Christmas time is full of memories, and one of my happiest memories was when I was eleven years old and I got a hamster for Christmas....
My parents wanted to let me pick out the hamster myself, so my presents under the tree were the hamster cage and all the supplies I’d need to set up the habitat. Of course, it was torture waiting till the pet store opened the next day so I could choose the little guy I named Peanut, but the prolonged excitement only made Peanut all the more special.
A new dog is a very popular gift for kids and adults alike, and waiting till after Christmas to bring the dog home is often the best way to manage helping the dog move in. That way the family can focus on holiday events, and be prepared to focus on the new dog later.
So how do you know which dog to bring home? There are so many available dogs, the options are overwhelming! There is no one right or wrong answer about where to get a dog, but here are some options and helpful hints:
Breeder: Getting a dog from a breeder can be a great option, especially if you have one specific breed or type of dog in mind. Getting a dog from a breeder can also be a great option if you’re looking for a dog to do a specific job: you want a therapy dog to take to hospitals and comfort the patients and need a dog with the temperament to handle that kind of work; you dream about doing Dog Agility and want to make sure to get a dog who’s healthy enough to handle the physical exercise that sport requires. While there’s never a guarantee that the puppy you get will grow into the healthy adult dog of your dreams, talking to the breeder, meeting the puppy’s parents, and making sure that parents and puppies alike have had their health checks will set your puppy up for success. Beware: do not support breeders that don’t allow you to see the conditions where their puppies are raised or let you meet at least one parent!
Shelter: Few things in life bring more joy to animal lovers like us than rescuing a dog from a shelter. I have been blessed to rescue dozens of shelter dogs myself and help find loving homes for them. But rescuing a shelter dog is not without its challenges. If you’re looking to adopt a puppy, unless you know the parents, even professionals have a tough time guessing how big the puppy will grow to be, what kind of grooming he’ll need, how much energy he’ll have, and most importantly, what temperament he’ll have. Will he enjoy playing with other dogs, get along with the cat, be outgoing and friendly with strangers or will he always be protective or aloof? Even if a puppy seems friendly when he’s two months old, his temperament could change as he gets older. Don’t rule out getting an adult dog from a shelter! Temperament tests are much more accurate with adult dogs; often shelters can predict how he will behave in your home with more accuracy than they can with puppies. And best of all, adult dogs are often easier to train than puppies; I have trained roughly 100 adult shelter dogs between the ages of 1 and 3 years old to be service dogs for people with disabilities!
Rescue: So you want to save a dog but you’re not sure about getting one from a shelter? Supporting a dog rescue is a fantastic option! Most rescues take in homeless dogs, often from shelters, and house them with volunteer foster families until they find their permanent homes. This way, rescues have a much better idea of how the dog will behave in your home! Dogs from rescues also usually have been to the vet and won’t bring diseases home to your other pets. There are even breed-specific rescues, so there’s probably a rescue that specializes in the breed you’re looking for.
No matter where you get your dog, though, nothing is more important than doing your homework beforehand! Research breeds, breeders, shelters, rescues, veterinarians, diets, training methods and trainers, and anything else you may need to know before you get your dog, to make the transition as smooth as possible, especially during the excitement of the Holiday season. The first few days that your new furry companion lives with you set the tone for the relationship you’ll have with him for the rest of his life; being prepared for him will give your puppy or dog confidence in you as a leader and as a friend.
For more information and helpful hints about how to find the perfect dog for you and your household, contact Alabama Dog Academy!
Elizabeth Morgan, trainer and owner of Alabama Dog Academy, and proud trainer of Harper, the Canine Advocate at the Limestone Child Advocacy Center.