Buying a Puppy for Christmas
Traditionally the Christmas holidays have never been a good time to promote “getting a puppy for Christmas” – but there are many families who take the opportunity of being home for the summer holidays to choose a family dog in order to spend as much time as possible with their new friend.
And that is a good thing – but the advice that ongoing socialisation for the new pup is a must, is often ignored.
Dr Tracey Henderson, Adelaide’s leading veterinarian with a special interest in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine, commented that once the excitement of having a puppy has worn off the reality of owning a dog sinks in.
“Sadly it is 6 months or so down the track when the reality of getting a dog truly sinks in! Six month to two year old dogs are a bit like teenager children – hard work! Our animal shelters are full of rambunctious young un-socialised dogs” she said.
The number of dogs being put up for re-homing could be significantly reduced if owners paid greater attention to on-going socialisation from an early age.
“As a vet dealing with dog behaviour problems I can’t emphasise enough that these pups are not just a present for Christmas, families need to understand that their commitment to their new pup could extend to 15 years plus”.
“The number one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters and pounds is owners who have not put in enough effort so that their dog is well socialised and therefore a delight to be around. In fact, the most common age for a dog to be put up for re-homing is around 6 months to two years of age, which is when they have moved past the cute puppy stage and into the troublesome teen years. Sadly, this is also a common point at which dogs are euthanized because of behavioural problems,” says Dr Henderson.
“There are many factors that appear to increase the risk of dogs, especially puppies, being surrendered or euthanized. They include incorrect choice of pup, unrealistic expectations of the pet or a lack of knowledge of the time, money and effort required to be a responsible pet owner. Proper socialisation reduces the likelihood of behavioural problems and is necessary for all dogs, no matter how sweet-natured they are as puppies”.
“Socialisation is so easy and is great fun for pets and people. It is really just taking part in activities that introduce a puppy to a variety of experiences in a positive and safe environment so they learn how to be a confident and friendly, well behaved member of society,” says Dr Henderson.
Dr Henderson says there are ten priorities for a well-socialised dog.
- Select your breed carefully. Consider your lifestyle, family, children’s ages. Research the temperament, exercise requirement, “maintenance” level.
- Select your puppy carefully. It is important to know as much as possible about the parents of any puppy you are considering, as well as the conditions in which it has been raised. Has it been raised in a home or in a kennel with little human contact ? If it shows any sign of aggression – don’t buy it! Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions or inspect the premises where the puppy was raised.
- Early socialisation. The most crucial time to socialise your new pup is between 3 and 12 weeks of age so by the time you bring your puppy home, it will have learnt many behaviours from its environment – good or bad. Best time to bring it home is 8 weeks.
- Be consistent. Your puppy depends on you for everything: food, shelter, care and companionship. Puppies also depend on you to show them how to manage situations, so make sure you provide clear and consistent guidance at all times.
- Puppy classes. Most vet clinics and many private trainers offer socialisation classes for puppies. Well run classes are a great way to positively introduce your puppy to other pets and people and to establish basic training.
- Start early. Some dogs have a confident, relaxed temperament from day one; others are timid when introduced to something new. Either way, it is important to start to introduce your puppy to new people and situations early on, in a positive and controlled environment. Talk to your vet about what activity is possible during the period your puppy is being vaccinated.
- Keep control. It is important that you have control of the socialisation environment and can avoid situations that may frighten your puppy.
- Variety is good. Introduce your puppy to people of all ages, shapes and sizes right from the start. Always supervise any contact between your puppy and other people, especially children, but make sure he or she is introduced to as wide a range of people as possible in a positive environment. If your pup is nervous around other people it is important not to overwhelm the puppy with too many people too soon.
- Don’t force it. When introducing your puppy or dog to a new experience, allow him or her to explore the situation in their own time. If your pup is nervous around other dogs, ask a friend who has an older gentle dog if you can introduce your puppy. As your puppy becomes used to this contact you can gradually increase the opportunities for your puppy to meet other dogs.
- Practice makes perfect. Use every day events as a way of socialising your puppy. For example, a daily on-leash walk might be an opportunity to go pa st a skateboard park, which will help your puppy to see and hear unfamiliar activities while you provide positive support.
- Do it in dog time. A puppy’s attention span is short so keep all socialisation and training sessions short and make sure they always end on a positive note so your puppy will be keen to start the next session.
- Keep at it. Your dog continues to learn throughout its life so it is important to continue to reinforce their social skills at all times. Practice reward based training every day so you have a well-mannered dog. By having your pup inside your house you provide it with ongoing social interaction and can help avoid destructive behaviours from developing.
- Environmental enrichment essential to avoid boredom. Food dispensing toys, exercise and other toys to avoid boredom when the pup is left alone.
- Prepare for the return to work/school. Increase your pups independence by giving time alone, with something tasty to keep him/her occupied and reinforcing that time alone is a positive experience. Start with short amounts of time and gradually extend.
“The good news is that recent research shows that pet owners are becoming more responsible about training and managing their pets in public environments. However, all owners can do more so that their dogs are able to be the best dog they can. This means socialisation at an early age and then more socialisation throughout the dog’s life,” concluded Dr Henderson.
Available for interview: Dr Tracey Henderson: 0488 038 054
Other media enquiries: Vision & photos can be arranged through the AVBS
Issued on behalf of AVBS by: Sarah Harris Communications (0411 755 873)
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