When I was growing up, all I wanted Santa to bring me was a pony.
Of course, Santa knew that a pony was not in the budget, so I had to wait until I was out on my own before the dream of owning a horse became a reality.
For many kids, their Christmas wish is a cute, cuddly puppy under the tree on Christmas morning. If Santa makes their wish come true, here are some tips to remember:
- Properly raising a puppy is a full-time job. Puppies require an infinite amount of time and patience. While children often proclaim, “I’ll take care of it,” the reality is that they do not have the skills needed to care for a puppy properly. That burden always defaults to Mom and Dad.
- Housebreaking is not easy. If your puppy is less than 12 weeks of age, you will probably need to get up at least once each night to take your puppy outside. Your puppy will need constant supervision and proper confinement in order to help him learn to eliminate in the proper location. Don’t expect him to become housebroken without a lot of help from you. Most puppies are not completely housebroken until after a year of age.
- Puppies bite. Normal puppy play involves play biting. When there are no littermates to play with, this behavior will be directed at feet, hands, clothing, and faces. Children often become disenchanted with a puppy that bites them constantly. Do not physically punish your puppy for play biting. Simply startle him with a loud, low, “Ouch” and be prepared to redirect him with a toy. Children always should be supervised when playing with a puppy.
- Puppies chew. A puppy does not know that some objects are off limits. Puppies chew to relieve stress, boredom, and to help soothe teething. Your family will need to learn to put away shoes, toys and other valuables to keep your puppy from destroying them. Do not expect your puppy to know the difference between his toys and your toddler’s. If it is within reach, its fair game for your puppy!
- Puppies are expensive. Your puppy will require several trips to visit the veterinarian within the first year. Routine expenses will include vaccinations, parasite testing and de-worming, parasite preventatives, and spaying/neutering. Then there is dog food, toys, treats, collars and leashes. It is estimated that the average cost for raising a puppy in the first year is $1,500 to $2,000. You might also consider enrolling your puppy in a pet insurance plan to help defray some of the veterinary costs.
- Make time to train your puppy. Your puppy only knows how to behave like a puppy. He has to be taught what you want him do, while you prevent him from learning bad habits. The best time to begin training is the moment Santa drops your puppy off in his new home. Enrolling in a puppy class by 14 weeks of age gets your puppy off to a great start, and is an investment in your relationship. Do not wait until your puppy develops bad habits before you begin training. It is easier to teach the right behaviors first, than it is to try to correct naughty behavior later.
With the help of a good veterinarian and a reputable trainer, your new puppy can bring joy and happiness for many years to come.
Patience, praise, and practice are the keys to determining whether your new puppy is “naughty” or “nice.”