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Are You Ready for a Dog?

What do you think about when you picture your life with a dog? Games of fetch in the backyard, long walks in the country, lazy afternoons snuggled together on the couch? Maybe you want a friend for your children, a guardian for your home, or an athlete to train for and compete in AKC events. Or maybe you just like the idea of sharing your life with a devoted companion animal. A dog can be all those things, and more.

But before you bring a dog home, you also need to picture this: Veterinarian bills for routine vaccinations, checkups, illnesses and injuries. Housetraining, and the accidents that happen before training is complete. Losing your best shoes to chewing and your best rosebush to digging. Barking when you're trying to sleep, begging when you're trying to eat. Dogs do all these things too, and unless you're prepared for that reality, you're not ready for a dog.

Remember that owning a dog is a lifelong commitment with a variety of responsibilities; if you cannot meet those responsibilities, neither you or your dog will be happy. Consider the following list carefully, and honestly evaluate your lifestyle, your home, and your pocketbook before you decide that you really want a dog.

Food

In addition to your dog's meals, you'll want to supply occasional healthy treats. You may need to feed a special diet for puppies, allergies, weight management, illnesses, older dogs.You'll need to train your dog not to beg for people food, and your family not to give in to those pleading puppy eyes.

Shelter

For indoor dogs, you'll need a crate or other confined area to protect the dog and your belongings at night or when you're away. You'll want to keep a supply of carpent cleaner on hand, and provide a bed or mat. Gates to keep the dog out of certain rooms can also be helpful.

Outdoor dogs must have a fenced yard or kennel run. They will need a sheltered spot so they can stay out of the heat in summer, the cold in winter, and the rain. You'll need to install creative fencing to protect your garden, and to protect the dog from toxic plants. You will probably have to do some obedience training to prevent nuisance barking. You'll need a pooper-scooper to keep your yard clean.

Water

Fresh water must be available at all times.

Exercise

Your dog will need a couple of daily walks or romps in the yard. You'll have to provide a leash, a pooper-scooper, and balls or flying discs to play with. You'll need an umbrella, and dog sweaters or booties for small or delicate dogs in inclement weather.

Training

Housetraining is first. A crate is useful, but stock up on carpet cleaner and deodorizer and some puppy training pads.

Teaching basic good manners requires time and dedication. You may want to join a Puppy or CGC class. Advanced classes or behavioral training may be required for more difficult or spirited dogs.

You must be prepared to control your dog's behavior at home, with guests, in the park, around the neighborhood, at the vet's office--at all times.

Health Care

Your dog will need regular checkups, vaccinations and dental care. You must also be prepared to care for your dog during illnesses or after accidents--such as a sprain, a torn paw pad, consumption of a stuffed animal, or poisoning. Some dogs develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, or hip dysplasia; older dogs also require additional care. The AKC Pet Healthcare Plan available in all 50 states, can help you to budget sensibly and responsibly for the lifelong healthcare needs of your dog.

Grooming

You'll need equipment such as a tub, brush, comb, shaver or nail clippers. Dogs with profuse or sculpted coats may require professional grooming.

Play

You can give your dog safe stuffed and rubber toys, bones, balls and other chewies. You'll need to train the dog to distinguish its toys from your possessions.

Companionship

Your dog needs your attention when you're home, and a secure place to stay when you're away.

Some dogs require training to alleviate separation anxiety in their owner's absence.

You'll need a petsitter or a good boarding kennel if you go away for an extended period of time.

Forgiveness

Your dog won't apologize for having housetraining accidents, for digging, for barking, for chewing--for being a dog. You'll have to forgive him his "mistakes" anyway.

Devotion

Don't worry. You'll get it all back.

Article information courtesy the American Kennel Club

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The Right Dog For You

Deciding what kind of dog to get is as important as deciding whether to get a dog in the first place. The AKC recognizes over 150 different breeds of dog, and each of these breeds has its own unique temperament, appearance, activity level and set of needs. You should do some serious and careful research to determine which breed of dog is right for you and your family. Here are some things to consider:

Temperament

You're going to be living with this dog for a long time, so you need to make sure he has a personality you can live with. Do you want a dog that is active, or subdued? A dog that is easily trained, or strong-willed? A dog that is friendly to everyone he meets, or one that loyal to family but aloof toward strangers? A dog that needs a lot of attention from family members, and lots of activity to prevent him from becoming bored and destructive, or a dog that is content to be left alone for periods of time during the day?

Size

All little puppies are adorable, of course, but they grow quickly-and some of them grow a lot. Find out how large-in height and weight-that cute puppy will become before you bring him home. Remember that larger dogs require more food and space-is your yard or living room big enough to meet his needs? And keep in mind that some little dogs still need lots of room to run around and burn off energy.

Coat/Grooming Needs

All dogs need to be groomed regularly to stay healthy and clean; most dogs will shed. But some dogs shed profusely all year round; some shed in clumps for a few weeks; some dogs shed only a little bit. Long-coated dogs are beautiful to look at, but require a lot of effort to stay that way. Short-coated dogs are easier to care for, but may still shed, and may require protection in cold or wet weather. Dogs with fancy trims may need professional grooming. Decide how much dog hair you're willing to put up with, and how much time and energy you can afford, when you're deciding which breed is right for you.

