Cute or not, pups need early training

Short on time or patience? Get an older dog that's been socialized already.

By SANDEE DAVIES, Times Staff Writer
Published January 27, 2008

PINELLAS PARK - So you have a puppy. An irresistible fur ball of love. The last thing you want to think about is making him toe the line.

As reality sets in, it becomes apparent that, like a child, love alone will not make him a good citizen.

"A puppy's window of socialization closes at three months so it is crucial to start training as soon as you get your puppy," said Maria Ryan, a certified pet dog trainer and canine behaviorist.

It's in a dog's nature to want to please. Giving him the tools to understand what is expected can make the difference.

"Dogs are usually turned into shelters around 8 months old and they are really in trouble," Ryan said. "You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it is much easier to train them at an early age."

Much of puppy training is teaching the owner to communicate with his or her pet in a constructive and nonpunitive way. "The proven science of behavioral conditioning developed in the '30s and '40s works just as well on animals as it does on humans," Ryan said.

On Thursday at the Pinellas Park library, Ryan will offer a free program of tips on house training, crate training and chewing, plus how to prevent barking, jumping, biting and escaping. Local businesses, not-for-profit animal organizations and shelters and recreation centers also offer training programs.

A critical time to becoming a successful pet owner is before bringing home that bundle of joy.

For some with limited time and patience, the decision to resist a puppy and choose an older dog that has already worked through some of the socialization process is wise.

If you go

Puppy program

What: All About Puppies, an overview to raising a happy, well-adjusted dog.

When: 6 p.m., Thursday.

Where: Pinellas Park Library, 7770 52nd St., Pinellas Park.

Details: Seating is limited. RSVP online at www.SPOTusa.org or call 545-3463.

Note: Program is for owners only. Please don't bring your puppy.