Holiday Safety Tips For Your Dog December 13 2007


As the holidays approach, remember to help your pups have a stress free and safe holiday season. Our guest writers, The K9 Advocates have some tips to help you keep your pets safe. But first, some considerations if you are planning on getting or giving a puppy as a holiday gift.

Remember, a puppy is a living, loving being that requires a lot of care, time, commitment and money. Although a nice idea to give as a gift, this is one present that should not be a surprise - unless you yourself can assure it's proper care.

THE LIFETIME GIFT written by the K9 Advocates: Ana Cilursu, CPDT – Joanne Horton – Kay Datesman – Lisa Powell, CPDT

Getting a puppy or dog for Christmas? If you haven’t already done your research, here are some helpful hints to guide you in making the best choice for you and your family. Make a responsible decision If you are interested in a purebred dog, research the different dog breeds carefully, then apply that knowledge to your lifestyle, family activities, hobbies. If you are considering a mixed breed dog, take into consideration the primary breed mix, if known. Your dog will be a member of your family for the rest of his life (if all goes well), so bringing home a high energy breed if you are a couch potato could spell disaster. A sporting breed may not do well in a home that raises chickens, and a herding breed may nip at your kids’ heels. Learn what your chosen dog was originally bred to do, and consider how those genes will fit into your lifestyle. Research the diseases that are prevalent in your breed and how to identify those risks. Whether puppy or older dog, consider activity level, size, grooming requirements, and health issues as important factors in your decision. Don’t buy a puppy as a gift for a friend or relative. These are life choices….pets shouldn’t be treated like the shirt that doesn’t match or the shoe that doesn’t fit. Does Grandma really need a Great Dane? Young puppies need to be fed three or four times a day, taken out every few hours, and at least once during the night. The first three months of their life is critical to good social skills and confidence. You will have to teach the puppies everything they need to know to live comfortably in your home. Will someone be home to care for the puppy? Leaving an 8-week puppy home alone in a crate for 10 hours is not only unfair and unhealthy, it borders on negligence. Older dogs coming into to your home will not know your rules either unless you explain them. You may have house-training or behavior challenges that will need to be addressed in a positive way. Accept the fact that your kids will NOT take care of the dog. Plain and simple. Getting a dog for “the kids” is naïve at best…it is one thing to teach responsible pet care to children, it is another to expect them to do all the work. Make sure this is a family decision, and that everyone in the home agrees to sharing the responsibilities of raising a dog. Post a care-taker schedule so that no one person feels burdened with all the tasks. Once you decide which kind of dog you want, then you should consider where to find him, and when to bring him home. The holidays are not ideal for introducing a new pet into your family. New puppies, kittens, cats and dogs require extra attention and a stable environment, which the holiday season doesn't permit. A pet is not a gift or a toy that can be returned. If you are planning to bring a pet into your home after the holidays, set the mood by wrapping pet-related gifts that can be opened before your new pet arrives. Shelters and Rescues Each year millions of homeless dogs are euthanized in this country, due to overbreeding, poor socialization, lack of training, and many other reasons. The survivors, all breeds, sizes and ages, can be found in shelters and rescue groups. Breed-specific rescues usually deal with one particular breed, and up to 30% of dogs in shelters are purebred. Some dogs are in foster home care, others are in kennels or cages at the shelter, waiting for their forever home. What about their background? They all have some baggage. (Don’t we all?) The key is finding the right person that will help them unpack it. Shelters and rescue groups go to great lengths to get as much information as possible about the dog’s past life. It is harder to obtain information about puppies unless details about their birth and first 8 weeks are obtained. Sometime it is impossible if the animal was abandoned by its owner, or found as a stray. Temperament and health tests are extremely valuable and can identify issues that need to be addressed before adoption. Some facilities offer obedience training while the dogs are in the shelter or rescue. They are usually spayed or neutered, vaccinated, tested for heartworm and microchipped before adoption. All in one package for a very reasonable donation. Inquire with the shelter or rescue about the services offered when considering adoption. To find your new best friend at a shelter or rescue near you, visit If you know someone who is considering adoption, give them a gift certificate from their local shelter or breed rescue. Reputable Breeders If you are interested in a purebred dog or puppy, search online for the National Club that represents your chosen breed. You can find information about the different breeds, clubs and breeders at the American Kennel Club ( or the United Kennel Club ( Reputable breeders who are members of their breed club will follow high ethical standards when breeding. Some breeders may have older dogs available as well. They will be happy to answer all your questions and provide you with detailed information about their dogs’ health, temperament and genetic history dating back several generations. A reputable breeder will also interview you in detail ….it is their way of choosing the best homes for their puppies and dogs. Here are some questions to consider when choosing the best puppy for your home: ß What experiences have the puppies had to date? A reputable breeder will ensure that the puppies have been exposed to a variety of things, especially children, other pets, household noises, car rides, etc. Ideally they should have been born and raised in the house, not in the barn, shed, or basement. Puppies born in the mainstream of family life are more social, more confident and less likely to be fearful of strange environments. Remember, the first 8 weeks of a puppy’s life are the most important. ß Did Momma dog nurse the puppies and for how long? There are lessons to be learned by nursing….bottle fed puppies don’t get the same experiences, but when Mom can’t nurse, every effort should be made to still provide a surrogate mother to help raise the puppies. Most puppies will start to cut teeth at around 4 weeks, and should be started on puppy formula or food to gradually wean away from Mom’s milk, but they should still have frequent contact with their mother even after weaned. ß What screening has been done to minimize the risk of genetically transmitted diseases that are prevalent in the breed? A reputable breeder will screen both mother and father, as