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Getting a New Dog? Don’t Make One of These Mistakes

The animal shelters in north Texas are unusually full this spring, and a heart-breaking number of potential loving pets are being euthanized each day due to lack of space. Shelter dogs can be wonderful and rewarding companions for both children and adults. Both purebred and mixed breed dogs end up in shelters, so if you’re looking for a great pet and a great selection, shelters and rescue organizations are the best sources.

Small dog carriedIt has been said that “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”  The unconditional love dogs express can truly be a healing experience. Unfortunately, the relationship between a dog and his owner is not always a blissful experience. Being aware of mistakes people sometimes make can help you have the best possible experience when you bring home your new best friend.

Here are three common mistakes to avoid:

1.  Not evaluating your own lifestyle, housing, and family situation to make sure the dog you select will fit well into your family.

Dogs require food, attention, and exercise, but the size of each requirement can vary tremendously from one dog to another. Large dogs are more expensive to feed and often also have greater exercise requirements. Research breeds before you go to a shelter so you have some guidance in selection. If you go to a shelter with a good idea of what size or breed of dog will or won’t work in your household, your task will be much easier and chances of having a great companion much greater.

If your household has children, don’t select a dog that is too delicate or fearful. Another consideration: Some dogs were bred to herd sheep or cattle, and nipping at the heels of the livestock is one way they use to control the animals. These breeds may decide your children need to be “herded” and will nip at their hands or clothing.

The website www.dogbreedinfo.com has a “Find a Perfect Dog” quiz you can take to help you choose an appropriate dog for your lifestyle.

You can check view and read about adoptable pets in Keller and other shelters in north Texas at www.petfinder.com.

2.  Allowing the dog to have free access in the house when you are not home or are otherwise occupied.

Your dog needs to earn your trust before being allowed access to various parts of your home, and it takes about two weeks for a dog to begin to acclimate to a new environment. Restrict access to bedrooms, hallways, etc. using baby gates or by keeping doors closed. Remove all loose objects the dog might be able to reach and destroy, such as shoes, eyeglasses, or magazines. For larger dogs, don’t forget to remove objects from the kitchen counter or he could develop the habit of “counter-surfing.” 

If your new dog misbehaves, it’s because he doesn’t yet know the rules of the house. Keep a close eye on him when you’re home, and if he tries to urinate indoors, immediately take him outside and reward him for going in the right location. If he tries to chew something that he shouldn’t, such as a table leg, immediately substitute an appropriate chew. Make sure the chew you give him is not something inedible (like a soft toy), or he may choke on it or experience intestinal blockage. Use kibble-stuffed rubber dog toys, for example, or deer antler chews, which come in various hardness levels, and most dogs love. If your dog learns to enjoy dog chews, he will look forward to settling down quietly for some quality chewing time when you leave the house or are otherwise occupied.

Crates are appropriate for dogs to sleep in and to stay in when you’re away from home for short periods of time (not all day). Keeping a dog in a crate for 8 to 10 hours a day is very hard on a dog, and it’s understandable if he acts like a maniac when released from the crate when you get home. If you can’t yet trust your dog outside the crate but must be away from home all day, check into dog daycare or hiring someone to take the dog for a walk in the middle of the day.  Dog doors to the outside built into your wall can be great for convenience; just make sure you have a well-secured gate and a high fence.

3.     Underestimating the dog's need for attention, exercise, and "something to do." 

All dogs need exercise every day. Breeds that require a great deal of exercise are perfect jogging/running/bicycling companions and Frisbee or ball retrievers. Small dogs need exercise, as well, though, so don’t forget to take them for a walk or play a chase game in the backyard every day.Lucy Triebball

Engaging your dog in a dog sport like agility can be a fun way to give your dog it all – exercise, attention, and a job to do.  Triebball (shown in the photo at right) is a sport perfect for dogs bred for herding (Aussies, collies, heelers, etc.) as well as other dogs that enjoy interacting with balls. Agility (shown in the photo at left) is a fun and competitive activity that can give you exercise along with your dog.

TDAA jumperPraiseworthy Pups (www.praiseworthypups.com) in Keller is one location that gives classes in dog sports, and they welcome spectators. You can check their website for class schedules and events.

One of the best gifts you can give you new four-legged friend is a training class. You may think a dog training class involves an instructor training your dog, but in reality, a good dog trainer will teach YOU how to train your dog! The instructor is a facilitator, helping you learn how to overcome the language barrier and motivate your dog to do what you want him to do and reduce unwanted behaviors.

Praiseworthy Pups offers a free two-hour class to all new dog adopters called Starting on the Right Paw, and the instructor will answer your questions and help you begin a rewarding journey with your dog. To schedule, call 817-562-2567. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012