Generally speaking, gifting any animal to another person is a bad idea. Bringing home a new addition is a deeply personal decision and only the person who will be the owner of the animal should decide if/when they want to make that commitment. However, if you are wanting to adopt a Christmas puppy for yourself, or if your family unit has been considering this, this article will help you with important information about that decision and with preparing for your new arrival.
Discuss with everybody who will be involved in the puppy/dog’s responsibilities
Many Christmas puppies end up back at the shelter or tied up in the backyard and ignored, so before you decide on a new addition, have an honest discussion with your family and make sure you are ready for the time commitment. Many dogs will live for 20 years. “You may have multiple pets in your lifetime, but for your pet, you are his/her entire lifetime”
Here are some questions to think and talk about with your family.
- How do all members of the family feel about a new puppy/dog?
- Is everybody in the household ready and willing to help with care and responsibility?
- Does anybody have allergies or other health concerns?
- Do you have other pets and do those pets have behavior problems with other animals?
- Do you have a yard, and if so, is it ready and safe for a puppy?
- What is your family schedule like? Do you have time available for daily walks, training and play time, or will you need to hire a dog walker or pet sitter?
- Do you have enough income to cover lifetime vet costs and pet insurance if you choose to have it? Should you start a savings account for dog-related costs? Do you already have some money set aside for pet emergencies?
- Have you done breed research to determine what breed works the best with your family?
Each of these questions are important in your decision and are items you will want to have thought about before bringing a puppy/dog home.
Choosing a Puppy or Dog
Once you have discussed and decided to move forward with getting a puppy or dog, the research phase is next. Research the breeds you are considering and make sure you know what the breed traits are and if they will fit with your lifestyle. If you are the Netflix and Chill type, you won’t want a breed that requires everyday hiking or walking and visa versa.
Adopting a furry friend helps your local community by giving a rescue or shelter dog (or cat), a much needed home, and it supports community efforts to care for other animals. Most people will choose to adopt an animal rather than purchase from a breeder, however, ethical and registered breeders are good if you have a specific need and you’re not as worried about the cost. Adoption is more cost friendly whereas purchasing from a breeder is typically a much higher cost.
purchasing FROM A BREEDER
If you choose to go with a breeder, research them and make sure they are ethical. Avoid adopting from backyard breeders, dogs from pet stores, or animals listed on Facebook marketplace (which is technically against their rules), news classifieds, or other unethical sources. Animals that come from those situations haven’t had the proper upbringing, socialization, or other much needed care and most often will have behavioral issues later on.
Raising puppies requires a significant amount of canine education and behavioral knowledge. It isn’t something that should be done without this knowledge, experience and background, but unfortunately, there are many people who force breeding upon their own dogs, then sell the puppies just for the money without properly setting them up to face their new world (this includes fear period preparation, socialization beyond just meeting new people, and much more). An educated breeder will have set their puppies up for success, potty training, and transition into a new home, among many other things, and you will have lifetime access to the breeder for help, knowledge and return, if necessary.
Whether you choose to adopt or purchase from a breeder, take your time and visit several times before deciding on a dog. Go slow and be patient with the process. Getting a trainer involved before you adopt/purchase is a great move because they can help you get setup and if you’d like, they can even help you choose the best dog for you and your family’s needs. Take your family with you when you look. This is an exciting time and having everybody involved in the decision makes it more special and will also help get buy-in for the responsibilities that lie ahead!
Before Bringing Your New Addition Home
After you have decided on your puppy/dog, the next step is to get your home ready for them. Use the list below to puppy proof and prepare.
- Check the floors and coffee tables for items you don’t want your puppy to take or chew. Put shoes away, hide cords, pickup anything they can chew on. Get down on their level to see items you may miss.
- Go shopping and stock up!
- Leash, Collar, Harness
- Water Bowl
- Enrichment Items for meals
- Baby gate/s
- Puppy pads
- Setup an area for your puppy to call home. It can be an entire room or a section of a room. Place their bed, toys, bowls on one end and puppy pads on another one. This will be their home-base when you aren’t actively watching them.
- Set ground rules with family and friends. No excessive puppy play, no roughhousing, or whatever your family decides. The excitement in bringing a new puppy/dog into the home can be very stressful for the dog, so plan ahead to keep things calm.
- Talk about respecting your puppy/dogs personal boundaries (Yes, dogs have personal space bubbles too!) Read the article below for a better understanding.
My Dog is Home, Now What?
Once you have your new friend home, the best thing you can do is get them on a schedule and let them settle in. Don’t overwhelm them with too many people and too much excitement; the trip to your home is a huge change for them in itself, so enjoy them, but do it in a calm manner and give him/her a lot of quiet breaks where they can decompress and start getting used to their new life. Keep in mind the 3-3-3 Rule:
- 3 Days – In the first 3 days, your new pup will be feeling overwhelmed. Everything is new and he/she is adjusting. He/She may not be comfortable and may choose to hide, not eat, and/or not play. That’s okay! Do your best to get into a routine and stick with it. Routines are important and quiet, and down time for your new addition should be plentiful in your routine.
- 3 Weeks – In/After the first 3 weeks, your new addition is starting to settle in and feel more comfortable. This is when he/she will start to blossom and show their personality, but you may also start to see some behavior issues popping up. Remember to keep everything positive! Don’t yell at your dog, smack your dog, or do anything to scare him/her. Redirect bad behavior to something acceptable to teach them what is right or wrong. Your new dog is starting to realize this is his/her forever home!
- 3 Months – After three months, dogs are mostly settled in and have adjusted to their new life. Keep training, keep being positive with them and keep them in their routine. This is when your bond with them starts to grow and build! Hiring a positive reinforcement trainer will increase that bond and trust.
If you have chosen to adopt a puppy, beware they will experience a fear period during 8-10 weeks of age. Take extra caution during these weeks to make all experiences positive – including vet appointments and vaccinations. During this period, any negative or fearful experiences can affect them for life. (ex. Thunderstorms, fireworks, too much attention that is scary for them, etc.)
For older dogs, we don’t typically know their background, so if they show fear or strange responses, it could stem from something that happened during their fear period. (ex. Car rides, reactivity, fear or certain people, etc.)
Socialization is vitally important and is one of the most misunderstood words when it comes to dogs. It is so much more than just taking your puppy/dog out to meet new people and dogs. Before 12 weeks of age, make sure you have introduced and exposed your puppy to as many environments, people, other animals, surfaces/textures, and sounds as possible. Always carry treats or rewards to ensure all experiences are paired with positive rewards and take extra precaution to make sure each new experience is controlled and done slowly and positively.
If you have adopted an older dog, introducing your dog to new things is still important. You may not know their background, but you can still work with them through introducing new things and changing bad experiences.
The hardest part of socialization is trying to think of everything you should socialize your dog to. I have linked a list below to help get you started. It includes several different categories and it has blank spaces for you to fill in more items as you think about them.
Last, but certainly not least, keeping your puppy safe in his/her new home may sound obvious, but there are many things people don’t think about or become complacent about. The list below touches on a few key items people can sometimes forget about.
- Supervise your puppy/dog at all times. Never leave them alone, even for a short time.
- Management is just as important as training. Keep shoes, cords, food, child toys, and everything picked up you don’t want chewed.
- Keep house and garden plants away from all animals. Most are poisonous.
- Keep cleaning products, Lysol, hand sanitizer, masks, etc. away from all animals.
They are poisonous/dangerous.
- Crates can be helpful if you take the time to crate train your pup and could be necessary in an emergency.
- Start training early! Teach the basics.
- For more tips and ways to puppy proof check out this link: