McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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April 19, 2014

PAWS: Happy Easter

McALESTER — As I was growing up, it seemed that Easter was always a time for giving a cute little furry animal as a gift.

We seem to associate this holiday with bunnies and chicks, and of course, kitties and puppies.

What nicer gift could you possibly give to your favorite loved one or friend than that furry little creature?

Good question!

Each holiday brings certain traditions.

You know, those things your mom taught you and the traditions you are now passing on to your children and grandchildren.

Whether it’s special dinners, treats, parties, or family get-togethers, it becomes a tradition. Sometimes I think we forget the reason for the season and gift-giving becomes the major celebration.  

What happens to all the bunnies, chicks, kitties, and puppies? Do they stay little, cute and lovable? Not always!

What happens when they start growing up and the fun part isn’t fun any longer?

Sometimes they become more of a nuisance because we didn’t understand how to train them from the beginning. Animals don’t come with a tag that says I’m trained and ready to go. They’re like a toy that comes without batteries.

Training starts from the first step in the door.

Pets are like children. They need guidance and boundaries.

Your rules should be designed to teach obedience and safety, without cruelty. One of the first things we try to teach a dog is to “come.” As we teach this command, rewards, such as praise or special treats, are a necessary part of the training. Be sure “come” always results in a pleasant result.

Many owners don’t realize they inadvertently punish their dogs for coming when called by doing something the dog finds undesirable. If you call your dog to you and start to clip his nails, and he hates nail trimming, you’ve punished him for coming.

If you wait a few minutes after he comes to you, then trim his nails, he won’t associate the two actions. Lesson learned!

Years ago, I had a poodle that loved to climb the fence and run up the street. The first time she did it, I chased after her and she thought I was creating a new game. I didn’t catch her after running three blocks, so I gave up and went home. A few minutes later she came back down the driveway and I scolded her for running away.

The second time she got away and ran up the street, I stayed in the yard and waited for her.  When she saw me, she started crawling on her belly, but came right up to me.  I scolded her again. It finally dawned on me that this approach wasn’t working, so the next time she came home, I praised her for returning and gave her a big hug. That was a turning point in our relationship. I started a new rule for both of us. When I played outside with her and she got near the fence, I learned to redirect her attention to me and gave her another hug and lots of praise. It worked.

Training takes patience and determination.

If we want that lovable pet to stay lovable, we need to teach rules from the get-go. Too many times, people get frustrated with the animal and give it to someone else or take it to the local shelter. It’s not the animal’s fault they don’t understand or follow the rules. We need to be more trained ourselves. Then we can train our pets to follow the rules and they will love getting all that praise and all those hugs.

Lastly, remember the best gift you can give anytime of the year is to have your pet spayed or neutered.

Call PAWS at 918-470-7297 to see if you qualify for financial assistance.

Joyce McNally is a PAWS volunteer and advocate for prevention of pet abuse and neglect. Comments or questions can be directed to her at wwjoyce@swbell.net.

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