well as grandparents and even great-grandparents, and will provide you with written proof of certification that the dogs do not have the diseases in question. For example: screening for hip dysplasia should include a PennHIP or Orthopedic Foundation of America certification. ß When can I take my puppy home? The ideal time is between 7 and 9 weeks of age, a critical bonding phase for the puppy with his new family. Puppies should not be taken away from their mothers and littermates before then, unless there are extenuating health circumstances. Puppies need to learn important lessons from Mom and their siblings during the 6th and 7th week, particularly how to soften their bite. Everyone Else Going to the local pet store to buy a puppy? Can’t resist that sad face in the cage with the huge price tag? Buyer beware. The chances of your puppy being a “puppy mill” dog are almost 100%. This is a huge can of worms. Most puppy mills are located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas, although commercial “breeders” can be found anywhere. Puppies sold in pet stores are the result of mass breedings, without regard to health, temperament or genetics. They are taken away from their mothers too soon, and deprived of any socialization during the first few critical weeks of their life. If they survive the long trip from “breeder” to broker to pet store, and don’t get sick at the end of the journey, they are likely to develop congenital health problems, usually within the first year of their life. Eye problems, heart problems, joint disease, deafness, and seizures are just a few of the congenital conditions that can develop as a result of indiscriminate breeding, causing great heartache. The ideal time for a puppy to go to his new home is between 7 and 9 weeks of age, during the most important bonding and socialization period of his life. A 4-month old puppy with a “clearance” sign on the cage has already spent the most important part of his life alone in a cage. You will have a lot of catching up to do. Buying a puppy on one of the many Internet Pet Stores – sight unseen? Think you want one of these so-called “designer dogs”? Think again. Pug-a-poos, peke-a-poos, puggles, labradoodles, goldendoodles, and others with similar names are mixed breed dogs. They are not a “new breed” and they are not purebred dogs. These dogs are bred indiscriminately without regard to the potential genetic disasters that are being created – they are glorified puppy mill dogs. These very expensive mixed-breed dogs are sold over the Internet, purchased, sight unseen, and shipped all over the country. You may also find “backyard breeders” who are unscrupulously cross breeding these “designer dogs” to make money. Puppy mill dogs may exhibit specific behaviors, based on their experiences as young puppies. They are often hand-shy, having been grabbed by the tail, ears or scruff without affection many times by different people. They refuse to make eye contact, may be afraid of their own food bowls, and are likely to flee if frightened. They can be withdrawn, submissive or become fear biters. They can be difficult to housetrain, because they have always soiled their cages, never having been outside of the cage for any length of time. In the pet store, they are also always in cages, and learn to relieve themselves there as well. Some puppies may have been hosed down in their cages, and become afraid of water hoses, sprinklers, showers or even the sound of water. Answering an ad in the paper? Going to see the puppies down the street? Calling the number on the telephone pole sign? Many of these people are referred to as “backyard” breeders for a reason. THESE RED FLAGS SHOULD MAKE YOU THINK TWICE. ß If the puppies were born and raised in a shed, barn or basement, or were put “outside” by themselves at 4, 5 or 6 weeks of age, walk away ! They were deprived of important human interactions and contact with the mother. Puppies should have frequent contact with Mom even after weaned. Otherwise they will miss out on important behavior lessons, and often become hard biters. ß If you are denied the opportunity to see the mother of the puppies, and the father if available, walk away ! Even if Dad isn’t around, Mom should be, and she should be happy to see you. So should any other dogs on the property. Beware of the fearful or aggressive mother or father….it has rubbed off on the puppies. ß If the mother and father have not been screened for potential genetic diseases prevalent in the breed, and are not current current on vaccinations, heartworm protection and flea/tick preventive, walk away ! Neither should have any health problems. Healthy parents, healthy pups…. ß If the parents are under two years old, walk away. Avoid puppies from adolescent dogs who have not yet matured, or from a female who was bred on her first heat. The mother should not be bred every heat cycle. ß If the “breeder” is selling puppies at 5 or 6 weeks, walk away. ß If the puppies have not been examined by a veterinarian and given first shots, walk away. The “papers”. Registration papers issued by the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club are valuable if you are interested in competitive dog sports, or you will be showing your dog in the conformation ring. However, official registration papers from these organizations are not a guarantee of health, temperament or genetic background. It is your responsibility to do your homework when purchasing a puppy from a registered litter with either Club. Be aware that anyone can print a set of papers showing a pedigree. There are impressive software programs for that. There are different organizations out there who will even provide pedigree papers for a mixed breed dog, for the right price. Most registries have no control over who gets bred or how often, nor do they care about the health, genetics or temperament of the puppies. There are many healthy, friendly, genetically sound dogs out there without papers, and many sick or aggressive registered dogs. Beware of people who will charge you extra for “the papers”. Use your common sense. For information about your rights when purchasing a pet from a dealer or breeder, contact the Consumer Affairs Service Center at 1-800-242-5846 or visit Gifts for the New Life Here are some gift suggestions to consider for the new life that is joining your family or someone you know. ß A gift certificate for Puppy Kindergarten or Good Manners classes ß A Puppy Tool Kit – 6 great booklets that cover housetraining, socialization, obedience, prevention, development and games you can play with your puppy ( ß “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Positive Dog Training”, a book by Pamela Dennison ß Sirius Puppy Training Video, by Ian Dunbar ß a Puppy Kong, Puppy Dental Stick or adult-sized Kong: indestructible rubber toys that can be stuffed with food and encourage healthy teething, problem-solving and good behavior ( ß Interactive puzzle toys, such as the I-Qube, Hide-a-Bee or the Intelli-cube (available at most pet supply and Internet stores) ß a gift certificate for a veterinarian visit and a microchip


