A Puppy For Christmas? What You Should Know Before You Shop

FOCUS ON PETS

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Christmas is generally not the best time to bring a new dog into the household, particularly if there are lots of people and commotion.

However, it is a great time to give the gift of a dog or puppy. The Humane Society is issuing gift certificates for the special price of $25, including spaying or neutering. What a bargain!

Instead of packing the puppy in a gift box, pack a gift certificate, a book on choosing a dog or puppy and a book on dog training. Then, after the holidays take some time to read, discuss and make a proper decision.

There are many decisions to make before getting a dog such as a puppy or adult, pedigree or mix. Even pound puppies are a combination of very specific breeds and those breeds are what shapes temperament and behavior.

There are many books available to buy or from the library about choosing a dog. Good ones will guide you through the process of first answering the question, do you really want a dog. That, of course, is the most important question and is deserving of some time and consideration in answering. A dog requires a commitment, not just for this week and this year, but for hopefully 14 or more years. The whole family should be part of the decision and the commitment.

The next consideration is whether you want a puppy or an adult dog. Puppies can be a real challenge, particularly if they have to be alone a lot of the time. An older dog probably will be house trained already and if not, it might be a little easier with a mature dog.

Once you decide you really want a dog and have the time to train it and spend time with it, you must consider your specific needs and lifestyle. Are you active? Do you like taking long walks? Do you have a large fenced yard? If you are a couch potato and want a dog that will cuddle up on your lap, a small dog would be a better choice. But that is only part of the question. There are small active dogs and big passive dogs. That is why it is important to look at the breed composition.

Dogs are pack animals and do not like being alone so if you are away a lot, you might consider two dogs, but not necessarily two puppies. That can be a handful.

Study the different breeds. Each breed was developed to meet a specific need, such as hunting, guarding, herding or rescue work. A dog bred to hunt birds is generally gentle, but one bred to hunt bear and lions can be aggressive. Working dogs, like the Border Collie, are active and make lousy couch potatoes. They like to work and if there is no work, they can get bored and into trouble.

Terriers are small feisty working dogs. The Jack Russell Terrier is very popular, but also active, maybe hyper. They need to be with a family that is active and busy. Most of the toy breeds were bred for that purpose to be a treasured toy. They do not want to work and they generally are happy being a pampered lap dog. They are a bit fragile around small children.

There is a breed of dog for most any lifestyle. Figure out your needs and then find the dog that will fit comfortably into your household. Take the time to make a good choice. You and your dog will be happier because of it.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 1521, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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