By Jennifer Kyzer, Master Trainer and Behavior Specialist
Add to the Family After the Holidays
The warm cuddly feeling of a puppy snuggling up in your lap is one of the best feelings in the world, right? Breathing in the sweet smell of puppy breath can be equally amazing. Having the kids scamper downstairs on Christmas morning and squeal in delight when the puppy jumps out of the box seems idyllic and a perfect memory for years to come.
But along with those wonderful images come many days, weeks, months, and years of caring for another living thing. Puppies (and dogs) are a great responsibility. The decision to bring a puppy into the home should be made with the whole family involved – from realizing the expectations of each family member, to developing a realistic view of caring for a puppy, to the time, money, and energy needed to raise a puppy successfully. Adopting or purchasing a puppy should not be an emotional, spur-of-the-moment decision. It should be well-considered and researched.
In addition to big-picture issues for your family like allergies, budgeting for a pet, and other limitations, here are some questions to help your family to choose the right dog: What breeds or mixes are your family interested in and why? Have you researched this breed and are you realistic about the energy level, temperament, and care the breed needs? What grooming needs does this breed require? What level of training is recommended for this breed? Have you had any previous experience with dogs and to what extent? What kinds of things (walks, hikes, sports, family trips, traveling) do you and your family plan to do with your dog? What is a typical daily schedule at your house and how will a dog fit into it? Do you have or can you arrange for the necessary support (dog walkers, pet sitters, neighbors, trainer, veterinarian) to care for your dog?
With the holidays right around the corner, perhaps you have been asking and answering some of these questions and thinking about adding a dog or puppy to the household. As someone who has worked with dogs for fourteen years, and loved them a lifetime, I must say: Please do not do this for Christmas! The responsibility of adding a dog to your family is a substantial one and your whole family should be involved in the decision-making process.
Besides, the holiday timeframe is just not a good time to add a puppy to your household. The holidays are filled with travel, houseguests, parties, foreign things in your home (like the tree, decorations, presents, and more), and the general hustle and bustle of family life. When it comes down to it, the vast majority of reputable breeders or rescue organizations will not condone giving puppies as surprises or presents, leaving irresponsible breeders and puppy mills as resources for finding puppies for gift-giving during the holidays.
There is a way, however, to tap into some of the holiday magic of introducing a pet into your family. If you have done much of the research and preparation and have decided to add a puppy to your home, consider giving all the supplies: crate, leash, collar, toys, books about dog care, along with a stuffed animal friend that resembles the breed. Then adopt or purchase just the right pup for your family after the holidays when the household has calmed down. Preparing ahead of time can save you a lot of headache and heartache later and make for a truly happy holiday season.