The holiday season is upon us, and soon you’ll be hearing not only Salvation Army bells ringing, but also the annual, well-meaning mantra or some version of “puppies aren’t presents” or “don’t get a dog for the holidays.”
I am not here to tell you not to get a puppy over your holiday break.
I understand what the “puppies aren’t presents” message trying to communicate, that a living creature who requires care, education, and attention is a lifetime commitment, not a temporary amusement to be shelved or discarded after a few weeks of fun. So if you are not in it for the long haul, don’t do it. Additionally, it is a terrible idea to give a sentient being as a surprise gift to an unsuspecting and, worse yet, unprepared friend or loved one.
With all of the above in mind, what I am going to tell you is regardless of the time of the year you decide to add a puppy or dog to your family, do your homework and plan accordingly.
It is never the right time to get a puppy if you are not prepared.
However, if the decision has been an unanimous one among all of the family members/care givers involved, and if you have planned ahead, prepped all of your puppy protocols, have time off at the holidays, and have cleared your calendar, then the holidays are just as good as any other time to add a little bundle of joy to your pack.
Now, if you are hosting the family reunion or traveling all over the place on your winter break, then I highly suggest waiting until you have the time to focus your energy and be present. No matter the time of year, puppies and even new adult dogs require your patience, planning, and presence in order to best succeed at becoming well-adjusted, well-mannered companions.
So before you take the leap, let’s talk prep.
There are so many things you can do to prepare for a new doggy addition and many of them are outlined in our SIRIUS Puppy Training core curriculum books, BEFORE and AFTER You Get Your Puppy, which are freely available online. Here I will outline just a few top tips to get you started. If you are not personally getting a puppy right now, perhaps bookmark this material, or pass it along to someone who is planning for a pup.
First things first: Get your supplies before you bring your new puppy or dog home. You’ll need a flat, non-noosing collar for ID tags, registration, etc., a leash, and I recommend a 4- to 6-foot non-retractable leash for ease of control and safety. You’ll also need a containment system or plan of some sort, and that may mean a crate or several gates to block of a safe dog-proof zone as your dog acclimates to his or her new digs. You new fury family member will need a water bowl and multiple rubber food dispensing or stuff-able toys to feed your dog out of instead of a food bowl. Trust me on that last one, oh, and read the book. It’s free, for dog’s sake.
Potty planning: It is best to determine in advance house rules such as whether you’ll allow pets on the furniture, where in your home you plan on setting up your pup’s confinement area, and where you’d prefer the pup potty outside. I recommend setting up your pup’s personal space in an out-of-the-way corner so he or she is not too overstimulated by goings on during times the pup is supposed to rest or simply cannot join in. It’s helpful if this area is also not too far from the door to outdoors, for quick potty training runs those first few weeks. You’ll likely have to be alert and ready to redirect any chewing mishaps to appropriate chew toys from day one. Puppies do need to chew; it’s our job to help them figure out what is legal for chomping
and what is off limits.
Day of diligence: The day you bring your pup home should be coincide with a quiet couple of days where you don’t have much of anything planned on your calendar and you keep guests to a minimum. Your puppy will need time to adapt to her new surroundings and even to you. You’ll also need to be present at all times as she checks out her new toilet area every hour on the hour (except overnight) to ensure you get the potty action in the right place, from the beginning, to help build good habits. Frequent alone-time breaks in her containment area with food-stuffed chew toys will also help her learn to at first cope with and eventually look forward to the alone time.
Savvy scheduling: Puppies and even new adult dogs shouldn’t be left home alone for long lengths of time, four hours tops really, perhaps only two or three for a young puppy. So be sure to take time during these first few days to arrange for regular potty and play breaks with your family, neighbors, or a reputable service so that when you’ve got to get back to the grind in the New Year, your pooch’s care is covered.
Once again, there isn’t a season when it’s wrong to get a puppy. It’s only a bad idea when done on a whim and with little commitment or follow-through. With some forethought and planning, a puppy can be a delightful addition at any time of the year.
Kelly Gorman Dunbar is director of the Center for Applied Animal Behavior, where she recruits and trains for SIRIUS Puppy & Training, SiriusPup.com, the family business.
Main article photo by: Photo by Anna-AV-istock