Christmas Cute is a small puppy jumping out of a brightly wrapped box into an excited child’s arms.
What’s not so cute is that same puppy left to its own devices after the tree has been taken down and the decorations stored in the attic.
“During this time of year, when many people are thinking of giving dogs as gifts for the holiday, I offer caution,” said Linda Grace, owner of Social Graces Pet Dog Training, a Lyons business that opened last January.
“There are a number of things that are wise to consider,” Grace said.
These include: proper match of dog with the person/family member; ages of family members; time the new owner can give to the dog; possible allergies in the home and funds to take proper care of the new pet.
New owners must also think about training opportunities; visits to a trusted veterinarian; and most importantly, taking on the responsibility for the dog’s lifetime.
“If you’re planning on getting a new dog or puppy during the holiday season, be sure to set up your décor and environment in safe ways for your dog,” Grace advised.
“Be very careful to keep potentially dangerous electrical cords, batteries, tinsel, curling ribbon and other items up and out of reach and chewing range.”
Foods and treats that are potentially harmful to dogs, such as chocolate, must be kept away and out of sight, she added.
“Have a safe area – crate, exercise pen, bed – available for your dog to hang out in while the family enjoys gift-giving and unwrapping times,” she said. “Make sure any gifts or toys to your dog are safe and supervise their use.”
After the holidays are over and the newness wears off, training is a must, Grace said.
“New dog owners can truly benefit by seeking out training early on in their lives together with their dogs, so that effective habits and techniques can be started and developed properly,” said Grace, whose passion for working with dogs stemmed from her first childhood puppy, a Fox Terrier-mix named Peppy.
“The challenges of tapping into those little doggie brains have had me engaged and hooked every since,” said Grace, who has owner eight dogs since her first and worked with hundreds of others of varied breeds.
Today, Grace presents workshops and demonstrations as well as filling in as a canine musical freestyle judge and board member for a worldwide organization.
“I’ve competed and earned titles with my dogs in sports of freestyle, rally obedience and agility,” she said.
“Much of what I’ve learned I credit to my experiences with the dogs and gracious mentors and trainers.”
She credits the support of her husband, Rich, a U.S. Air Force retiree, and other family members with her decision to help owners with their new pets.
“And the companionship with my dogs that own me!” she added, naming her Australian Terrier, Willy, and Border Collie/Spaniel, Brande, as giving her an abundance of “dog-stuff endeavors.”
“One of the greatest joys that I have in training a dog is the point in a lesson when the dog really gets what I’m trying to teach him or her – when that light goes on!” Grace said.
To date, Grace has traveled with her dogs about 100 miles per day three times a week to work with dogs in training and daycare (up to 30 dogs playing and mingling together).
For the latter seven of her 11 years working with dogs, she has instructed more than 300 dogs with their owners in group and private classes.
“Much of what I do in lessons deals with instructing owners of the dogs themselves on how to teach their dog, for it is they who live with the dog on a daily basis,” she said.
“My teachings are based on providing effective tools for learning, appropriate to specialized ways in which dogs learn differently from humans, teaching the consistencies and repetitions that are needed.
And keeping it simple and making it fun,” she added.
Grace offers training in manners, obedience, tricks, recall, socialization, Canine Good Citizen, rally and proofing. Group training classes are held at the Lyons City Park during fair-weather times of the year, she said.
“I also offer private, in-home training for owners with dogs in their home and on their property,” she added.
For potential Christmas puppies and their owners, Grace is offering her first Holiday Training Package for a pre-paid, pre-scheduled, discount rate of $105.
The package includes four private, two-hour dog-training lessons at the owner’s home, to be completed within 90 days.
The promotion started Nov. 30, with scheduling to be completed by Jan. 5. Payment is due by the date of the first-scheduled lesson, time and date subject to availability.
“Private lessons, in the safe and secure setting of the dog’s own home and environment, are ideal for a puppy,” she said. “This is one of the important pieces that many owners miss as they start out with their puppy.”
A misconception by many new owners is that puppies need to wait until they are fully vaccinated, at about six months of age, to begin training and socialization, she said.
“Many times, the most valuable parts of learning are missed if this happens,” she explained. “Done safely and with proper handling, puppies can get their best starts early on.”
Grace suggests starting puppies as early as 8 weeks old, “when they are virtual sponges with everything in their environment.”
For information, call Grace at 503-859-3647 or e-mail SocialGracesDogTraining@gmail.com.