All year, the kids (your wife/your husband) have been begging for a dog. Pets bring a lot of joy into a household. They provide entertainment, unconditional love, and – depending on the study you read – health benefits. If you have children, pets are a good way to teach responsibility and empathy to them. You have finally decided that the benefits outweigh the negatives.
Now the question becomes when, and to your mind the answer is obvious – Christmas. Just thinking about the looks of joy on your family’s faces makes you smile with delight. However, this might not be the best time for a new puppy. Here are a few things to consider.
Christmas time is very hectic. Whether you get a puppy or an adult dog, they will be nervous and possibly overwhelmed by the excess of activity. Everyone will want to pet them and say hello which can be intimidating to a less extroverted dog. Puppies will quickly tire and shelter dogs might emotionally shut down. An option to bringing the new dog home on Christmas would be a stuffed animal that is your promise to get the dog in the spring.
If it must be Christmas day, limit the number of people for the “unwrapping,” keep it to just household members. If you then have others over for dinner, give your new dog a quiet place to relax, whether in a bedroom or his new crate. If dinner is traditionally at grandma’s house, seriously consider making an exception this year. You do not want to leave your new puppy alone for hours on his first day, and taking him somewhere else would be confusing and stressful.
Also be aware of all the additional hazards in your house from the holiday celebration. Besides the worries of the puppy pulling the tree down, or possibly eating poisonous poinsettias leaves, consider what your guests might leave within puppy’s reach: purses, shoes, expensive dress coats and hats. Not things you want to have to replace for your friends. Closely monitor your new dog’s activities when he is exploring.
Much of the weather in winter is not conducive to a lot of outside time. Unfortunately, between playtime and potty training, you will need to be outdoors with your new dog. When potty training, he will need to go out every couple of hours. This instruction will take about a month. It is also advisable to supervise a new adult dog for the first few days. They need to be shown where to go outside and you need to be sure they are actually doing their business.
Playtime can be rambunctious, especially with younger dogs. In the summer, this is not a problem; in fact, it is a good excuse to throw everyone outside. However, in the winter it is not as easy. If it is too cold to go outside and play, you are going to have kids and puppy (or adult dog) running around the house with a lot of excess excitement and energy.
Once Christmas vacation is over and everyone goes back to work or school, what will your new pet do during the day? Unless someone is home all the time, this is a consideration no matter what time of year you get your dog, but it is easier to start in the summer when there is a longer break for the kids to play and get him potty trained. If you bring him home at Christmas, have a plan in place of what your new pet will do during the day. If he is a puppy, he will still need to go about every two hours, for at least the first two months. This negates just leaving him home with no one around. Doggy daycare is an option, or if someone works close to home they could come home at lunch. However it works for you, have your plan coordinated before you get your puppy.
Type of Dog
If you are still sure that getting a dog for Christmas is the right thing for your family, carefully consider what type of dog will be best for you. No matter how adorable he is, if your new dog’s traits don’t mesh with your lifestyle, you will both be unhappy.
Size and energy level are both important considerations, especially in conjunction with where you live. If you live in an apartment, a smaller dog is probably a better choice. Some larger dogs do well in apartments, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Even if you are looking for a workout buddy, a high energy dog will not do well in an apartment.
If you have your own house, consider whether your yard is fenced or not. If it is not fenced, you will need to exercise your new pet on a leash which is easier with a lower energy dog. Another consideration for the yard is if you have a pool or not. There are some dogs that mostly cannot swim; their bodies are too dense or their legs too short to effectively dog paddle. The english bulldog is a perfect example. Be aware, sometimes even water friendly breeds need help learning to swim.
No matter what type of dog or the time of year you adopt them, always prepare the house for your new addition. Make sure you have the same or similar food to feed, water and food bowls, toys, and place for him to call his own, whether it is a dog crate or a bed.
One final caveat: never give a pet to someone outside of your household without discussing it with them. It might seem like a great present, but a pet is a long-term commitment that must be undertaken willingly, not through obligation.
Adding pets into your life is an amazing experience. They will add a new dimension to every day and will foster empathy, kindness, and responsibility in your kids, but only through commitment to the pet. At Christmas time, it will take some extra planning and some extra concessions on your part to make it work, but a dog under the tree might be the best gift ever.
About the author: Valerie, originally a computer programmer, is just starting her new career as a writer. She loves the sun, her Australian Shepherd dog, and her fiancé George. When she isn’t mountain biking, practicing her public speaking skills, or reading, she is writing about everything she has learned.
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