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Getting a New Pup?

Do you really have the time right now?

Thinking of getting a new pup right now? With school soon getting out a lot of people think this would be a great summer project for the kids. Certainly with the children home and the longer days, it might seem like the perfect time to get a dog. 

The real question is do you honestly have the time right now to get a puppy off to the right start? It might seem that I keep harping on the subject of training but I’m a strong believer that it’s an essential ingredient for starting a new relationship.

You have a magical few months with a young dog to write on his clean slate all the information that you want him to know. Waste that time and you spend the rest of his life trying to reteach and correct bad behaviors. They say that you end up with the dog that you created — so if you want a confident, well-adjusted, people friendly, social, totally trustworthy dog, you have your work cut out for you! 

It means exposing the young dog to a myriad of experiences (new sounds, smells, and materials), people and other animals, in a positive and controlled way. 

You can’t wait to do this until baseball season is over, the kids are back from camp, or your job gets less busy. Because you know what? That time will never come. We recently had a 2-year-old dog returned to us that was adopted out as a 4 months old pup. The adopters paid the training deposit and seemed to agree with the necessity of doing training but never quite got around to it. What we got back was a nervous, undersocialized, unadoptable dog. How sad is that? I can’t help but wonder if she would have turned out differently if only the adopter had done the training.

It always surprises me how defensive people get when we say that training is required to adopt a puppy. It’s not an insult to you — anyone who is really experienced with dogs realizes the value of going through training. 

It doesn’t mean that you don’t know what you are doing. In fact, all week, you are the one doing the training. What the class offers is a place to “proof” your dog on the training that you’ve done. Trainers hear all the time “he does it perfectly at home.” Of course he does! Dogs learn quickly that when the training collar or harness goes on and the treat bag comes out that they need to do certain behaviors. 

Then when you get to class you have a chance to reinforce that behavior in a novel location, with strange people and the distraction of other dogs around. If your dog can do what is asked under those circumstances, you’ve done a great job! 

It also gives you the opportunity to bounce certain problems off the trainer to make sure you are handling the situation in the best way possible. This allows you to nip problem behaviors before they take hold. And the field of dog training is constantly changing — there’s always something new to learn or try so why close your mind to new methods?

Before bringing home a new puppy really ask yourself if you can find one to two hours per day to spend on a new pet. Realize that it doesn’t have to be in one big chunk.

In fact, the best way to train a dog is with the "nothing in life is free" method.  Rather than putting on a training collar and marching around for half an hour, use everything that comes up during the day as a training opportunity. 

The dog has to sit before the food dish comes down.  ou get to take the food dish away; and you bring it back (you are god!). She has to sit before going out the door and can only cross the threshold when given her release word. This way good manners become pervasive and she practices it throughout the day in all kinds of situations.

When someone bulks at paying the additional training deposit and the requirement of taking a new pup through training, I answer that I will waive that requirement if they can give me just one example of how doing training would be a negative. So far, no one has come up with one!

Upcoming Events: 

Meet the Bunny: Second Saturday of each Month (next one is June 9) from 1-5:30. Meet our adoptable rabbits, ask care questions of our knowledgeable volunteers and shop our bunny boutique for fresh hay, rabbit toys and accessories. Bring your rabbit for a free nail trim.

Kidz ‘n Critters Summer Camp: Flyer and applications are now available at the shelter or online at rpanimalshelter.org. Seven one-week sessions for different ages from 2 to 7th grade are offered. Camps run from 8:30-12:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Educational and loads of fun — perfect for the little animal lover in the family!

Fix-it Clinics: Still happening monthly — all cats of low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents altered (spayed or neutered) for FREE; dogs for $60. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.

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