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Back-to-school shopping for your dog

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By Paris Permenter and John Bigley
 

While parents spend about $600 a year per child in back-to-school purchases, pet parents will find it far less expensive to outfit their pooch for training classes or doggie day care. But as with any kind of shopping, it pays to research and compare before making your purchasing decisions.

Shop for Training Classes

You'll find a wide variety of training classes -- group or private lessons -- held at your home or at a training facility or store. Ask to observe a class before enrolling your dog to ensure that the trainer's style matches your own. A fun atmosphere with positive reinforcement makes the classes enjoyable and rewarding.

Shop for Doggie Day Care

Ask to come by and observe a doggie day care, just as you would its human equivalent. Check for references and with the Better Business Bureau before signing up your dog. Some day cares also run special promotions this time of year.

Visit the Vet

Call your vet and make sure your dog is current on all vaccinations before enrolling it in a class or day care. You'll also need to ensure that your dog's Bordetella vaccination to prevent kennel cough is current; these are only valid for six months and are required by most training and day care facilities. While at the vet, you can also have your dog microchipped, an extra safety precaution in case your dog is lost when not in your care.

Stock up on Supplies

Talk with your dog trainer before your first lesson to learn what you'll need to bring to class. Some trainers may suggest a harness. Others will steer you toward tools, such as a martingale collar, which prevents the dog from backing out without choking; a head collar, which goes around the neck; and a muzzle, which guides the head. At a minimum, you'll want a collar with identification for your dog. You'll also want a leash, typically a 4-foot, non-retractable model with a wrist loop. Clickers, which produce a quick click to "mark" or identify a successful behavior, are used by many trainers and can be purchased for just a couple of dollars.

Finally, training treats are used in many positive-reinforcement classes. Just keep in mind how these amounts will affect your pet's daily food intake, and subtract from other meals accordingly.

A little preparation and research can start your school year off on the right paw!

 
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