We’ve all seen photos and footage of children excitedly welcoming an adorable puppy wearing a big red bow on Christmas morning. It’s heartwarming, to say the least. And what parent wouldn’t want to bring such pleasure to their children on their favorite day of the year?
There are lot of reasons, though, why this might not be a good idea. In fact, the USPCA (the second oldest Animal Welfare Charity in the world) does not encourage it. This isn’t to say it’s never a good idea. But there are circumstances surrounding most family situations at the holidays that suggest there are better times to do it.
If you are thinking about bringing a new pup into your home at Christmas, consider the following before making that decision.
There’s a lot of preparation to do
A puppy should not be an ‘impulse’ buy. It’s a big commitment and you need to do some preparation to ensure your new family member will be a good fit and will adjust well.
First, you should do some research so that you choose a puppy that’s a good fit for you and your family. Take a look at How to pick your new best friend, an article we published here in LNF Weekly a few months ago.
Equally important, you should read up on training a puppy before bringing one into your home.
You and your family should establish a routine for the new pup (when will the pup be fed, who will do that, when will she be walked, and so on), and develop some rules that everyone is on board with (things like ‘will the puppy be allowed on the furniture?’).
Children should be educated in advance about how to interact with a puppy. This shouldn’t be an after-the-fact crash course after the puppy is already in your home.
You should take steps to ‘puppy-proof’ your home, both to keep your new family member safe and to protect valuables from puppy destruction.
You should have a veterinarian lined up, which may require some research.
And there are a bunch of supplies you’ll need to buy in advance (like a leash, collar, food & water bowls, and so on).
For most families, the holiday season is busy and hectic as it is. Do you really have time to do the necessary prep work to bring a puppy home? Carefully consider whether you can carve out enough time to be ready to welcome a puppy into your home. For more details on preparing to bring home a puppy, take a look at this article we published in LNF Weekly in October.
The first several days and weeks are critical
When you bring a puppy into your home, you’ve just turned his world upside down. To him it’s a strange and unfamiliar place, regardless of how welcoming your home may be. There are things you should do, right away, to help him adjust as quickly as possible.
First, you should bring a new puppy home when you’ve got lots of free time to spend with her, and when you won’t have to leave her by herself. A new pup, especially one who recently left her mom, will be frightened. It’s your job to help her past that by spending time with her and forming a bond with her as soon as possible.
For many families, Christmas (and the days immediately following) is busy. You might be visiting people or having company. Can you dedicate your time to be with your new pup in those early days?
A new puppy shouldn’t be exposed to too much too soon. An overwhelmed puppy becomes a stressed puppy, and that’s not good for him or for you. You shouldn’t introduce him to anyone other than immediate family members in the early days. You shouldn’t introduce him to other animals during the early days.
It’s important to keep things quiet and low key in the first few days, and the holidays may not be the right time for that.
Bringing a new puppy into your home is exciting, but things may not work out well if it’s not done properly. Christmas may just not be the right time.
If you want to excite the kids about a new puppy on Christmas morning, consider other ways to do it. You could buy a few ‘puppy supplies’ and wrap them up in a big gift box. When your children open it and look at you quizzically, tell them it’s for the puppy you’ll be bringing home in a few weeks. That’s likely to make their Christmas.
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.