (and dog) ownership, each and every day? Most dogs, even small breeds, need lots of exercise to stay healthy and happy.

* Are you willing to provide opportunities for your dog to run, walk, and play every single day?

* Do you understand that a dog is not a person, and will need consistent training to learn to become a good canine citizen?

* Can you afford to provide good nutrition, regular veterinary care and grooming so your dog will be in good health inside and out?

* Are you willing to walk or take your dog out to toilet at least six times a day, in all sorts of weather?

* Are you and your house ready for the inevitable dirt, hair, slobber, potty accidents and spilled food and water that a dog brings?

* Do you have a reliable pet sitter or dog walker who can care for your pet when you’re at work or out of town?

If someone on your gift list really wants a puppy, consider giving a homemade gift certificate for one instead. Wrap a can of dog food, fancy collar or good book on raising a puppy, and include a note saying a puppy (or dog) of the recipient’s choice comes with the gift.

And remember, too, that dogs of all ages make perfect companions. Most adult dogs tend to be calmer, have more predictable behaviors and are already housebroken. Local animal rescue groups and shelters have a wonderful selection of adult dogs, including purebreds. According to the Humane Society of the United States, up to 30 percent of shelter dogs are purebreds.

If your gift recipient is really ready for dog ownership, set a date after the holidays to start looking for the perfect dog. Research different breeds, identify responsible breeders or visit your local animal shelter or rescue group so the gift recipient can choose a dog that they really want and one that will match their lifestyle.

As a professional dog trainer, I am committed to helping people better understand how dogs think, act and communicate, and therefore be responsible dog owners. The holidays are the giving season — so give a puppy his best chance to become a long-term companion and have a happy life by not putting him under the tree.

Rachel R. Baum, CPDT-KA is a dog behavioral therapist and master trainer at Bark Busters Home Dog Training.

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Mary Roberts • December 14, 2010

I am a member of the dog police.

No, I’m not an animal control officer, and I don’t have a trained police dog attentive and alert to my wishes. The only time my dogs jump smartly to attention is when the refrigerator door opens.

In my dog police alias, I spring into action whenever I hear the words “we are thinking of getting a dog.” That’s when I glide uncomfortably close to you and ask, “And from where are you getting this said dog?” (I’m not invited to many parties.)

If you are already gushing about Precious and his adorable antics, I ask, “And from whence did you get this aforementioned canine?”

You assure me that he was adopted from a shelter or that you found him lying helpless in a gutter. Or, unperturbed by my rudeness, you say, “He was so cute, and at $200 off the regular price, we got him from the pet store.”

I glide away, unable to pursue further conversation. Some say I should take that opportunity to educate the person about shelter dogs, puppy mills and doing the right thing.

They already have the dog, and wagging my finger at them for their ignorance is pointless. So I’m wagging my finger at you.

At this time of year, normally thoughtful people decide that a new puppy is the ideal Christmas gift. Trust me … it’s not.

If you must ignore my protestations, here are some facts:

> 3 to 4 million healthy and adoptable dogs are euthanized every year in shelters.

> Only 21 percent of Americans get their dogs from shelters.

> Most Americans blame the shelter dogs for their circumstances.

> Most Americans are wrong.


This past November, Missouri passed puppy-mill legislation that limited large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities to 50 breeding dogs. It also demands such luxury amenities as yearly vet checks, daily food, clean water, rest periods between breeding cycles and, oh, yes, decent housing.

Most of these puppy-mill dogs are sold at pet stores and on the Internet.

Some pet stores advertise that they do not sell dogs from puppy mills. Ask the owners if they have visited all their providers and assured themselves that the hundreds of dogs in wire cages are just part of one big happy family.

With the passage of the Missouri bill and the crackdown of large-scale facilities in other states, we will see thousands of dogs dumped at auctions and at shelters.

You have a chance to make a difference with these dogs and the thousands of others that are still at shelters and breed rescues.

When you buy from a pet store or off the Internet, you are supporting an industry that treats dogs as a cash crop and not the loyal and beloved companions they have become.

Go to the humane society, Animal House, www.petfinder.com, find a breed rescue. Or find a reputable professional breeder whose bottom line is the health and welfare of the breed and not their profit statements.

Do your homework. We do more research trying to find a dishwasher than we do to find a steady and true friend.

And if you spot me at a party this holiday (a rare occurrence), I would love to see some photos of your new adopted best friend.

Do Your Doggone Homework Article

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