The living Christmas present, Part 1 |

The living Christmas present, Part 1

Stephen Sheldon
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Or should I say the living holiday present? Sorry if I offended anyone ” including my own family.

Anyway, now is the time of year when the gift of giving many times means one with four legs and fur. You are now responsible for a living, breathing creature. You need to learn the basics of food, water, shelter, training and health care.

Your new pet most likely will be stressed out, even though they may have just won the pet lottery and landed in a loving, protective home. You are probably their second or third home in a few weeks. They have lost their mommy and all of their littermates so you can see why they may be a little timid.

Like my pediatrician told me: Enjoy the quiet time; it won’t last more than a few days.

Pets with behavioral problems are sometimes euthanized. In fact, it’s the leading cause of death for pets. Therefore, after a few days of letting your new pet adjust, you need to make an impression on your pet by beginning training.

I do not advocate waiting until they are six months old or any other ridiculous age to begin training. Dogs and cats are used to social order and it begins at birth.

Dogs are truly family members and they need to know their place in your ‘pack’ and it is, repeat after me, “the bottom rung of the ladder.” That may sound strange coming from an animal advocate but it is the reality and your pet will feel more comfortable knowing his place in your family structure.

One last word about training: Get a crate. Your pet will love it.

On to feeding. Choose a high quality pet food ” I feel it is among the best money spent on your pet. Don’t waste your money on canned food unless you have a really picky eater. Canned food is just dry food plus water.

Feed your puppy three times a day and let him eat as much as he wants for 10 minutes then pick the food up. Regular feedings equals regular pooping.

Develop a routine for feeding and walking. If you’ve read my past articles you know dogs are very anal-retentive.

Kitties can eat whenever they want or put on a schedule. Many people like to feed kitties in the evening because cats are nocturnal and food may help them sleep.

Within one or two days of getting your new gift take him or her to your veterinarian. We will do a very thorough examination. We will check for parasites, review vaccinations and discuss everything above in more detail.

All too often breeders and pet shops tell the new owners all the vaccines have been given but they fail to tell you a complete series is required. Your local animal hospital is among the best resources for your new pet and not just for medical care ” so get comfy there.

We’ll talk more about health care for your new pet in next week’s second part of “The living Christmas present.”

Stephen Sheldon, DVM practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He welcomes your questions and can be reached at 524-DOGS or

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