Holiday Safety Tips for all Pets ♦ Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia plants are pet poisons !! Make sure they are kept in places your pet cannot reach. ♦ Check all holiday gifts that your pet receives to make sure they are safe. Some toys have small pieces that can be easily bitten off and swallowed, or pose a choking hazard to your pet. ♦ Remove holiday lights from lower tree branches. They may get very hot and can burn your pet. ♦ Watch out for electrical cords. Pets often try to chew them and may get badly shocked or electrocuted. Place wires out of reach. ♦ Avoid using glass ornaments. They break easily and may cut a pet's feet and mouth. ♦ Refrain from using edible ornaments. Your pet may knock the tree over in an attempt to eat them. Also, commercial food strings may contain paint or toxins in the preservatives. ♦ Whether your tree is live or artificial, both kinds of needles are sharp and indigestible. Keep your tree fenced in or in a room that can be blocked off. An exercise pen around the tree can act as a barrier. ♦ Tinsel is dangerous for pets. It may obstruct circulation and, if swallowed, can block the intestines. ♦ Alcohol and chocolate are toxic for pets, even in small amounts. Keep eggnog, sweet treats and other seasonal goodies out of reach, and make sure the kids are taught not to feed these goodies to the animals. ♦ The Holiday Season is a stressful time for pets. Try to keep a normal schedule during all the excitement. Make sure your pet gets quality time to relax and remains secure while people are going in and out through the doors. This article is brought to you by The K9 Advocates. Our goal is to improve the quality of relationships between dogs and their humans, through positive training, education, compassion, and fun! Ana M. Cilursu, CPDT is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She is the coordinator for the Dog Training Program sponsored by the Humane Society of Atlantic County. She specializes in Puppy Kindergarten, Basic Good Manners & Canine Good Citizen classes. Joanne Horton is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She owns “Good Puppy, Great Dog Training”and specializes in Puppy Kindergarten and Canine Companion classes. Kay Datesman is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She owns Manor Dog Training and specializes in agility training for all levels. Lisa Powell, CPDT is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She teaches basic and advanced pet dog obedience and specializes in household manners and behavior modification.