Holidays Good Time To Teach Dog To 'Stay'

FOCUS ON PETS

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Christmas is coming and so are the decorations around the house, guests, good food and busy times. Some planning is necessary to make sure that you and your pets survive the busy season harmoniously.

Some decorations and certain plants are poisonous, or can be dangerous. Christmas trees are very inviting, especially to cats. Many cat owners have come home to find the beautifully decorated tree lying prostrate with ornaments scattered about. Cats do love to climb trees and also are attracted to anything that sways back and forth and there are lots of those on the Christmas tree. It might be a good idea to separate the tree and the pets while you are away from home. Vigilance is advised.

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Higgins and Gibson are most willing to stay on their beds if they can be part of the party. Gibson, however, would just as soon not wear the antlers.

Our pets hate being sent out to the back yard or locked in the laundry room when company comes. They want to be part of the festivities and with some advanced training, they can be well-behaved. Have a dog bed or rug in the room, but out of the way and teach the dog to go to his bed and stay there quietly. This is fairly easy to train if you are persistent, but start the training now.

To begin, bring him over to the bed and tell him to lie down and stay. If he starts to get up, calmly say "down." If he is super active and will not stay, tie him to a nearby heavy chair leg, but insist that he stay down. Stay close at first and let him know you are serious about this. If he is staying well, say "good stay," give him a treat and release him.

Never allow him to leave the bed without your permission, but do not forget him there either. At first, only ask him to stay for a few minutes and then praise and release him. Do short training sessions while you are working in the kitchen. Feed him his dinner and then have him stay on his bed while you are eating dinner. Later, as the dog gets accustomed to being quiet during mealtime and when company is around, the dog will naturally go to his bed. During a long evening, take him outside for a break and give him some attention and then return him to his bed.

There will be times during the holidays when pets will be alone for quite a while. Leave them in a safe place, which might be in the kennel. Provide some nice things to entertain and soothe them. A stuffed animal and something to chew on are necessities. Imagine being left alone with absolutely nothing to do for hours on end. Particularly a young or super active dog needs something to keep him busy. Kong makes a variety of toys into which you put treats. It can take hours for the dog to pry and chew them out. These provide great diversions.

No one likes to see a dog or cat eating food off the table before the guests get a chance. There was a very cute television commercial where the man finds his little dog eating the turkey or whatever. He quietly takes the food into the kitchen, rinses it off and returns it to the dinner table, none of the guests being the wiser. Not only do we not want dogs drooling on food we are going to eat, but lots of it can be harmful to them, particularly bones that can splinter and sweets. Chocolate can cause stomach upset and to some dogs it is toxic. Dispose of drippings and fat from the meat where pets cannot get to them, remembering that they can be very clever.

Be sure to include lots of exercise for your dog during the holidays. Walks are extremely important. You cannot just put a dog out in the yard and call it exercise.

Throwing a ball is great but walks are essential for a number of reasons. There will be more on the importance of walks in another column.

Listening to National Public Radio yesterday, I heard a report about an alarming number of teens in Japan taking their own lives because of extreme bullying from classmates. A mother of a girl who died was quoted as saying, "If only each student could treat others as they want to be treated."

Then, I read in the Payson Roundup about teenagers killing cats just for the sport of it. I dare say that these boys who think they are so tough by torturing and killing these poor, defenseless cats would fail the courage test if some of these torturous acts were done to them. Maybe that should be their punishment. These two stories just came together as I was driving all day yesterday. Whether for man or beast, the Golden Rule says it all.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 13 and 14, the Plateau Land Mobile Clinic will be in the Bashas' parking lot for low-cost spay and neutering. The cost for any pet weighing less than 60 lbs. is $45. Vaccinations and other services will also be available at reduced rates. You must schedule an appointment with the clinic at (888) 241-9731. Call the Payson Humane Society, (928) 474-5590 for more information.

-- Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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