A reason for paws with your new pet

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Each Christmas, many kids hope Santa will put a new puppy under the tree. Several families make the decision to bring a pet home during the holiday season. However, it's often harder than they expected.

Lilly is a four-year-old West Highland White Terrior. Until now, she did things her way.

"She really needs more of that barrier breaking, working on 'No, you follow all commands, not just the commands that you would like to follow,'" Lilly's Owner Carrie Kenny of Lincoln said.

Kenny decided to take Lilly to Good Decisions Dog Training, after an incident involving her young son.

"[My son] tried climbing up on her because he had been learning to stand at the time," Kenny said. "He hurt her and it broke that boundary and that trust for her, and so after that she bit him. That's when we knew we really needed to address it."

Jana Maresh and Julie Starns are working on teaching Lilly her boundaries, which is a challenge many new pets will face this holiday season as they learn to live in new environments.

"We want to keep dogs in their homes and we want to train rescue dogs so that they can get adopted and stay in the homes," Starns said. "We like to provide people who really feel they have no hope, that there is hope."

Many families don't know how to handle a new pet or aren't up for the challenge.

"Think about it," Starns said. "What will fit into your family best."

Instead, people sometimes make the choice to return or surrender their pet to a shelter. The holidays used to be a tough time for the Capital Humane Society.

"Christmas was a dreaded time for the shelter, really because after Christmas you could count on 15 to 20 pets coming into the shelter the next couple of weeks that were actually gifts at Christmas time," Capital Humane Society President Bob Downey said.

Downey said those numbers have improved thanks to education and training like Maresh and Starns provide.

"Open up a way for the dog to understand that they're making this choice and that they understand that and it starts building a relationship," Maresh said.

Instead of giving up on Lilly, Kenny is already thrilled with the progress she's made.

"If I could give advice to anybody, I wish I had done it sooner," Kenny said.

Lilly will be done with training just in time for Christmas.

Maresh and Starns said some general training tips for families with a new pet include kenneling them and scheduling meal times to add some structure to their daily life.

The Capital Humane Society said it's never a good approach to surprise someone with a new pet. In order to help make the pet a part of the family, everyone should be on board before making a decision.

Good Decisions Dog Training provides a balanced approach to dog training, from basic skills to behavioral issues. They offer in-home training sessions and board-in training.