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Give Thought to the Gift That Keeps on Wagging

She is not a fan of "gifting" puppies for the holidays. Dogs of any age, says dog trainer and behavior therapist Jody Rosengarten , should be thought of as members of the family and should never be confused with disposable, store-bought Chia Pets .

But, for parents who have given the issue a good deal of thought with regard to a pet and family’s wellbeing and who still want to make the multi-year and formidable commitment to owning one, Rosengarten says, “Oh boy!” And she has some suggestions for those doing so this holiday season.

At the top of the list, of course, is keeping your new puppy – hopefully adopted from a rescue organization – safe.

“From blinking lights to glass balls, tinsel and candy canes, everything about a Christmas tree – including the tree itself – is irresistibly attractive and potentially dangerous to a puppy,” says Easton-based Rosengarten, who has been working with pets for some 30 years and who sees "clients" throughout Fairfield and Westchester counties. Therefore, she says, it is best to simply keep the pup away from the area. She recommends using baby gates or an Ex-pen to get the job done.

Under the heading of Dangerous to Dogs are Mistletoe, holly and boxwood, which are toxic to pets. Poinsettia, says Rosengarten, is also poisonous. Anti-freeze is another seasonal poison that is tempting to dogs for its sweet smell, but it can be deadly if ingested, and rock salt is poisonous to them as well. Make sure these plants and materials are not in the reach of a curious (and surprisingly dexterous) young dog.

Rosengarten says the initial days of puppy procurement can be exciting and overwhelming for human and canine alike. A calm, consistent welcome will set the tone for the pup’s life with a new family.

Holiday chaos, she adds, can amplify a puppy’s disorientation upon coming into a new home, so limiting its exposure to excessive holiday cheer – loud parties and a profusion of comings and goings by people he doesn’t know – is a good idea.

Rosengarten says that when in doubt as to how to handle a behavioral situation, new pet owners should err on the side of gentleness.

“This may not always get the immediate desired result, but at least you won’t do damage that requires fixing in the future," she said. "You’ll have tons of time to tighten the reigns later.”

The real fun can begin once the holidays are over and you all settle in for the rest of your lives together. And maybe by the time the next Christmas rolls around you’ll consider adopting yet another furry pet – not of the Chia variety.

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