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Natural Awakenings Boston

Prevent Holiday Puppies From Becoming New Year Nightmares

Feb 28, 2014 03:01AM ● By Bette Yip

It’s a sweet holiday gift in the moment, but bringing a dog or puppy into the home also requires a big commitment. It’s easy to lose sight of that when bombarded by heartstringtugging ads featuring children waking up on Christmas morning to a cuddly ball of fluff under the tree. The cameras are not around, however, when the going gets tough.

“Surprise pet gifts tend not to work out well,” says Rob Halpin, director of public relations for the MSPCA Angell, in Jamaica Plain. “It really is a gettingto- know-you process to find the right animal.”

Feeling the pressure to get that puppy in time for the holidays, a family might not take the necessary time to find a pet that is truly a great fit. Come January, February and March, says Halpin, the MSPCA gets “lots of surrenders” for that very reason. “We need to be as selective when choosing our pets as we are when choosing our friends,” he says.

Choosing the right dog is only part of the process. Once home, any new pet needs a certain amount of management and training in order to adjust to household expectations and routines. “You mean shoes aren’t chew toys?” a new puppy may wonder after getting reprimanded, “And the kids are not animated squeaky toys?”

Even the most basic goals, such as outdoor potty training for dogs, can be more difficult in the cold of winter. Very rarely is a dog housetrained enough to automatically follow the rules in a new home without a training review period. Some dogs may also need behavior modification for such serious issues as fear-based aggression or separation anxiety, problems that may not surface until the animal begins to truly settle into the new home. Puppy training with a qualified professional can really pay off in the long run and, since dogs don’t gen- eralize many behaviors very well, it’s important that every person who will spend time with the dog participates in the training protocol.

The ongoing expense of dog ownership can also surprise some families. Beyond food and toys, dogs need routine medical care, appropriate vaccinations and, at times, costly treatments. It’s a good idea to look into pet insurance for emergency medical coverage.

Another cost to consider is the expense of replacing or repairing petdamaged items ranging from shoes and clothing to furniture and carpets.

None of this is to say that holiday pet stories always end in disaster. Success is possible when following these guidelines:

Take the time to choose a dog whose personality and physical and emotional needs are a good fit for everyone in the household.

Research the potential lifetime costs of dog ownership, including medical treatment, behavioral help and replacement costs for pet-damaged items.

Implement good preventative strategies for both physical health and behavioral concerns. This includes intensive socialization for young puppies.

Start training the dog right away, before bad habits creep in.

Understand that dog training is a family affair; everyone needs to participate consistently to prime the pet for success.

Overall, the best way to prevent a holiday puppy from becoming a New Year nightmare is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Then, you may be pleasantly surprised if you luck into one of those rare breeds, the “easy dog.”

Bette Yip is owner of Picture Perfect Pets Dog Training and Pet Photography, in Burlington. For more information, visit BetteYip.com or call 617-966-4240.

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