Kids and pets – just the thought can pull at your heartstrings, especially this time of year. But when kids ask for a dog as a holiday gift, do you hear alarm bells instead of jingle bells? In this installment of the “Your New Puppy” series, we start at the beginning – is a puppy the right choice for your family right now? And just in case the answer is, “Yes!” we take it a baby step further and guide you through how to prepare your home and family for a new furry bundle of joy (and teeth).
If the Kids Ask for a Puppy as a Holiday Gift
When asked how to respond when kids want puppy as a present, instead of bursting anyone’s “Hallmark moment” bubble, we concede that having a dog- or cat – can be magical. But when it comes to acquiring a pet for someone else, even if it’s within the same household, we encourage people to take a step back, ask themselves a few key questions and carefully consider the following:
- Have open and direct communication with the intended recipient(s) before even thinking about giving a puppy as a gift.
- Take time to make sure you are all ready to fully devote yourselves to a new lovable – yet vulnerable – animal.
- Consider your strategy for finding a pooch that fits your lifestyle. Many people begin their search based on breed, color, or how adorable they find a face. Swept up in the holiday spirit, it can be tempting to rush into a decision. But you owe it to yourself, your family and your future furever friend to trust your instincts and be patient. You’ll meet your match when it’s the right time.
- Caring for a living being involves taking a risk. The flipside of being together is the eventual separation that the circle of life requires. (Life can be so much more meaningful with a canine companion at your side, though.)
- A puppy is a huge commitment. So, before you take that leap, it’s important to know about other available avenues for canine companionship. One option is fostering. This opportunity is a great way to enjoy doggie cuddles without making a long-term commitment. It’s also a big help to local shelters trying to find loving homes for homeless pets. Additionally, fostering enables you to get to know different breeds and personality types, which in turn can help you later choose which type of dog might be the best fit for your family.
After honest consideration, if the entire family is onboard with the commitment and labor of love ahead, congratulations! There really isn’t anything like the joy of a furry friend who greets you with open paws and an excited tail wag. So, let’s start planning and preparing to bring puppy home!
Your ‘Before Puppy Arrives’ To-Do List:
- Know What’s Entailed. Before you adopt or foster a puppy, read up on puppy-proofing your home, vetting the pet professionals you will be working with (veterinary practice, groomer, trainer, pet sitter, dog walker, etc.) and learning to speak ‘dog-lish.’ It helps to remember that while dogs and humans practice different communication styles, we all have the same basic needs: comfort, love, trust, someone who won’t judge us, and someone to laugh and have fun with.
- Plan ahead. Preparing for a new pooch includes delegating responsibilities for pet care. It’s best to decide on feeding, sleeping, and potty routines before bringing your puppy home. From walking and exercise to cleanup, vet appointments, grooming, and training, make sure everyone is clear on their new roles. Maintaining consistency is essential to helping your inquisitive puppy adapt to our human world and life as a furry family member.
- Focus on Management. Smart, humane, creative management allows you to prevent active youngsters from doing what you don’t want them to do. It’s also key in house-training. Crate training your puppy, for instance, has many benefits, including strengthening his bladder muscles, creating a place for him to practice chewing appropriate items and providing a safe area to relax and rest. Puppies need a lot of sleep.
- Provide enrichment. Puppies love to play and it’s an important part of their development. Safe, enriching spaces and toys will help teach puppy to be independent and enjoy “me time.” If you plan on feeding or treating your puppy using interactive food toys, you can start right away. (Nina Ottosson has some great food puzzle toys.)
Puppies also need to chew! This is normal – not naughty. Providing allowable items will help prevent them from chewing up things that can be dangerous to them and frustrating (and expensive!) to you.
- Make sure you have the right gear. Look into the best force-free options for collars, leashes and harnesses so you can safely enjoy unleashing adventures and harnessing fun with your pup!
A 4’-6’ flat leash and a harness can help get your little one used to loose leash walking, a very useful skill to start training while the pup is young. Not only does a harness help with establishing good walking habits, it’s a great choice because it takes pressure off the puppy’s neck and very delicate neck structures. When selecting a harness, look for leash attachment options on the front of the chest and on top of the back. Then, adjust the fit to allow freedom of movement without impinging around the shoulders, but be snug enough that a wiggly puppy won’t escape the harness and run off!
In addition to the items already mentioned, we find the following helpful for new pup guardians to have on hand: a bed for a comfortable resting spot, food (we highly encourage you to check with your vet or a veterinary nutritionist about diet and feeding recommendations), training treats, water and food bowls, food enrichment toys (see fourth bullet point for details), and because puppies like to play and get dirty, bathing and grooming supplies.
If this all seems like a lot, just remember, you’re not alone! At The Inquisitive Canine, our #1 goal in all we do is to enhance the human-canine bond by providing our clients with quality education and proper skills training to help build and maintain a loving, joyful and mutually respectful relationship. Ready to start off on the right paw? Contact us and let us know how we can help.
Happy Pawlidays! Thank you for being an inquisitive prospective puppy parent!
Key References at a Glance:
Up Next: Your New Puppy – Puppy’s First Night Home