While pet experts agree that a new puppy for Christmas isn’t usually ideal, the fact remains that a new dog or cat often tops the Christmas list for children and adults.
Bringing home a new puppy or kitten can be an exciting time, but having a pet is a commitment that requires research, preparation, and consideration not just of the humans in your household, but your other pets as well.
The New Dog
Step 1: Research
This begins with research. Breed choice matters, even if you are adopting from a shelter instead of buying from what we hope will be a reputable breeder if you go that route.
Dogs are loveable, but they are not all alike. They are bred to exhibit certain traits and behaviors, and prospective owners should not go by looks alone. The beautiful Border Collie you see on television is intelligent and good at tricks, but as a herding breed, it will also be a high energy dog with a high prey drive. Those pugs you like are adorable with their expressive, smushed in faces, but if you enjoy hiking in the summer, that flat face will make it more prone to hyperventilation in the heat.
If you are considering a new puppy for Christmas, your first stop should be the AKC breed page where you can find a short description of dog breeds and basic information on temperament and life expectancy: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/
Don’t stop there, though. Research your potential breed for genetic health concerns and grooming requirements, then seek out local breed clubs to talk to experienced owners about the positives and negatives of owning the dog you’re considering.
And remember, even if you are considering adopting a mixed breed, the dog you choose will exhibit the traits of its heritage, so that husky lab mix may have the laid back temperament of a lab but may also have the prey drive of a husky, which is something you’ll want to consider if you have smaller pets.
Please keep smaller pets in mind. Not all dogs are good fits for the other animals in your household. If you have an elderly dog or cat and bring home a high energy breed or a dog bred to be territorial, the result could be heartbreaking if your other pets are stressed out or attacked.
You cannot train genetics out of a dog. Behavior can be managed, but a high energy, territorial, or hunting breed will do what it’s bred to do, regardless of how much love you give it. Please keep this in mind when you are searching for your new puppy or dog
Step 2: Finding a Breeder, Rescue, or Shelter
There’s no shortage of dogs in need of homes. It’s always best to adopt from a rescue or a shelter if you can. However, if you have other pets or small children and want particular traits in a dog, then you will likely want to consider a breeder or purebred rescue.
Again, AKC or your local breed club are good resources in your search for a reputable breeder. The breeder should be well-versed in the positives and negatives of the breed. No good breeder wants to put their puppies in an unsuitable situation, so breeder who tries to hard sell you on their dog may not have the animal’s best interest in mind.
Reputable breeders should not mind your coming out to see the parents of your puppy, nor should they mind letting you see the facilities. They should be able to explain the difference between show quality and pet quality and have documentation on hand of the parents.
They should also have medical records on all the puppies with dates of vaccinations and worming. Good breeders will offer a health guarantee.
Sometimes, breeders will have retired females available that are spayed and ready for a new home, so it is possible to get an adult from a breeder, although more likely to get a puppy.
Rescues are another good option, but again, you should choose wisely. Some charge an adoption fee that can be nearly as high as what you’d pay for a purebred, but since that includes spay/neuter and shots, it’s at a saving
Again, rescues should be upfront about their dogs, especially if they are seeking to adopt out an adult. They should know something about the dog’s genetic makeup, and you should ask about the dog’s history, such as whether they were owner surrendered or came from a shelter, and why they are being rehomed.
If you have children or other animals, avoid adopting any dog with a history of biting or aggression, even if you’ve been assured that the dog has been retrained, and especially if it is a breed of dog with a genetic predisposition of conflict with other animals. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
The same rules apply for animal shelters, which also adopt out spayed, neutered, and vaccinated animals at an even more affordable rate. If you are considering a shelter dog, the shelter should have a place where you can watch the dog interact with other dogs and people. Ask the same questions you’d ask of a rescue. How is the dog with cats? How is the dog with strangers? Has the dog ever bitten or shown aggression?
What a Dog Needs:
If you’re considering a puppy from a breeder or rescue chances are you’ll have time to prepare since a reputable breeder or rescue will want to make sure you are ready for your puppy. Good rescues can be sticklers about who adopts a dog and will insist on an application and home inspection. They will want to make sure you have a fence if that is required, and that your home is ready for the new addition.
Readiness includes more than just a bag of kibble, bowls, beds, and toys. You should have a veterinarian lined up for routine care and emergencies, a dog sitter (hopefully us) if you need someone to check in or walk your dog while you’re at work, and a trainer if your puppy or dog needs basic obedience.
Your Other Pets:
In all the excitement of welcoming a new pet, we sometimes forget that the other ones were there first. Animals have emotions, just like people. They can feel jealous, displaced, or stressed over having to suddenly share resources with a total stranger.
If you can, bring a blanket or a sock scented with the new puppy or dog home so the other animals can become familiar with its scent. Make sure you have separate feeding areas at first, and plenty of your existing pets’ treats on hand so they can feel as special as the new arrival. Allow time to make introductions slowly, and in a manner that doesn’t upset your existing pet. There may be raised hackles, growls, and snapping at first. Even if everyone seems to get along right away, be prepared to observe closely since tolerance may become strained during that introductory period, especially if you’re bringing a rambunctious puppy into a home with older, quieter animals.
The Reveal: How to Give a Pet For Christmas
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. But it can also be fraught with hazards for pets, especially for dogs and puppies who might overindulge on rich table food or decide to chew the Christmas tree chord or eat a glass ornament. This is why pet experts suggest waiting until after the holiday to bring home a puppy or kitten.
Still, the gift-giving magic is still possible. Have your partner or kids open packages containing something a new pet needs, like a bowl or a collar or toys. They’ll quickly realize that the best present is yet to come.
Or gift them with a book on cat or dog care and then choose a date to select a pet together after the holidays. The expectation can be a gift within itself, and every day after you bring your pet home will feel a little bit like Christmas.
And if you do decide to get that new puppy for Christmas, you might also need some help looking after him (or her). Check out our pet sitting and dog walking services. We service most of the Raleigh and Cary area.
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