Male or Female

In general, there is no significant difference in temperament between male and female dogs. If you are getting a dog for a pet, you will want to have your dog spayed or neutered, which will eliminate most minor differences anyway. If you plan to show or breed your dog, you must be vigilant about preventing unwanted breedings by keeping your intact male safely confined to your house or yard, and by keeping your intact female away from other dogs when she comes into heat twice yearly.

Puppy or Adult

The advantage of getting a puppy-aside from its irresistible cuteness-is that you can raise it by yourself from the beginning, and participate in its training and socialization every step of the way. The disadvantage is that training a puppy requires a great deal of time and patience. Busy families should keep in mind that puppies cannot be left alone for more than a few hours at a time. They need plenty of trips outside, frequent meals, and lots of interaction with people. Adult dogs-whether purchased directly from a breeder or adopted from a rescue group-can be ideal for people who want a dog with fewer needs. Mature dogs tend to be calmer; some are already house-trained and know some basic obedience.

Health

Some breeds may be prone to hereditary diseases or conditions. Many breeds can be screened for certain conditions, such as hip or eye problems; this certification should be available to you when you go to look at a puppy. Being educated about the health considerations of your chosen breed can help you to avoid or alleviate future problems.

Article information courtesy the American Kennel Club

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Socializing a Puppy

The first lesson for a puppy is not to mouth humans. Playful nips cannot be tolerated. The second lesson is lead training which can begin as early as 8 weeks of age.

Put a lightweight lead on the puppy, securing it snugly under the throat and behind the ears. Pick him up and go a short distance away from the security of familiar surroundings. Place the pup on the ground, reassuring him with words and pats. Walk away from him quickly while encouraging him to follow. The puppy will not like the idea of being left alone in unchartered waters and will trot after you. When he follows, praise him.

If the puppy hesitates, do not drag him along. Just give a short tug on the lead encourage him to come to you. Keep the lead slack and make short, sharp corrections if he lags behind, weaves from side to side or leans on the lead. Keep the daily practice sessions short and enjoyable for the puppy. Five to ten minutes of lead work is plenty. Before long, the pup will be trotting easily on the lead and ready to go explore new places with you.

After a full set of vaccinations at 16 weeks of age, it’s time for a puppy to go out and meet other dogs. The ideal place is a local puppy obedience class. It’s the best environment to teach your puppy about positive interactions with other people and dogs.

The puppy obedience classes provide a structured environment where a puppy can learn the rewards of positive performance and behavior. To receive the full benefit of obedience classes, work your puppy every day for short periods of time. Mix things up to keep it interesting for the puppy and always include plenty of praise. End every practice session with playtime.

Take your puppy every place a dog is allowed. The more environments and situations your puppy is exposed to, the more confidant a dog he will become.

Article information courtesy the American Kennel Club

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What is AKC Agility?

It is one of the fastest growing dog sports in the USA!

  • Agility is a sport that appeals to all dog lovers - from young people to senior citizens. It has great spectator appeal. Agility is designed to demonstrate a dog's willingness to work with its handler in a variety of situations. It is an athletic event that requires conditioning, concentration, training and teamwork. Dog and handlers negotiate an obstacle course racing against the clock.
  • The AKC offers three types of agility classes. The first, Standard Class, includes contact objects such as the dog walk, the A-frame, and seesaw. Each of the contact obstacles has a "safety zone" painted on the object and the dog must place at least one paw in that area to complete the obstacle. The second is Jumpers with Weaves. It has only jumps, tunnels and weaves poles with no contact objects to slow the pace. The third is FAST, which stands for Fifteen and Send Time. This class is designed to test handler and dog teams' strategy skill, accuracy, speed and distance handling.
  • All classes offer increasing levels of difficulty to earn Novice, Open, Excellent and Master titles. After completing both an Excellent Standard title and an Excellent Jumpers title, handler and dog teams can compete for the MACH - faster than the speed of sound! (Master Agility Championship title.)
  • Agility began in England in 1978. The AKC held its first agility trial in 1994.
  • Agility is one of the fastest growing dog sports in the United States and is the fastest growing event at the AKC.
  • A trial is a competition. Clubs hold practice matches and then apply to be licensed to hold official trials. At a licensed trial, handlers and dogs can earn scores toward agility titles.
  • An advantage to AKC participation is that dogs can earn titles in a variety of events such as conformation, lure coursing, earth dog, retrieving and field trials, obedience, rally (as of 1/1/05), and tracking, as well as agility.
  • In the first year of AKC agility there were 23 trials. In 2003, there were 1,379 trials. The number of trials held in 2007 was 2,014.
  • In the first year of AKC agility (1994), there were approximately 2,000 entries in AKC agility trials.
  • AKC agility is available to every registerable breed. From tiny Yorkshire Terriers to giant Irish Wolfhounds, the dogs run the same course with adjustments in the expected time and jump height.
  • The classes are divided by jump heights in order to make the competition equal between the different sizes of dogs.

Article information courtesy the American Kennel Club

Agility classes are offered locally by the Town and Country Kennel Club.

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What to do when Animal Control comes Knocking

An article about ANTI-DOG ENFORCEMENT - What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know

Article by George J. Eigenhauser Jr. (An attorney at law licensed in the State of California since 1979 and practicing in the areas of civil litigation and estate planning)

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