Are you considering getting a puppy as a gift this Christmas? A puppy can make a wonderful gift and introducing them at Christmas can be a memorable experience for you and your loved ones. It is important, however, that you count the cost and determine whether you can handle the new little bundle of joy and all of their many needs. Adopting a puppy is much like bringing home a new baby. From the get go, a puppy will require consistent training, constant supervision when young, boundaries, high quality dog food, grooming and frequent vet visits for vaccinations and checkups. You may experience some sleepless nights as the puppy adjusts to his or her new home and living situation. There will be potty accidents as you take the puppy through his training. That's quite a list and, remember, you are agreeing to take on all this added responsibility at a very busy and confusing time of year.
Without proper planning, it's easy to find yourself stressed out and frustrated with a dog who has developed bad habits and negative behaviors because of too much of the wrong kind of attention and lack of training time and poor socialization. This is the primary reason why so many dogs which start out as a cute little puppy under the Christmas tree, end up as problem animals at shelters by spring time. A negative outcome, however, is totally preventable with a little education and by planning ahead.
If after considering the options you feel you are can handle the responsibility and would like to proceed with bringing the puppy into your home at Christmas, here are some tips to get you off to a good start. It won't be easy, but if you put in the time and effort and enact your plan, your holiday puppy can be off to a great start.
Have the essential supplies on hand before the arrival
Before the new canine bundle of joy arrives, be sure you have purchased the essential supplies you will need for keeping him well fed, contained and secure. These supplies include a properly fitted plastic or wire dog crate
with a good cover, high quality dog pillows and beds and cozy dog bedding. Nesting or bolster dogs beds work especially well for new puppies as they give the pup a feeling of being near their litter mates or next to mom. Have a variety of chew toys, (nyla bones and pressed raw hides) and play toys (a ball, rope toys and stuffed toys) for the puppy to play with. Have a food and water dish ready, along with a well fitting collar, a leash, and a sturdy pet gate.
Be sure you are getting the right breed
You may have a breed or type of dog that you've always loved and envisioned having as part of your household, but before you go ahead with the adoption or purchase, do your research and make sure you can handle the breed's energy, personality traits and grooming needs. If you have children, be sure that particular breed is good with kids. Some breeds are notoriously nippy and snappy with little ones.
Can you handle the investment of time and money?
Determine whether you can you afford the financial and time commitments involved in raising a dog. Annual expenses include good quality food, regular grooming, annual vet check ups and shots, boarding, essential dog supplies, the right kind of dog pillows and beds, a quality dog crate, dog houses, toys and more.
The puppy will need a primary care giver who will give him or her consistent care, training and be sure their needs are met. Be honest and ask yourself if you can commit to being the primary caregiver once the newness of having a puppy wears off.
Do you have the space to properly care for the dog?
Determine where the dog will live and sleep and if there is adequate space in your living quarters to allow the dog to be a part of your family. Dogs are social creatures and are happiest when they can live with us in our homes and be a close part of our family -- sleeping at the end of the couch on their comfy dog pillows and beds as opposed to being chained up in the backyard, or worse, being allowed to run around in places that are unsecured and where they can escape and be injured.
Have a plan for how you will handle the puppy when guests are around
Keep in mind that the holidays are very busy time for families and new puppies do poorly if surrounded by too many strange people and noise. If you have guests over, you will want to have a plan for how you will control their interactions with the new puppy. For instance, it is very important to make sure guests don't rough house with the puppy and allow bad behavior such as play biting, the dog mouthing their hands, tugging things away from the pup, etc. This is setting the stage for problem behavior that will only get worse with time. If you have the puppy out when guests are over, keep a close eye on them. Never leave the dog alone with children of any age and if you see the dog getting wild or over stimulated, put the pup away immediately. Too much attention at a tender age can be harmful for the dog and can result in fear, aggression and bad behavior. Keep any interaction short (10-15 minutes at a time) during the early weeks and always end them by putting the dog back into his dog crate.
Line up puppy training as soon as possible
Finally, last, but not least, try to get your puppy enrolled in training classes as soon as possible. You don't want to miss that early training. It's so much harder to re-train a dog that has already developed bad habits. You can also train the dog yourself if you have the right book, video or other instruction, but be sure you can stick with it and be consistent with the training if you plan on going this route.
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