Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
6 October 1999 Issue

Add a Little Respect In Treatment of Pet
By Phil Arkow, Pet Pals

The Courier Post
Sunday, September 12, 1999

My friend, Carol Shiveley, runs the humane education program at the Oregon Humane Society. She recently coined an expression that answers the frustration that animal shelter workers experience.

Shelter workers go crazy when they meet people who got pets on an impulse, only to discover that they had no idea what their new furry friend needed to be happy and healthy.

I know whereof she speaks. When I ran humane education at the Humane Society in Colorado Springs, Colo., we routinely took in 60 animals a day, mostly from people who just didn't "get it."

Shiveley says when you're looking for a new pet, treat the selection with respect. I'll explain what she means.

First, here's the problem: People often gamble with fate when they select a critter. Maybe they feel sorry for it. Maybe it's the most macho-looking pup in the litter.

They act on a whim to select a living creature that will be a member of their family for the next 15 years. By contrast, they'll spend hours agonizing over what clothes to buy or the color of the new car.

Once the animal gets home, they often find it's not everything they dreamt of. We used to call them "weekend wonders," people who got a pet on Friday and couldn't plan far enough ahead to realize that no one would be home on Monday to walk the dog.

Here's where respect comes in.

R is for research. Do your homework first and learn about the breed you're interested in. Know what to expect.

E is for examination. Take your new pet to a veterinarian right away for an exam and X-rays if the breed is prone to hip dysplasia, disjointed knees or any other breed tendency. "Better to find out early than to become bonded and faced with a hefty vet bill and heartache later," says Shiveley.

S is for Socialization. Expose your pet to many people and conditions and train it to adhere to the rules. Make it a member of your family.

P is for patience. Dogs and cats learn at their own paces, which can be maddeningly slow. Don't expect overnight miracles.

E is for education. Just as with educating your children, pets learn best through kindness, example, reinforcement and praise. Think of pets as children who never grow up and educate them accordingly.

C is for consistency. Make rules and have everyone in the house stick to them. If one person feeds the dog scraps and another bans the dog from the kitchen, the pooch will get mixed messages. He'll be very confused.

T is for training. They need a lot of it. Keep at it and reinforce it. Dogs want nothing more than to please their humans: it's up to you to show them how.

Aretha Franklin sang about respect. This may not be what the First Lady of Soul had in mind, but it's the key to owning and keeping a good dog for a long time.

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