A Pet For The Holidays Needs Careful Study

FOCUS ON PETS

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If a new puppy, dog or other pet is on your Christmas shopping list, there are some important things to think about.

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is not the best time to bring a new pet into the household. It is a time of parties, celebrations, lots of people, extra activity, noise, busyness and confusion.

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All puppies are adorable. Extra planning is required when getting a pet during the holidays. In fairness to the pet, don't make an impulsive decision. He wants to be a member of the family for a long time.

A better idea is to bring the new pet home a few days before Christmas, so it can get settled and comfortable before the hectic pace is in full swing. The best idea is to wrap up a leash, collar, bowls and a good dog-training book to place under the tree. Then after the holidays, go in search of that perfect new pet. The person receiving the new pet should have input. Does he/she want a pet? Does he/she have a particular kind of dog in mind, and if so, is it a good choice for his/her lifestyle.

Are you looking for a puppy? If you shop at a pet store, chances are great you are getting a puppy mill dog. These pups are raised in generally poor conditions from inferior stock, taken from their mothers too soon and transported long distances to the pet store, usually in the back of an over-crowded pickup truck. These pups have had no early socialization. Amazingly, the price for such pups is often higher than buying a purebred pup from a reputable breeder. AKC registered means nothing. The value of the AKC papers is in the breeding of the parents and generations before them, and the care those breeders have taken in producing healthy, well adjusted, emotionally secure puppies.

The best plan is to find a new family pet at the Payson Humane Society. Unfortunately, there is a huge selection of dogs and cats, puppies and kittens right now. They have many incentives to have their dogs and cats "home for the holidays."

Even at the humane society, you must make careful decisions regarding your needs, lifestyle and expectations. Ask lots of questions regarding the pet. Learn whatever you can about its history.

If you are planning to bring home a new pet during the holidays, be sure you have a crate or kennel ready for him. You will have to be away some and you want the pup to have a safe, comfortable place where he has his favorite blanket, stuffed animals and chew toys. It should be large enough so that he can stand up and turn around easily. A crate is also the absolutely best way to house train a new dog. Even if you have thought for your whole lifetime that putting a dog in a kennel is cruel and inhumane, you will change your mind when you see how important his own place is to him. Give the dog a chance to have the peace and comfort of his den. But don't abuse it. Dogs should be in crates for limited times.

Tips for those thinking about a pet for Christmas: Stay away from stores selling kittens and pups. Don't let a pet be an impulse decision. He will be around for 15 years or so. Take the time to make the right decision. All puppies are adorable. Patricia White, DVM, states that 60 percent of all households have a pet. So, 40 percent do not have pets and there are probably very good reasons why they do not.

Actually, of the 60 percent, there are certainly a proportion of them who should not have a pet. Their pet is out in the back yard with no people contact, which is no life for a dog. If someone says they do not want a pet, believe them. According to Dr White, things to consider before getting a pet are: the amount of time you have to devote to a pet, your living space and space for the dog, your lifestyle, budget and your age. Do your homework. She adds that if you think you know what breed of dog you want, go to the library and read everything you can about that breed. Each breed was developed for a particular task. Does that breeding suit your needs?

Dr. White recommends going to the American Veterinary Medicine Association Web site, AVMA, and click on "Care for Pets." There is much great information about selecting and caring for pets, and included is a special section for children. Another Web site with interesting gift ideas for your pet is http://biz.yahoo.com/iw/051129/0102467.html. Check these out.

Christy Powers 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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