Home for the Howlidays

By Abigail Witthauer, guest columnist

I start to get a little giddy around the beginning of December. One of the great joys of my career is that I know, come January, I will have oodles and oodles of puppies at my dog training facility, Roverchase, in Pelham. Here are a few tips for how to make your new canine friend the most successful in your home after the holidays. If each and every one of my clients followed these tips, we would all have a much more peaceful New Year! 

(Disclaimer: This article is not meant to discuss the pros and cons of bringing a new family member into your home as a holiday gift. There are many resources on whether this is a responsible choice for your family. This article is to help you make good choices once you have already decided to bring a new dog home for the holidays.) 


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends that every dog, regardless of age, be enrolled immediately in positive reinforcement classes. This increases the likelihood of dogs staying in their new home by 80 percent. 

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Photo courtesy of Abigail Witthauer

Ideally, enroll your dog in classes before you bring your new dog home. Classes with a reputable positive reinforcement trainer should be as important to your supply list as food bowls, toys, and a veterinarian visit. 


The American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior, the Pet Professional Guild, The ASPCA, and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers—among many others—all firmly recommend that puppies begin a Puppy Kindergarten group class immediately upon adoption regardless of their age or vaccine status (as long as they have had at least 1 DHPP vaccine). 


Remember that the use of intimidation, force, or fear is against the most basic ethical standards of dog training and behavior as set forth by the American Animal Hospital Association. For a great article about how to choose a dog trainer, visit this link


Ask your breeder, rescue, or shelter for veterinarian recommendations. Also, ask friends and family for referrals. Take your pet in for a New Pet Check appointment within 72 hours of bringing him or her home. 

Bringing home a new four-legged family member is a big decision not to be taken lightly. When planned for and chosen responsibly, a holiday hound can be a wonderful gift that brings your family joy for many years. I wish each and every one of you a lovely holiday and a peaceful new year! 

Abigail Witthauer owns Roverchase in Pelham, Alabama, a luxury dog training, daycare, and boarding facility. She is one of the most certified canine behavior professionals in the Southeast and has been training animals professionally for 17 years. Abigail lives in Pelham with her spouse, Service Dog Macallan, pet dogs, hairless cat, ferret, and pet pig. Follow her on social media at @Mac.and.Abi. 


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