There’s nothing that evokes the “Normal Rockwell Christmas Experience” like the picture of a family with a soft, cuddly puppy next to a Christmas tree. My sincere hope is that the family was wise and did their homework in order to be well prepared before bringing the sweet puppy home. If they did, they’ll be well on their way to a rewarding relationship with their new canine kid.
Unfortunately, many puppies given as gifts during the holidays end up in shelters the following spring when the cuddly puppy enters adolescence and fails to meet the unrealistic expectations of the family.
Puppies take lots of time, lots of attention and need lots of guidance.
Here’s what you can do to insure a happy puppy and a happy family if you DO decide to bring a puppy home during the holidays:
Decide if you can financially afford the costs of raising a puppy. Annual expenses can run anywhere from $1,000/year and up for healthcare, food, grooming, pet sitting, boarding and training. And that’s a moderate estimate.
Do your research and do your best to choose a puppy whose energy, personality traits and grooming needs fit your lifestyle. If you’re sedentary and have little time for daily grooming, then pick a puppy whose exercise needs are minimal and who requires only an occasional brushing.
Decide who will be the primary caregiver. Think again if you decide it’ll be your child. Once the newness wears off and the child is back in school, the responsibility most always falls to the parents. Honestly ask yourself if you can commit to being the sole caregiver.
Determine where the puppy will live and sleep. Dogs are social creatures and thrive when living indoors with their family. Please don’t banish the pup to the back yard or worse yet, a chain. Early crate training is an excellent way to help the new pup with housetraining and for preventing inappropriate chewing while learning how to live indoors with humans.
Choose the member of the family who will be the person to give the puppy that middle of the night potty break. It may be a few weeks before your new puppy will be able to hold his bathroom needs all night. Those middle of the night winter potty breaks can be cold!
Make a decision about where you’ll take your puppy for training. Research shows that early training can help keep a dog in its forever home vs. being surrendered to a shelter. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends that pups begin training in a reward-based training class as early at 8 weeks of age (providing they’ve had their first round of shots and a deworming). In a training class you’ll learn how to appropriately deal with the puppy nipping and biting, jumping and other necessary foundation behaviors. You’re committing to a 10 to 15 year relationship with this furry little creature, so spending a little money on training is money well spent.
Even if you’ve done your homework and ARE ready for all the responsibilities involved with bringing a new puppy into your home, the holidays are such a busy time for most families. There’s normally just too much activity for a puppy to be introduced to the family and cared for properly in the puppy’s early, most formative weeks.
Instead, the perfect gift may be a Puppy Gift Box filled with lots of the items needed for a new puppy such as: a collar and leash, a book on how to raise a puppy, a gift certificate from a local shelter where you can adopt a puppy and a gift certificate for a puppy training class. Then on Christmas morning you can sit down as a family and starting making your list to be well prepared for the fun and excitement of a brand new puppy.
Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, a dog*tec Professional Dog Walking Academy Instructor, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for clients, dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. www.coldnosecollege.com