Adding a dog to your family during the holidays can seem like a great idea. If your kids or significant other has been wanting a dog, it may seem like the perfect holiday blessing. Afterall, there are so many holiday movies that romanticize this idea. It also seems like the availability of puppies this time of year increases. And let’s not forget the adorable puppy holiday-themed toys, outfits, and stockings that make it even more tempting to bring home a fur baby.
Pause before you rush out and find a puppy to put under your tree. There are several factors to take into account before adopting a dog. And the holiday season brings with it some unique considerations and challenges. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about adopting a dog for the holidays.
1. Don’t Rush – Prepare Ahead of Time
The average dog’s life expectancy is 10 to 13 years. Adopting truly is adding a family member, which is likely over a decade commitment of responsibility. This is not something that should be entered into on a whim. If the time is truly right for you, prepare ahead of time. Make your pup their very own space. Then, get all the necessary bedding and toys.
Consider whether you’ll go with fresh dog food and treats or processed dry food. It’s a good idea to find a vet who has an opening as well. Getting established makes it easier should an emergency happen. You also will have several vet appointments for vaccines. Make sure you’re prepared for the costs associated with buying the necessary items and any vet bills.
2. Choose a Pet That Works for Your Lifestyle
You shouldn’t choose a pet based on just the most adorable picture you’ve seen online. Do some research and discover what breed makes the most sense for your current life situation. If you’re gone all the time and your puppy would be crated all day, is it the right time? Puppies need to be let out to potty every few hours early on. If you do have the time to take them out and for walks, consider a few other factors.
Energy level and size can be huge aspects to consider. Some dogs need lots of exercise to get energy out and be content. Others are a little more relaxed. Size can impact how much they eat and how much space they need. For example, if you’re living in a downtown studio, there won’t be much space for a fully grown Great Dane. Instead, you might want a pug or cocker spaniel.
3. Check Out a Rescue Shelter First
When looking for a pet, make sure to check out animal shelters. They tend to be full around the holidays, as people sometimes rush into adoption and later realize they can’t take care of the animal. Sometimes people also fall on hard times and have to surrender their furry friend. Before you get a puppy, check out the local rescue shelter. There are many dogs — young and old alike — who would love to join your family.
Remember the same lifestyle considerations when adopting from a shelter. Make sure you’re ready for the pup and understand the breed’s specific needs. The four-legged pal might be a mix of several dogs. In that case, ask the shelter about temperament, energy level, and who they get along with. Most rescues are great about having those descriptions for you.
4. Don’t Adopt for Another Person
Adopting a pet is a personal decision. Since there are several factors involved in what pet works best for someone’s life, don’t adopt for someone else. If your adult child wants a dog, consider giving them a certificate or card stating you’ll pay for the adoption. This lets them pick the furry friend they connect with.
It also gives them time to prepare their home for the pet. You can add whatever you’d like to the certificate as well. Maybe it includes the first vet visit along with adoption fees. Buying treats, toys, and bedding is another way to give them a gift that lets them choose their dog.
5. Adjust Your Holiday Travel
If you choose to add a pet to your household, you may need to adjust your holiday travel this year. Pets need time to adjust to their new surroundings. They can have anxiety coming into a new home and learning how to trust new people. Boarding them right away could stress them out. So, you might need to stay home this year instead and see if others can come to you.
If you have people over, pay attention to your pet. Keep an eye on them to see if they are hiding or seem overwhelmed. Loud parties with lots of activity or kids running around can be overstimulating. Some dogs might get anxious. But others will love it! Watch and learn, and show them you’re there for them. If they’re too stressed, take them to a more quiet part of your home.
6. Start Routines Early
Don’t let the rush of any holiday plans stop you from establishing routines. Start working on taking your dog out to the bathroom every couple hours for potty training. Teach them where their safe space is, whether that’s a room or a crate. Dogs thrive on consistency. It helps them know what to expect. With rules and boundaries, they can be more comfortable knowing what they’re doing is okay with you.
If you begin the routines during the holidays, it helps them feel safe in their new home. They come to trust you for food, love, water, and playtime. When the holidays end and things change, these routines stay present. It helps them comfortably transition into the next season with you.
7. Consider Waiting Until After the Holidays
Should you adopt a dog during one of the busiest times of the year? Do you have a ton of plans this season? If you’re slammed this time of year, maybe it’s not the best time for you to add a pet. If you live where it’s freezing cold with snow and ice, it also might be worth waiting. Potty training can be very hard when it’s super cold.
If you don’t have plans or people to see and could use a companion, maybe the holidays work for you. Afterall, pets can bring lots of love into your life. They can also give you companionship and a reason to get out and go on walks. No matter what, make sure you’re ready for the commitment they bring.
While a pet can seem like a wonderful present, they aren’t a gift — they are a responsibility. The moment of joy on the recipient’s face is magical, but dogs need care past the holiday season. Pets can bring so much love and happiness to your house. Considering the items above, you can go into the adoption process ready and fully informed.