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Adorable pooches and cuddly kittens need care and training

Owning pets takes effort, common sense and patience

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Dear New Doggy Parent: So! You just got a puppy? Well, you have just made a lifetime commitment to this child. That's right! I said "lifetime" and "child." We live in a throw-away society — get tired of something, toss it out! Give it away! Get something else! But you wouldn't do that to your child, and you can't do that to this puppy, or to that wonderful, hopeful, needy, pleading pooch, or meowing fur ball you adopted from the shelter.

Unfortunately, the next few months will be one of the busiest times of year for shelters and rescue organizations as people who made spur-of-the-moment decisions to get a gift pet in December lose interest and won't take responsibility in January, February and March. This is when the entertaining, "Isn't he cute?" phase turns into the "He's ruining my house!" period. But the problem is not the pet! It is you, my friend. You thought this cutie-pie would adjust by himself — teach himself— learn the ropes by osmosis or by listening to your constant, monotonous, hopeless voicing of the word "no." In reality, without assuming parental responsibility, both you and your pet will become flat-out stressed. He won't understand you, and you won't be able to communicate with him if you don't make the effort to learn about your pet's behavior and needs. Problems left unsolved will not get better. They will just get bigger!

My friends at the shelters tell me there are a lot of revolving-door pet owners. They adopt a dog, for example, and when the dog doesn't teach himself the rules of the house, they bring him back. Then they get in line to take home another dog. This trial-and-error routine can go on forever, and that's a shame, because a little understanding and education can make all the difference in the world. Life with your new pet can be beautiful with just a little effort, common sense and a lot of patience. Here are some very basic Uncle Matty tips.

You are responsible for your pet's health, so the first thing on the agenda is an outing to your veterinarian. Get a checkup, necessary vaccinations and proper parasite control. If you adopted from a shelter, your pet is most likely spayed or neutered. If that is not the case, add that to the list. If you obtained your dog from a breeder or an owner, get the medical records and give them to your vet.

You are responsible for your pet's safety, so make sure he has a safe, warm place to sleep and play. Remember, pets are vulnerable to a variety of wild critters in both city and country environments. Everything from owls to coyotes and more are threats to pets of all sizes. Dogs and cats are even vulnerable to encounters with other dogs and cats. Don't assume that all canines and felines are good-natured and friendly.

Most important, you are the one who is responsible for your pet's education. Let's talk about puppies and dogs. If you have a puppy, don't make the mistake of waiting to start training. Don't pay attention to the know-it-alls who insist your pup should not be trained until he is at least 6 months old. That's nonsense. If you wait, all those puppy problems will become bad habits that are a lot harder to cure.

Training should start when your puppy is 7 to 10 weeks of age. That's when he is especially curious, and teaching him is a lot easier. Because puppies can't mix with other dogs during the period required to complete vaccinations, you need to do one of two things about training. Hire a professional who uses love, praise and affection — one who motivates and does not intimidate. I like in-home training with a professional. Your home is where most of the problems occur, so it makes sense to train and problem-solve at your house. And that goes for an older dog that is lacking education.

Or, do home-schooling yourself. More about that next time! — Uncle Matty


Web site: www.unclematty.com © Creators Syndicate