By Cheryl Silver
csilver2 [Email address: csilver2 #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ]

This is the time of the year when
people start thinking about getting a puppy or adult dog as a present
for a child or other family member. Try as I might, few people
listen when I urge them to not get a dog as a present for anybody
and, to certainly avoid doing it at holiday time when everyone is
busy, households are full of activity and objects that can lead to
problems, such as Christmas trees, presents, candy, extra electric
cords, etc. are everywhere.

If you want to give a dog as a present,
I have some suggestions. Rather than giving a dog, put together a
wonderful package of gift certificates and really terrific books
about living with a new dog and give that. You can make the
certificate and enumerate what it is good for, e.g. “This
certificate entitles you to a collar, a leash, a dog dish, two dog
toys, a bag of premium dog food (such as Natural Balance), a crate,
and a comfy dog bed.” This will be a very, very welcome gift.
Include a copy of some wonderful books such as, books by folks like
Dr. Ian Dunbar, Dr. Patricia McConnell, Carol Benjamin, and Karen
Pryor. All are available online—new and used.

I strongly urge you to consider a
rescue dog. You can contact me if you would like to reach a rescue
group for a particular breed—I will be happy to point you in the
right direction. If you want a mixed breed dog, I can point you in
the right direction, as well.

The relationship between a dog and its
people is special and a good match is critical. If you go to a
reputable rescue group, they should be asking you lots and lots of
questions about your lifestyle and what you are hoping for in a dog.
Do you want a jogging companion, someone to be a couch potato with
you, a dog to do therapy with or to compete in dog-people activities?
Think it through and be sure you discuss it with everyone in your
family and with the rescue group.

Be rational. The dog needs to fit
readily into your lifestyle. I know a family that insists they want
a puppy, yet the primary caretaker for the dog works ten plus hours a
day and the only person home is an elderly relative who is unstable
on her feet and whose hearing is poor. This is no situation for a
puppy, but they are insistent. No reputable rescuer, in my opinion,
would place a puppy in this situation. It could endanger the senior
relative and the puppy will not get the attention, training and
socialization it needs to develop fully. A settled trained dog
about 5 years old would probably work well, but they will not
consider it. Think through your lifestyle—think about what a dog
needs and deserves.

When you go to a rescue group, let them
know you are interested in a dog that has been living in a foster
situation and has been evaluated in a home setting. Ask specifics
about the dog. The following are examples:

–Is the dog in a foster home with
children? How old are the children and how does the dog interact
with them?

–Is the dog crate-trained?
Housetrained? Destructive? If housetrained, how does the dog
signal that it needs to go outside to potty?

–How does the dog interact with the
other pets in the foster home? What genders are the other dogs? I
recommend that you get a dog of the opposite sex from your current

–Does the rescue group provide ongoing
support on behavioral issues?

–How does the dog deal with new people
and new situations? Is he timid about new things or outgoing?

–How does the dog relate to people and
other dogs when on walks?

–Does the dog guard any toys, special
chews, food bowl, places such as his dog bed?

This has been a very brief overview of
issues related to adding a dog to your family. I am happy to help
in greater depth if you give me a call.