M.J. Cockerline

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Spring has arrived at last ! What a wonderful time of year it is to entertain the thought of acquiring a new pet. The most obvious reasons for making the decision are : a dog for the children, a faithful companion to keep one company, or sometimes to fulfill a need to nurture and look after someone or something. This especially applies to “empty nesters” and takes the place of children who have grown up and left home. These are all honorable reasons for adding that four-legged furry friend to the family circle.

I think it is wise to take this train of thought a little further before actually making the move. All of us want to have a balanced dog that is well adjusted and suited to our lifestyle and personality, so we can enjoy the experience. In order to achieve this we must consider that our original reasons to get a pet are to fulfill our own needs. In order to have the balanced dog we all desire, we must learn to fulfill the needs of the animal as well as our own. What does a dog need ? This is where it is sometimes tricky for us to find the right mix.

Firstly, you must find a dog that will fit your lifestyle, i.e. a high energy, very active dog is ill suited to someone who is not able to meet the exercise requirements. The opposite is also true. If you are a person that likes to move don’t think a “couch potato” will be suitable. Don’t base your decision on how the dog looks but on how you feel the energy level suits you.

Dogs are usually very social animals and need to see other dogs at a young age to develop their proper etiquette. They need to leave the property on daily walks to learn how the human world works and also to see and smell the natural world. This fulfills the primal side of their nature. Even if you don’t have children, the dog should be exposed to them as much as possible so that fearful behavior does not develop. Gone are the days when we country people just open the door and let the dog roam at will. This is no longer acceptable and should never be done.

Another very good way to socialize and teach manners is to enroll in a training class. The rewards can be immeasurable and results are almost immediate.

While we are on the subject of fulfilling the dog’s needs we must remember to provide adequate shelter, summer and winter, water and food. Veterinary care is very important as well, proper shots and protection from parasites are imperative. We live in an area that is highly populated with deer and the ticks can be deadly to our dogs. Lyme disease can be as close as your back yard.

Having carefully considered all these things, you are ready to get your pet. A fulfilled dog is a wonderful companion and won’t turn into the snarling, growling, barking beast that urinates on all the carpets. That dog will be the subject for a future column.

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