Zen and the Art of Dog

Bringing a Dog Home for Christmas

Your family has been begging for a dog. They’ve promised to take full responsibility for walking, feeding, playing, grooming, and all the things that come with caring for a dog. You’re here because they’ve worn you down and now you’re thinking, “Should I bring home a dog for Christmas?”

This is not something that should be casually decided on like another gift from the list. Depending on the size and age of the dog you’re bringing home, you could be making a 10-15 year commitment. Please be responsible and do not buy a puppy from a puppy mill. Dogs from puppy mills often live in unsanitary conditions and do not receive proper veterinary care so you might be starting off with large vet bills for treating things like parvo, worms, etc in addition to the usual slew of shots and spay/neuter (because of course you are going to spay/neuter your puppy). If you must buy a puppy, choose a reputable breeder or better yet, adopt from your local shelter. Here are some things to consider before you jump into dog ownership.

Is your family really ready?

The kids have sworn up and down that they will be 100% fully responsible for the dog. But as parents, you know how quickly that level of passion can die down. If dad is on board and mom is not, now is NOT the time to add a dog to the family. While dogs can be a gift, they should never be a surprise. If not everyone in the household is on board with adding a dog to the family, this increases the likelihood that the dog will be surrendered to a shelter.

Can you really afford a dog?

It’s not just all dog food and toys. Dogs also need annual check ups, vaccinations like rabies and distemper, monthly flea and heart-worm preventative, beds, crates, grooming, training etc. If your dog swallows a sock, are you prepared for the cost of an emergency vet bill? If your dog has behavioral issues, are you prepared to pay for training? Don’t forget about when you go on vacation. Do you have someone who can watch your dog? Or will you have to pay for boarding or petsitting? Check out our post here on the costs of owning a dog.

What is a dealbreaker in your house?

Can you deal with accidents on your antique rug? Chewing your new pair of shoes? Barking at the mailman? Jumping on your guests? Separation anxiety? Even if you raise a dog from puppyhood, life with dogs (like life with kids) can be unpredictable. You might have a calm, lazy dog that wants to sleep on the couch all day or you might have a hyperactive, neurotic dog that whines for hours when you leave the house.

Is holiday time really the best time to bring home a dog? 

There is the chaos of the holidays itself. Maybe you have a ski trip planned or you’ll be hosting Christmas Eve. A dog needs time to adjust to a new home and you’ll need to have patience to deal with their adjustment period. If the holidays are stressful enough with your in-laws staying with you, then maybe re-think the time period. Maybe the gift itself can be, “we will start the process of adopting a dog.” Unfortunately a lot of Christmas dogs are surrendered to the shelters in the months following the holidays so if your family is really ready to add a dog, then after the holidays would be the best time to do so.

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