Top of many Christmas lists for Santa Claus is a puppy, but this can be one of the most thoughtless gifts to give. Mums and dads around the world give in to the pleas of their young children for a furry companion and believe the promises that the child will take responsibility for the care of their new friend. More often than not, this Christmas joy turns into a New Year resolution never to get another pet. The period following the ‘season of giving’ sees the highest incidence of pets that are given up to animal shelters.
Consider the following before you decide to get a new pet for the family:
• Have you researched the breed of dog most suitable to fit into your lifestyle?
• Do you have a securely-fenced property and sufficient space for the dog to move around freely? It is cruel to keep an animal tied up or kennelled for long periods since you restrict the physical development of the dog as well as create mental frustration which can turn into aggression.
• Do you have the time (at least one hour a day) and are you physically capable of exercising your new pet? “Running around the yard” does not fulfil the energy requirements of a dog.
• Do you have the finances required to cover the needs of your pet for his entire life-span (dogs can live up to 15-16 years depending on the breed and health). This includes money for food, toys, veterinary bills, parasite treatment and control (ticks, fleas and worms) and equipment such as the harness, leash, bedding, bowls, kennel, treats, as well as grooming and training costs.
• You need to obedience train your new pet using a reward-based form of training, not punishment-based training. A puppy also requires adequate socialisation with humans and other animals and needs to be toilet-trained. Training and socialising your new puppy should start from 6 weeks old until he is at least 2 years old, although training should ideally be throughout the life of your dog – are you willing to commit to this?
• Discipline for a dog should never consist of beating the animal or shouting at him. Both are ineffective and destroy the relationship between you and your pet. Do you have enough patience to discipline your puppy properly?
• Dogs have short attention spans and get bored quickly. Boredom often leads to mischief! Are you willing to provide enough enrichment to keep your pet mentally stimulated and balanced so he does not become bored and destructive?
• What are the ages of your children? Any child under 13 years old should never be left alone with a dog for the safety of both the dog and the child. Children can be inadvertently cruel by treating the dog as a doll and pulling the puppy around by his ears or tail, or poking their fingers into his eyes and ears.
• Is your child going to assist in caring for the pet: feeding, cleaning up after, bathing, grooming, playing with, walking, training – even when school resumes in the New Year and interest in the puppy wanes?
• Are you willing to neuter your new pet when he/she reaches sexual maturity at 6 months of age? T&T currently has an over-population of dogs and we simply do not have enough good homes for the number of dogs we breed.
If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of the above questions, then you are ready to welcome a little one with a big bow on Christmas morning! If not, then maybe get a stuffed dog this year and wait until you are ready to give your pet all he deserves.
Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2019