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FAMILY FOREVER: Not Just for Christmas (Chanukah, Birthdays or Graduations)

Thinking of Getting The Kids A Dog For The Holidays?

If you're considering getting the kids a dog this holiday season, do yourself (and the dog) an enormous favor: think long and hard before making this major commitment.

A dog can be a joyful addition to a family, but it is not a present to be opened, played with and then forgotten. In the months following the holiday season, shelters across the country typically fill to capacity with discarded, barking Christmas gifts.

A Dog is For Life, Not Just For Christmas! This the motto of the UK's National Canine Defense League, created in the hopes of discouraging people against giving dogs to their children as gifts. We all know the scenario: the kids spend months begging, bargaining and pleading for a dog. Finally the adults give in, utterly unprepared for the responsibility and work that lies ahead.

Ordinary expense to properly maintain a pet can quickly add up. Initially you will need collars, leashes, bowls, dog bed, toys, food, grooming, licenses as well as routine veterinarian exams and inoculations.

The holidays pass in a blur of activity. Months go by. There is pee and poop where no one wants it. House-training a dog takes patience, practice and time…it's not simply a Kodak moment.

The new dog, now not so new, "gets into" the Oreos and vomits all over the house. It costs well over $600 for the emergency visit to  the vet to treat the poor creature for chocolate poisoning. Following recovery, the dog "gets out of" the front door, resulting in a frantic chase through the yard of your disgruntled neighbor. Then your kid's friends visit and the dog nips a small finger. Now a police report is filed against your pet and the dog has a reputation akin to Stephen King's notorious Cujo. 

Claiming "the dog got into" or "got out of" something places blame on the animal (rather than the owner). An educated owner does not permit chocolate anywhere in the vicinity of their dog, as canines are deathly allergic to chocolate, grapes, onions, Holiday Poinsettias and various other things. Advising visitors on the proper manner in which to approach a dog (calmly, quietly, one at a time) is just one of the owner's responsibilities.

Six months after the holiday spirit of giving has passed, amid tears and regret, last season's hottest "gift" is dumped at the animal shelter. Unlike an ill-fitting sweater returned to a department store, this dog will be crammed into a cage with other holiday "mistakes" and most likely will be euthanized.

Before bringing a dog home, some basic questions need to be asked:

  • Does your work schedule accommodate a minimum of three daily walks?
  • Who will walk the dog when you are sick or busy?
  • Who will care for it during vacations?
  • Where will you take it to be regularly groomed?
  • Are you willing to hire a trainer and work to socialize your dog?

Solutions to these questions need to be established long before a new canine arrives. The holidays are busy with celebrations, visitors and excitement. The right time for a new dog is when there is routine and plenty of responsible adult supervision.

Should you decide to opt for a new dog at a more fitting time in your family's life, the RiverDell area has many resources to help you make the adjustment to responsible pet owner: 

Second Chance Dog Training Services, Inc. (201-262-7173) Utilizing "positive reinforcement based training," owner Eileen Haley provides training at home or places where you bring your dog.

Tim Miller Dog Training (201-383-0433). Tim Miller's website offers a long list of commendations from relieved clients whose dog "issues" run from housebreaking to crazed chewers.

Paws, Claws and Tails Petsitters LLc.(201-712-5429) Petsitting/dog-walking service. Each visit includes walking, feeding, providing water and fun for your pet.

Wag A Little (1-888-662-2440) Their motto is "Wag what you got, a little or a lot!" Walking, petsitting and pet-taxi services. This company works in several parts of the country, including our area.

Don't Kennel Your Dog  (201-791-2319)Offering at home pet-sitting for your dog when you are away, Linda Brown Lee gives a personal touch to care.

Nancy's Loving Pet Care 201-417-6372 Billed as Your Pet's Home Away From Home also provides pet care in the owner's own home, as opposed to a "noisy, scary kennel."

at 902 Kinderkamack Road (201-262-7400) offers expert dog grooming in a local, loving atmosphere.

Will the kids be disappointed when Santa brings a Nintendo instead of a dog?

Of course. But saying No in this instance, along with clearly stated reasoning, can provide a wonderful opportunity to exercise your parenting skills. Children model the behaviors and beliefs of parents. Demonstrate compassion for animals by explaining that simply because something is wanted, it isn't necessarily the right choice.

As Mahatma Gandhi very wisely said: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

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