Three things to consider before you bring that puppy home for Christmas

Most experts agree that Christmas just isn’t the time to bring home a new pet. Families are busy, there’s a lot of distraction, and it’s difficult to puppy proof presents and the Christmas tree. There are lots of guests and travel, and little time to focus on a new puppy or dog in the way that they need. Without a lot of work, and probably skipping out on a few of the planned activities, you’re essentially setting yourself, and your new puppy, up for failure. So, before you bring that puppy or dog home for the holidays, please carefully consider the items below.

<strong>One, are you ready for a dog?</strong>

Dogs are a 15+ year commitment if you get a puppy. Food, veterinary care, grooming, training and so on can be expensive, especially if you do them right. The reported yearly cost of owning a dog is between $580 and $875. That’s being conservative, and assuming your dog is never ill or injured.

More than anything else, a dog is going to require your time. If you only want something fluffy to cuddle with when you feel like it, buy a stuffed animal. Dogs have been developed, raised and conditioned over hundreds of years to want to spend time with people, to work with them, keep them warm, provide companionship, and so on. Dogs are not backyard ornaments, they are not toys, they are not something you can put away and ignore when you don’t have the time or inclination to play with them.

<strong>Two, choose the right dog, from the right place.</strong>

If you are ready to provide a dog with a loving and permanent home, choosing the right dog will make keeping that promise easier on both of you, and provide your family, including the new furry portion, with a better quality of life. This isn’t to say that you won’t have to do some work, but getting the right fit from the beginning will make things a whole lot easier.

I’m going to stop there, just for a moment, to make a plea. Please, please, please do not purchase your puppy from a pet store. Puppies are not products. Even if you think you’ve done all the right research, if you’ve made your choice based on breed alone, and you pick up your puppy from a pet store, the likelihood of your dog having problems, and causing problems for you, goes up exponentially. It also guarantees that other dogs will continue to live in horrible conditions, being bred essentially to death. You are not “rescuing” a puppy from a puppy mill when you buy from a pet store, you are ensuring the continued suffering of many other dogs.

Breed may be less important than you think when it comes to making this decision. Too many people elect to bring a dog home because they had the same breed at home when they were a kid. Dogs are individuals. Breed plays a role in many cases, certainly, but getting to know a dog individually in terms of energy level and personality is much more important. This is where a good breeder can be invaluable, they know their puppies. Good breeders do not advertise “Christmas puppies.” Good breeders don’t post their puppies for sale in the local classifieds, and good breeders don’t hand over your chosen puppy for a fee and then leave it at that.

Adopting from a shelter often means taking home a mixed breed dog, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Breed may become even less important there. Appearances can be deceiving, and behaviors observed by shelter staff and volunteers become more important. Coat and body type, energy level, and observed behaviors are what you’ll be left to consider, make sure you choose appropriately.

<strong>Three, prepare in advance.</strong>

Find a veterinarian, groomer, and trainer before you bring your puppy or dog home. Plan on having him checked out early on to make sure he’s healthy and talk to your veterinarian about what sort of preventative care he’ll need. Training starts the moment you interact with your new dog, make sure that you’re prepared for that. Puppy proof your home before you have problems. Puppies explore the world with their mouths, and they chew when they’re bored. Make sure everyone knows to keep their clothing, shoes, and toys picked up. If items get chewed, it’s the people who are responsible, not the puppy.

Decide on a feeding and potty schedule to prevent accidents and make house training a breeze. Even if you’re adopting an adult dog who has been house trained before, expect to spend at least a little time retraining at your home as there will be differences from wherever he learned before, and dogs don’t always generalize very well. Again, if an accident happens, it’s the people who are responsible, not the dog.

Ultimately, each of the above items is important if you’re going to bring home a dog any time of the year. The important thing that comes up at Christmas is that it’s not an ideal time to bring home a new dog in the best of circumstances, but especially not if you’re impulsive about it.

If you’d really like to add a canine family member, and are set on making that a part of your holiday celebration, you could place some dog related items or supplies beneath the tree to be unwrapped, and set a date to visit the shelter or the breeder to choose the dog that’s right for you. As tempting as it is to place a puppy beneath the tree, bow on his head and all, if just wouldn’t be right for the puppy, and he probably wouldn’t hold still anyway.

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