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A Dog is for Life, not just for Christmas…

In 1978, Clarissa Baldwin, Chief Executive of the Dog’s Trust, coined this well-known slogan. The meaning behind the phrase is to raise awareness that dogs should not be given as surprise presents at Christmas (or any other time). Sadly, post Yuletide the rescue shelters are brimming with unwanted ‘gifts’.

Owning a dog is a life-long responsibility. Many people spend considerable time researching their new car and considerably less researching their chosen breed of dog. If you choose your car solely on appearance, it may not be practical for your family’s needs. Equally, dogs should not be bought for looks alone. Research make and model with care – do you want a high speed Ferrari (working line) or a steadier Focus or Mini (show line)? If purchasing a second hand vehicle, you would check it out thoroughly to avoid costly breakdowns and seek expert opinion. Do you have the knowledge to ‘repair’ behaviour problems in a dog, or are you prepared to invest the time and expense on specialist advice?

Seek out your breeder with care. Whilst some breeders will advise on suitability and are highly knowledgeable, anyone can raise a litter of puppies without prior knowledge of the breed or breeding.   After researching your breed’s history and before visiting your litter, ensure that the relevant genetic tests have been carried out and the puppy is home bred. Once you have seen the puppies, your heart rules your head and it’s difficult to say “no”, particularly when children have set their hearts on a dog.

I had a ‘phone call recently from a delightful lady asking for advice, before the puppy arrived! She had done her homework, researched the breed suitability and breeder, and we arranged an individual puppy consultation. I was able to offer breed-specific management advice, discuss problem-prevention and provide a comprehensive puppy pack and my Dog Blog* to read. When the puppy arrived, this owner was armed with up-to-date science-based information and a toolbox of positive solutions to common puppy challenges. Establishing guidelines early means that we are not ironing out unwanted behaviours that have been rehearsed for several weeks. Everyone in the household – four-pawed and two – has practised getting it right from the start! Although genetics play a strong role in temperament and behaviour, the first few months need to be devoted to building strong foundation skills and rewarding wanted behaviour to establish good life-long habits.  If things don’t quite go to plan, seek the advice of a qualified behaviourist immediately; don’t wait.

And if you have a dog already, what do you buy him for Christmas? Below are a few of our favourite presents of Christmas Past, which come with the approval of Mabel, Merlin, Oscar and Phoebe!A dog is for life

Merry Christmas Everyone!

This article, along with a selection of others about behaviour and training, is available in our Dog Blog booklet.  This can be purchased for £2 and is available as a paper copy or downloadable e-book.  All proceeds to Irish Retriever Rescue.

If you would like to sell any copies of the Dog Blog for your rescue organisation, please contact kate@contemplatingcanines.com.

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