Puppies require commitment

Christmas presents don’t get any better than a puppy if you are in it for the purely “ahhhh” factor. What many people don’t realize are the monetary expenses, time and effort commitments, and lifestyle changes when acquiring your new family member.

Your new puppy deserves a great diet and veterinary care. Routine vaccinations every three weeks along with health checks and parasite (flea/tick/heartworm) preventatives are vital and can be expensive. The better the diet you feed your puppy the healthier they can grow and decreases in poop production. We can all appreciate that! Then in the interest of not creating more unwanted puppies in the future and encouraging our pets to stay home instead of following their hormonal urges, spay or neuter is recommended when age appropriate.

A tired dog is a good dog. A truism we can all agree on. The method to getting a puppy tired is the problem for some. Just putting your puppy outside in the backyard does not guarantee a tired puppy. Without human stimulation, usually our puppy makes a lap or two around the yard then lays down for a nap or gets bored and chews the siding, digs up the yard, or starts the habit of non- stop barking.

Interacting and training with your puppy stimulates its mind and body. Together that tires them out. Playing retrieving games, round-robin recall and tugging games (with take-it and drop-it training) are great behavioral starts to being able to call your puppy to you. The reward of a small soft snack and or affection combined or alternated teach our dog how much fun it is to be with us.

Two walks a day are ideal for your pet, but a leisurely stroll around the block usually doesn’t get the job done. The intensity and distance of your walk together depends on the age and breed type of your pet. After daily outdoor playtime, both you and your puppy will be able to relax together. Training 10 times a day for five minutes each is much better than training one or two long sessions each day.

Simply asking your puppy to sit before their meal, in and out the door, before giving attention, before watching TV, or at the corner during your walk keeps your pet watching you and knowing how to make you happy.

The most cited reason for giving up a puppy or dog is behavioral problems — failure to housebreak fast enough, chewing household and personal items, jumping on people, biting and excessive barking.

Dogs don’t understand English and most people don’t understand their dog’s language. A basic premise in behavior is “dogs repeat what works for them.” So if your pet is barking without stopping, pulling your arm from its socket during walks, soiling inside or jumping on you and your guests, you will benefit from enrolling in a behavior-modification class with an accredited trainer; i.e., basic obedience class.

That is also an ongoing commitment of time and money. Well paid off by understanding how to train a dog you can live with and enjoy its whole life. Training your puppy isn’t finished in a six- or eight-week time frame. Training and encouraging your dog is something you do all of their life. Remember, puppyhood lasts at least 18 months in most dogs. We don’t expect our children to be adults at 7 years old, but we expect our pets to be perfect without training.

Dogs are also messy. They shed hair and get muddy. They like to roll in smelly stuff, even poop. Grooming your dog or taking them to a groomer routinely adds to your expenses or time commitment.

Ninety-eight percent of dog owners grossly underestimate the cost of owning a dog. The advantages of living with a dog are immeasurable. From family bonding and companions, non-judgmental confidants, exercise partners, and snuggle buddies, they repay us for the time and expenses they incur many times over.

Your puppy will go from mischievous whirlwind to prime of life adult, then sedate older companions and all too fast over the rainbow bridge. It has been proven and documented over and over that pets make our lives better, but we need to do our part.

If you would consider fostering or adopting any of the cats or dogs in our care, contact Dawn Taylor at 393-5256 or Ray Sledge at 305-3299. We are an all-volunteer organization committed to helping animals and their people in need in the Valley Center area.

Vera Boyle is a member of the Valley Center Animal League.

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