MADISON, WI – There’s a strong and romanticized emotion attached to the idea of having a new puppy under the tree on Christmas morning. It evokes the nostalgia of a Norman Rockwell painting… or at least the modern schmaltz of a holiday-themed Hallmark movie. And really, what could be simpler and more heartwarming than presenting a new furry friend for the family to love?
“As it turns out, the concept is much easier than the execution,” says Lis De Souza, owner of both Serenity Pet Salon & Spas in Madison. “There are so many things to think about and there should be substantial preparation involved before integrating a living creature into your household.”
De Souza says there are promissory things that can be done in preparation for potentially getting a puppy for the holidays. Instead of thrusting a new animal on the family, announce that a puppy will soon join the family, but the family needs to be fully prepared first.
“One point you definitely want to get across to your family, especially to kids, is that pet ownership is very often a 15-20 year commitment,” says De Souza. “Pets are not like toys. You can’t allow yourself to outgrow your love for a pet.”
Aside from agreeing to the timeline of pet ownership, families may want to preplan for a puppy by asking some other important questions:
· Are you absolutely certain the pet is wanted by the entire family?
· Is anyone in the home allergic to pet dander?
· Can you financially provide for a pet, especially in the case of a medical emergency?
· Do you have a vet lined up?
· If you live in a rental property, are you certain pets are allowed?
“If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions,” says De Souza, “you should put off the idea of pet ownership until the situation changes”
If you answered “yes” to the above mentioned questions, you are ready to start planning to pick out your pup. Start by having family discussions about what is expected of a new pet to minimize the risk of surprises. Collectively decide what kind of dog will work best within the family based on things like size, energy level, etc. De Souza says it might benefit you to talk to some breeders or groomers for advice, or make a few visits to an animal rescue before making a commitment.
“Something to keep in mind is that you do not need to introduce a new pet to your household on a specific holiday,” says De Souza. “However, you can still create a lot of happiness and excitement by giving fun things to the family in anticipation of eventually getting your new puppy.”
De Souza says a great gift is a “puppy starter kit.” Your kit might include:
· A gift certificate to an animal rescue so the whole family can choose their new best friend together
· A gift certificate to a local groomer
· A kid’s book about responsible pet ownership
· Toys and treats
· A leash and collar
· Puppy food and water bowls
· A first aid kit just for dogs
· A cuddly stuffed dog that can later become a chew toy
Before bringing home a puppy at any time of year, De Souza highly recommends puppy-proofing your home and yard. If you’re anticipating getting your new puppy shortly after the holidays, you should take down decorations, lights, tinsel, and hide electrical cords. If you have a fenced-in yard, you’ll want to make sure there are no gaps big enough to allow a puppy to escape.
De Souza says there’s also the boring and/or tedious side to new puppy ownership that one should prepare for, and that’s doing the general administration work.
“Your new puppy will need a vet,” she says.
It will need a thorough checkup plus vaccinations and regular flea and tick prevention appointments. You may also want to have the dog chipped.
“Get your dog registered, and you may want to invest in pet insurance just for peace of mind,” she says. “And it’s never too early to get your dog used to going to a groomer.”