Lots of people like to give dogs — especially puppies — as gifts during the holidays. What could be sweeter than a puppy sitting in a basket with a big red ribbon tied around its neck? A new dog makes the cutest and cuddliest holiday gift for a loved one or even yourself, but before you plan to get your pick of the litter there are a few factors you should consider.
You should always check that the gift recipient, whether it's a family member or even yourself, is ready for the joys and the messy bits that come with welcoming a new dog into your home. Caring for a pet is no walk in the park. Puppies especially require a lot of attention and care. Keep in mind that owning a dog is a long-term commitment, and can be quite costly as well. Dogs may be a big responsibility but the companionship and unconditional love they provide is priceless. When you’ve had a difficult day nothing beats that feeling when your dog climbs up into your lap for snuggles. So if you’re ready to embrace the challenges and joys of dog ownership here’s what you should know before you get a new dog.
Should I adopt or buy a dog?
Dog adoption will make you feel good about helping an animal in need while saving you some money as well. Adoption fees frequently include the cost of spay/neuter, first vaccinations, microchipping, and sometimes a free month of pet insurance. Many of the pets at the shelter arrived there because their owner’s living situation changed or they strayed too far from home and got lost. They are just as loveable and sweet as any other dog. But if adopting a dog is not in the cards for you, look for a reputable breeder to ensure that your new puppy has been raised responsibly. A good breeder will be open and transparent, happy to answer any questions you may have. Regardless of whether you choose to adopt or buy your new dog, getting a fluffy new best friend is an exciting and life-changing decision.
How to pick the perfect dog for you
First and foremost consider your lifestyle or the lifestyle of the gift receiver. If you are a social butterfly whose calendar is often full of work and social commitments, a puppy is not the best choice. If you are gifting a puppy to your child you should think about whether they will be able to balance the responsibilities of raising a puppy. Your child may not be able to handle them alone. Will you be able to step in as needed? Puppies are adorable, but should not be left alone for long stretches of time and require pretty extensive training and housetraining. If your schedule does not permit, then adopting an older dog might make a better choice.
Next, keep in mind your activity levels and personality. All dogs need some form of physical activity, but some breeds require more than others. Are you an athlete who is looking for a dog to accompany you on runs? What about a nature lover who wants a hiking companion? If either of these sounds like you, a high-energy dog that thrives with lots of daily activity and exercise is your perfect match. If you’re more of a couch potato seeking a dog who loves nothing more than curling up on the couch with you, a low-energy dog will make the perfect cuddle buddy.
When considering a purebred dog, do your homework to understand the original purpose that encouraged certain traits in a breed. This will give you an idea of their intelligence and activity levels and help you find a dog that is compatible with your needs. If you are adopting, shelter staff know each dog’s needs and personalities and can answer any questions you may have to match you with a pet you’ll fall in love with.
Caring for your new dog
Now you’ve found your newest family member and stocked up on supplies, training should begin as soon as your new dog comes home. Whether your dog is a puppy or an adoptee, training is important and requires consistency and time investment. Essential training includes potty-training, leash-training, and the basic commands: drop it, sit, stay, and come. Crate training will satisfy your dog’s need to find a comfortable quiet space of their own. Teaching these basics will preserve your sanity and protect your dog from dangerous situations. Adjusting to a new home is overwhelming for both puppies and adopted dogs, so don’t expect them to know what to do in a new home with new owners. Don’t lose hope if your new dog is not responsive immediately. It will take them some time to bond with you and respond to your voice.
Diet is crucial for raising a happy and healthy pup. Keep the same diet your adopted dog or puppy was receiving in their previous home. Wait at least a week, then gradually transition to the new diet based on vet recommendations. It can be tempting to go overboard, but keep treats at a minimum. Treats should only be used in training to reward positive behavior. Stress and diet change can cause stomach upset and diarrhea, so monitor for signs of illness before adding table food or snacks into the mix. Also learn which common household foods and items are toxic to dogs: chocolate, sugar-free chewing gum (xylitol), onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, prescription drugs, recreational drugs, rodenticide, insecticide, various plants, cleaning chemicals.
Before you get caught up in the excitement of getting a new dog for the holidays, remember that a dog is a lifelong commitment. The first few days will test you, but stick it out and you will have a companion that will make you feel loved in a whole new way. Despite its stresses pet ownership is one of the most rewarding experiences. We hope this guide cleared up some of your questions or concerns as you begin this new chapter.