Socializing Pets Is Multi-Step Process

FOCUS ON PETS

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Approximately 175 dogs, cats and ferrets were vaccinated at the rabies clinic last week. Because of the new law requiring a brief examination by a veterinarian, there was a bit of a wait, but from all reports, people were patient and polite. Hopefully all these pet owners have filed the shot record away in a pet file where they can be located immediately when needed and also have made a note of expiration date.

Keeping track of shot records is vital. Most veterinarians give a folder for records to new patients. Have a pet file folder in your file cabinet where you can keep these and other important papers. It is easy to lose track of when shots are due. At the time of vaccination, you receive the certificate with all the information including expiration date. Write this date in your calendar so it does not slip by.

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Take a little time when introducing new dogs and carefully monitor their body language to keep the situation peaceful.

A sad incident happened in Payson within the last week reminding us all of the urgency of up-to-date rabies vaccinations.

Two javelinas crawled under the gate and into the yard of a Payson home and gored the two family dogs. One dog's rabies vaccination was outdated. He faced either a six-month quarantine in Globe or euthanasia. It is the law. The other dog was current and is now in a 45-day home quarantine. Naturally this is devastating for the owners. It was not a pleasant situation for the rabies control officers either, but they did everything possible to help these dogs. But the law is the law. And this law is for the protection of all of us.

Remember, a dog receiving his first rabies shot must have a booster shot in one year. That second shot is generally good for three years. But if you let the first shot expire, the dog has to start over. There can be no lapses. If there is a lapse and the dog encounters a wild animal, he is considered not vaccinated and faces the 6-month quarantine in Globe or euthanasia.

For safety sake, check your pet's shots records today and mark the due date on your calendar. It just might be one of the most important things you do today.

On to a new subject. Last week's column discussed the social life of dogs. Socialization takes some time and planning depending on the dog's age and experience. Naturally, it is best to start when the dog is young but if you acquire an older pet, start now. Begin slowly when introducing new sights, sounds, people and other dogs. Household noises like the vacuum cleaner, telephone and washing machine, while being second nature to us, can be frightening to a puppy or new dog. When loud noises are happening, whether inside our out, talk with your dog in a calm voice letting him know all is OK.

Once your new pet is comfortable with his home environment, venture out, a little bit at a time. How far and how much you do at once depends on the dog. If he is shy and showing signs of being afraid, take it very slowly. If he is eager and enjoying the experience, you can do a little more. Constantly be aware of his reactions. Introduce him to the neighborhood dogs. Hopefully they are behind fences and can greet each other without fear. Allow him to encounter cars and trucks, building up to higher traffic areas.

Continually expand your dog's world. Take him in the car and drive around parks and schools. With your dog on a six-foot leash, walk around the park where children are playing, gradually getting closer to the children. Playgrounds are great places to familiarize your dog with the noise and activity level of children. Just sit with him on the sidelines and let him watch. If a child comes over and wants to pet your dog, if his parents agree, let the two have a visit.

Shopping center parking lots are also great for socializing. Walk up by the doors where people are coming and going with shopping carts, but take it slowly. If the dog shows any hesitation, back off.

Dogs who do not often get out of their own yards can be shy around people and other dogs. Let them get close enough to new people to give a sniff. Do not rush the introductions. It is best to let dogs meet new dogs in neutral territory, preferably a fenced area where they can be off leash. Adult dogs can be very territorial about the space between them and their human at the other end of the leash. That is why dog parks have an unleashing area and do not allow leashed dogs in the park. Leashes change the dynamics between dogs. Dogs running loose rarely fight. It is when they are restrained or cornered in small spaces that problems begin.

Socialization is a life-long series of experiences. The more time you spend out and about with your dog, the more comfortable he becomes and the greater will be the bond between the two of you. Proper socialization makes all the difference in producing a well adjusted, happy family dog.

And check those shot records today.

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 210, Strawberry AZ 85544.

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