Here's How to Keep Your Badly Behaved Pup From Making It Onto

Of course you were stoked to find the adorable pup with a bow around its neck under your Christmas tree. But as the New Year kicks in (and it has kicked pretty hard), so does the reality of owning a new pet.

That reality comes in the form of dog shit on your carpet and a cat that's clawing away at your new sofa as you read this.

So what do you do? Don't take the pet back -- that would make you a horrible person.

What you do is socialize your pet so it won't be an aggressive, shoe-eating, whining mutt that won't be welcome at your friend's barbecue. Just clear your calendar on Jan. 19 and 20 at 2 p.m. and head to Petco with your pup where dog trainers will be on hand for a free socializing seminar to help both of you get on track in 2013.

Here's what Fanna Easter, Petco's National Dog Training Education Specialist, tells us about socializing your dog:

Puppy socialization is best during their first 16 weeks of life; however, socialization should be on going for the puppy's entire life. Your puppy/dog should meet 100 new people within 4 to 5 months of age, and these people should give your dog yummy treats. I suggest people wearing sunglasses, big hats, puffy coats with a hood on, running, bicycle riding, skateboarding, sporting beards: Look around and ask, "Will you pet my puppy?" Who could resist? Take your dog to local parks three times a week, so they can hear geese, children playing, cars passing, people and their dogs walking past you. Choose three different parks and rotate, so your dog sees people hiking through the woods, or packed sidewalks. Bring your dog along to drive-through restaurants, ask them to give your dog a treat. Have a Puppy Meet and Greet at your home, invite friends over to meet your dog.

If that wasn't incentive enough, here's some sad stats to give you a kick: According to The Humane Society, some 4 million dogs and cats are adopted each year. Sounds fantastic until you learn that around 10 percent of all dogs adopted from U.S. shelters are eventually returned because of behavioral problems -- that's about 400,000 dogs every year.

Now that you're done reading this, gather your pets and have a group hug.

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