Pets as gifts? Wait till holiday hubbub is over
SUMMIT COUNTY – What could be more wonderful on a Christmas morning than waking up to a furry bundle of love under the tree? What better gift could there be than a little puppy or kitten nestled among brightly colored packages, waiting to leap into its new owner’s arms?Summit County Animal Shelter director Nancy Ring suggests sticking with socks, frying pans, bikes and other inanimate presents that don’t require as much attention.”It’s not like buying a Christmas gift that can be put aside like so many others,” Ring said. “Though it’s a pleasant thought for the people involved, it’s not necessarily as positive for that animal to be surprised by all the Christmas chaos and activity.”During the holidays, homes are filled with objects that look like toys to a new pet. And without having a few months of obedience training under your belt, it could be very difficult to keep things like ornaments, ribbons and holiday plants out of animals’ mouths.”Christmas lights, electrical cords, glass balls, chocolate, poinsettias, presents under the tree – it’s setting them up for failure, unfortunately. All kinds of disasters are waiting to happen for new pets in a Christmas home,” Ring said.Furthermore, the entire family should be prepared to dedicate plenty of time for training. And time is a rare commodity amid the blur of cocktail parties, cookie exchanges and visits from relatives.”You need to devote time immediately,” said trainer Don Drogsvold of The Dog Den in Dillon. “They don’t come into our world knowing what they can and can’t do. They don’t know our rules.”The first four months are crucial for brain development. That’s the easy time for them to learn what they can and can’t chew on, where the outhouse is, how to play and interact with us. After that, their socialization window closes up,” Drogsvold added.If you think your child, sweetheart or other loved one is ready for a pet, Ring advises getting a gift certificate at the shelter to cover adoption costs. That way, the recipient can devote his or her full attention to the new family member when life has settled down. “Christmas is already very exciting and overwhelming for children. It’s better to wait for New Year’s and its resolutions. A new pet takes so much follow up and care, so wait till toy madness has worn off,” Ring said.If you already have a new pet in your home, Drogsvold recommends staying on top of training during the holidays, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes each day.”Dogs learn through consistency and repetition. Don’t let the dog hit the back burner,” Drogsvold said.Drogsvold suggests incorporating obedience training into tasks an owner has to perform anyway. Practice sit, stay and release commands when you let the dog out in the morning, for example. Tuck a treat into your hand and practice “puppy push-ups” in the car at stoplights.”If I have a dog in the passenger seat, I have kibbles in my hand. I have them following my hand: up, down, up, down. You can do puppy push-ups anywhere.” Drogsvold said. Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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