So the holidays are coming up and you are thinking about getting a puppy…. Well, have you thought about everything that entails? I need to be painfully honest about what you are about to go through.
Number one and most important…puppies do not come potty trained. So during the holidays, and in between family, eggnog, toy assembly, and traveling “over the hills and through the woods to grandma’s house”, you will have to make sure to let the dog out at least every 2 to 3 hours. You will have to watch the pup like a hawk when he/she is loose and running around with the kids. Keep in mind this does not mean the dog can be put in the crate while you are gone and left in solitary confinement… Oh, and one more thing, you will also have to get up once or twice a night with the pup to take them outside unless you want them to learn to pee and poop in that very crate, right?
Number two…puppies have a very short and critical developmental period that lasts from about week 3 to only about week 20. During that time they need to be exposed to all the things life will throw at them for the rest of their lives, and all of these experiences must be positive and properly conditioned. This will require meeting new people while at the same time having positive associations with them. My rule of thumb for clients is the puppy must meet and experience 50 new things a week. Remember, if you get your pup at 12 weeks you only have 8 weeks to properly socialize the pup. Now ask yourself, are the Holidays the right time to take on this important task? Remember…all the associations must be positive!
Number three…puppies need a lot of visits early on to the vet, and just as many to the pet supply store. Boosters, physical checkups, chew toys, crates; the list is in some cases is never-ending. Plus, all of these medical visits and shopping trips have to be done on a pretty strict timetable. You cannot just wait until after the holidays to start vaccinations or to buy that all-important crate. I know you may figure the pup can just sleep with the kids or be put in the bathroom for a week or two until the Holidays are over, but this can and will set training back! It’s important to remember that during the Holidays, many vets and pet supply stores might very well be closed several days each week for staff and crew to spend time with their families. Ask yourself again…are the Holidays really the best time to get a new pet, especially a puppy?
This brings me to the fourth and final point…the idea of giving dogs/puppies as gifts. First, if this is a gift to an adult, let’s say a spouse or girl/boyfriend; I totally disagree with the idea. A new puppy is a huge responsibility and even though cute and cuddly at the moment of gifting, they can and will change the way that person will need to live their life, forever. If that person is not ready for this responsibility, this will become a pup that ends up in a shelter! Please remember, never buy someone a pet unless that person is involved in the decision-making process, period.
Now giving dogs/puppies as gifts to kids is a totally different ball game. In my opinion, the age a child should get their first dog is at least 9 or 10 and no younger. Why do you ask? Because with those children younger than 9 or 10, it will be you taking care of the puppy on during the Holidays as well as on a day-to-day basis going forward! This is because younger children typically can’t handle the responsibility of taking care of a puppy. Something else to consider is that younger children do not understand how to treat an animal, and this skill is one that has no business being taught during the busy time of the Holidays…
I am writing this article, not to preach or to be bossy, but simply to list some of the common pitfalls I see folks make each year near the Holidays when they buy or adopt dogs/puppies. The Holidays are already a high-stress, busy and chaotic time, and in most cases, really not conducive to introducing a new pet to the family. So please take this article for what it’s worth. From this dog trainer’s point of view, a gift certificate to your special person for a puppy in February is a far better choice, not only for you and that special person but also for the dog! Happy Holidays!!!