There is nothing more irresistible then a new puppy. It’s every child’s fondest dream, and even those of us who have passed beyond the sugar plums of childhood cannot help but coo and baby talk at a wriggling, yappy ball of fluff. However, it is hard to keep that lovin’ feelin’ when dear little Spot has piddled on the bedroom floor again, or when young Rover has demolished our most expensive couture Italian shoes. We all know that frustration, and we can all agree that puppies are a huge, expensive investment, not only in of themselves, but in addition to all the home improvement that suddenly becomes necessary. While I am quite aware that I am probably preaching to the choir, as someone who has worked in several different veterinary clinics, I feel the need to hammer home the point: train your dog. I make this plea, not as a cranky neighbor, but as someone who has seen all too often the harsh realities of reckless ownership. Maybe you can afford to lose an entire closet full of high fashion footwear, but no amount of affluence will console the deep hurt of losing your best friend.
A dog is a wonderful creature, and with a few hints for survival, It will be possible for you both to share many precious years together.
- Do Your Research
Hopefully, research is done before acquiring a puppy; needless to say, motivation for choosing a specific breed is very important. Getting a dog simply because “it’s pretty”, or ” it looks cool” is obviously not going to be sufficient. Each breed has it’s own funny set of quirks and personality. Do a little bit of detective work before deciding what kind of animal to bring into your home. My work with an Arctic Breed rescue allowed me to have quite a bit of infuriating experience with people who bought Husky puppies off an irresponsible breeder only to dump them later, claiming that the dog was too ” hyper” or ” an escape artist.” Had they looked into the breed at all, they would’ve learned that Huskies are more then a pretty face. They would’ve learned that Huskies are genetically engineered to be independent thinkers; that trait allowed them to survive on the arctic trails. They are also roamers-these dogs were developed in the harshest areas of the globe and their instinct to survive has left them with a massive prey drive that not only enables them to accomplish impressive feats-such as undoing a simple fence latch-but it also makes them the terror of the garbage can as well. This is just one example; anyone involved in animal rescue can testify that a large percentage of animals that are rescued are abandoned by previous owners who were perplexed by the occurrence of behaviors they never counted on. In reality, many of these undesirable traits were bred into them through the centuries- by men- in order for the dog perform a specific task.
So do your homework. If you’re looking for a low maintenance breed, an Afghan is not for you. If you need a dog to be a little more quiet, please think twice before getting a Beagle. If you aren’t prepared to pay a lot of medical bills, an English Bulldog may not be the best choice. If you live in the freezing Arctic, a Saluki isn’t going to make it. The point is, environment, housing situation, family structure, and life style are going to be huge factors in what kind of dog to bring to your home. If you truly have your heart set on a specific breed, be sure you understand that breed’s history, temperament, and needs.
- Teach Your Puppy Some Manners
While understanding your puppy’s nature is going to help save you a lot of grief and head- scratching, there are some behaviors that simply cannot be tolerated if your animal is to remain safe. It is important for your dog to learn the basics, such as sit, come, stay, leave it/ drop it, and lay. Not only do these commands keep your dog from shooting out the door into oncoming traffic or getting into dangerous substances, but it makes the job of Veterinarians and their techs so much easier. We love seeing your dog, and we are always pleased when they are bright and alert and we’re even more pleased when they’re happy to see us, but our job becomes increasingly harder when we have to nurse a concussion because your St. Bernard just ploughed us to ground in his ecstasy. Understand that it is okay to push your dog’s intelligence to the limits. They love to be challenged, and mental stimulation is every bit as important for their development as physical interaction. Many of the breeds out there, especially the bigger working dogs, need a job to do feel fulfilled. Training can be done in many different ways, some work better for some breeds then others, so it’s important to research that too. Not only will your dog enjoy the praise and the cookies it earns him, but you just might end up with a dog that makes your life easier. There are countless stories of dogs that have been trained to turn off lights, shut doors behind them, and pick up dropped objects. Some success stories: A woman in Louisiana has a Border Collie that helps her load laundry(Reader’s Digest, ‘ Amazing Pets’. ) Another man owns a Viszla that will not only fetch him drinks from his fridge, but can differentiate between the beverages. All this is done before offering his owner a dish towel to wipe off the dog drool on the can*.
- Think About Their Needs
When is comes to dogs, we not only have the responsibility off taking care of their physical and mental needs, but their emotional needs as well. Dogs do have feelings, they do become attached, and they’re capable of feeling lonely, insecure, frightened and frustrated. Spending time with your puppy will not only reinforce good behavior, but will instill in them a sense of trust, which will inevitably lead to a desire to please you. It helps them to stay calm in a tense situation and feel confident in their home. Your family is it’s pack, and it needs to feel like it belongs in order to feel fulfilled.
My mother recently bought a Maltese/Yorkie from a neighbor of ours. He was a bit of Godsend, because our family’s German Shepherd died suddenly and dramatically one night, and we were all devastated. As an empty nester, my mother took it particularly hard and almost went insane with loneliness. Finally, my father agreed to allow her to have another dog, and he was aptly named ‘Earnest’, after the play by Oscar Wilde. To be perfectly honest, I resented having him in my old home. He was far cry from the regal, strong dog my Shepherd was. But as I came to spend time with him, I saw a transformation occur with my parents. His small terrier antics made my parents laugh out loud all day, and he was small enough to scoop up and carry off with you. I learned that we all have different needs, and while I by no means regret owning that gorgeous German Shepherd, I can see that the lifestyle of my parents, who are, regrettably, aging, is more suited for a smaller, more manageable dog. He has brought both of them a great deal of happiness and has turned out to be a solution instead of a problem. And that, folks, is what it is all about.
* Story recounted at the Vet Tech Institute of Houston on October 29, 2010, By Catherine Huff, Program Director and Animal Behavior Specialist.