COLUMBUS, Ohio — Little can outweigh the joy of getting a new puppy during the holidays. But if you’re planning to welcome a furry friend into your home this season, experts urge you to consider several matters first.
If you’re giving a puppy as a present, one of the first considerations would be to know if the recipient is actually interested in owning a dog, says Dr. Meghan Herron, veterinary behavior specialist at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.
“Giving a puppy is giving the gift of a lot of responsibility in a cute package,” she said.
If they’re interested, try to involve them in the selection process.
“You want a breed that’s going to match their lifestyle; try not to base your selection on looks.”
Another crucial concept is to socialize your puppy with as many people and animals as possible before the socialization window closes at 12 weeks of age, Herron said. She stresses the importance of prioritizing the puppy’s age over the date of a holiday.
“If someone plans on getting a puppy on Christmas Eve even though they’ll be at 12 weeks at that point, they might be better off getting that puppy a few weeks earlier so as not to miss the socialization period.”
Separation anxiety development is an additional area of concern with puppies, Herron said, and around the holidays an animal can begin its life surrounded by friends and family who want to cuddle and play. As people get back into their non-holiday routines, a puppy can feel lost and upset with too much alone time, resorting to destructive behaviors.
A simple way to prevent separation anxiety and teach your puppy independence is crate training. An owner should put a new puppy in its crate every day, even when the family is home.
“Start with how long they can tolerate,” Herron said. “The maximum would be months of age plus one. So, if they’re two months old, never leave them in a crate for longer than 3 hours without a break.”
This training should begin right away, Herron said, along with:
- House training
- Teaching them to sit (as a polite default behavior)
Avoiding behavioral problems
Behavioral problems are the No. 1 reason owners give their dogs to animal shelters, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association. But luckily, Herron said, most of these problems can be avoided if a puppy is given the proper training and socialization.
For more details of these recommendations, see Herron’s “Behavior Guide for Your New Puppy,” online atgo.osu.edu/newpupbeh. Also, she said, be sure to schedule a wellness check with your family veterinarian, and consider the benefits of a “puppy kindergarten” socialization class.
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