Trained Pups Have the Edge, Experts Say; BEST AGE between 8 and 16 Weeks Is When UGa Experts Focus on Teaching Good Behavior

Article excerpt

Byline: RYAN BLACKBURN

Al and Ruth Ike have had dogs most of their married life, but they've never had one quite like Conrak.

"A, he's more independent, and B, he's more self-assured and tends toward being stubborn," Al Ike said. "He has a mind of his own, so training is going to be a little more difficult than for our previous dogs."

Conrak's only a puppy, but he's already developing some bad habits. Like some hyperactive retrievers, Conrak pulls on his leash, chases after cars and jumps on house guests.

So the Ikes turned to the University of Georgia for help, and enrolled in a class specifically to address puppy behavior that, if left uncorrected, can become a serious problem for pet owners.

While even old dogs can learn new tricks, owners who seek out training for pups between 8 and 16 weeks have a better shot at preventing a range of behavior problems, said Alexandra Moestra, a behavioral resident in the UGa's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"The reasons we like to train the dogs during this time is they can learn really, really quickly, and are more likely to be less anxious than when they are older. At this age, they are kind of more ready and willing to take advantage of different opportunities and experiences that will benefit them," Moestra said.

Moestra and a handful of other veterinary students are holding the classes this month to help new owners lead less stressful and happier lives with their pets. For $100, owners will attend five hourlong sessions with veterinary residents who specialize in animal behavior, Moestra said.

The university also is offering counseling sessions to help people decide how to prepare and select the pet that will best fit their lifestyle.

Every year, more than 2 million pets will arrive in a new home, only to be cast out or surrendered to a shelter.

About one-third of the animals will be let go due to behavioral issues and will be as young as a year or two, Moestra said. …