Thinking of getting your kids a puppy for Christmas?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind before bringing a new four-legged friend into the family. Remember: a dog is man's best friend, not just for Christmas.
Christmas pupper (iStock)
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Adopting a puppy can be exciting, especially in the spirit of the Christmas holidays! You are welcoming a little companion into your home, but before you enter this new chapter in your life, there are certain things you need to think about first.

Despite being really exciting, having your child join in on the fun can be quite the learning experience for them too; a gift for the whole family! But perhaps your child, or your family, isn't quite ready for this new adventure.


Do you have any tips for new dog owners? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.


Here are a few things to consider before getting your kids a puppy: 

Make sure the timing is right

According to Luke Kruyt, Kennel Manager of Tears Animal rescue, the timing of your choice to adopt a pup is crucial. "The holidays tend to be rather busy and pets can get a little stressed," he says. "If you’re planning to go on holiday or have a houseful of family guests, schedule the adoption for when you’ll have more time to devote to your new pal.

"That might mean adopting now, giving the pet a chance to acclimatise to his new home before the madness starts, or waiting until after the holidays,” he adds.

The holidays may not necessarily be the best time to adopt a dog since “children might equate a puppy with a toy, and the animal could be neglected in all the chaos of the holiday season." He adds, however, that “whether it’s now, or six months from now, you just need to be prepared.”

Make sure you know the financial costs involved

Puppies don't come cheap, and even if you're getting a puppy for free, there are still going to be costs involved. 

Luke says that potential new pup owners should "calculate the cost of purchasing supplies and ongoing fees such as food, treats, boarding costs, walking gear for dogs, yearly vet exams and vaccinations, as well as a contingency budget in case the pet becomes sick."

Choosing the right pup for your home

It is so unfortunate when people adopt dogs that grow so large that they outgrow the space available to them in their owners’ home. Dogs need enough space to at least be sufficiently active and with a limited amount of space, your pooch may feel trapped.

It's important to select a smaller breed if you have a small living space. According to Faustina Gardner from DARG (Domestic Animal Rescue Group), "Remember though that some small breeds such as Jack Russels can be very busy little boys or girls and they are best suited to a home where they can run around and work off some of their energy."

Try not to be selfish about the matter; if you don't have enough space to adopt a big or energetic dog, find one who suits your home perfectly instead. 

via GIPHY

Get the whole family involved! 

When looking for the right puppy, make sure everyone is involved in the process. Luke says, “There’s an emotional connection that comes with selecting a pet – it may be the look on the pet’s face or the way he held out his paw, but it’s an emotional bond that usually begins when you first see or spend time with him. Choosing a pet is personal for most people, so it’s important to involve the whole family.”

This makes sense seeing that a pet is a lifetime commitment so it should be a joint effort. 

Trips to the vet for your new little pet

Much similar to babies, puppies require a lot of attentiveness and care. This entails trips to the vet to ensure that everything is running smoothly with your pup’s health. Faustina suggests that you "always take some yummy treats for your puppy so that he/she learns good things happen at a vet as this can be a scary first-time experience."

Your puppy is required to receive certain shots so that he/she does not get seriously ill from preventable diseases. The vet may also be able to pick up any early signs of illness within your dog so you can sort out any issues that may arise.

Sleeping beauty

Whether your puppy lives indoors or outdoors, it is important to make sure they have a comfortable sleeping place. Your child may want to snatch them away and have sleepovers but don't let it get too comfortable or else your dog will always see your child's room as a sleeping spot, which may become a problem.

If you have a really young puppy, it is better to keep them indoors for the first little while in order to keep a watchful eye on them. Thereafter, should you choose to purchase a kennel, make sure it's spacious enough for your dog and your pet has room to grow.

Faustina says puppy owners should "remember that a dog sleeping inside at night is going to protect his/her family and have a much closer bond to them." Also consider that puppies sleeping inside can "avoid [them] eating poisoned meat that is thrown over the wall or him/her being stolen," she adds. 

Potty animal

You thought you were done with potty training, didn't you?

Unfortunately, you're going to have to train your dog to have good potty etiquette as well. Having a puppy at a vulnerable age really helps as you are able to instill rules that they will remember once they grow up (this is really starting to sound like a child right now). Allow your puppy to spend time outside after eating so they know the doodie is not welcome in your home. Be consistent with it so they will recognise a pattern.

"Dogs love routine, so first thing out in the morning to do his/her business and then several times in the day and then right before bedtime. Raise your pup with a positive such as ‘yes!’ or ‘good boy/girl’ or with a treat," says Faustina. "This reinforces the pup toileting outside; remember that dogs learn quickly when they receive praise or treats," she adds.

If you feel comfortable with your child cleaning up after the dog, even every now and then, do so. It will teach them a great sense of responsibility. If not, you'd better whip out the poop scoop yourself.

Puppy-proof your home

Also much like babies, puppies need to be kept away from any dangerous objects that they may nonchalantly play with. Keep the detergents in your home safely locked away so that your puppy cannot access it. Also refrain from keeping small or sharp objects laying around as puppies are fond of chewing on random objects in their path. Plastic bags are to be packed away as well because your puppy may choke or suffocate.

It's basically applying the same sense of vigilance as you would with your child, which should be easy. "Computer wires and chemicals in the garage need to be stored away. Also check on what plants you have as some are highly poisonous and pups love to chomp on new things," Faustina says.

Toys for your furry girls and boys

To avoid having your puppy chew on your furniture or new pair of shoes, try getting them some actual puppy chewy toys. They'll probably end up chewing your child's toys up too if you aren't careful. You can find some good, inexpensive toys at any pet store, or alternatively hand over an old toy that your child is no longer interested in, but make sure it is a soft toy.

Faustina says you should "find out what your pup likes toy-wise. For example, some breeds love squeaky toys they can tear (Terrier breeds love this).

"If your pup has your shoe, offer him an exchange of a much nicer option, for instance his favourite toy so that he learns better things will come his way when he gives up the shoe," she adds.

Fooood!

Since your puppy requires the proper nutrients for growth and overall good health, it is important that you purchase the correct food packed with nutrients. Importantly, take into consideration the suggested age group the dog food is formulated for. For example, if your puppy is 3 months old, do not purchase dog food for 6-month-old dogs.

Make sure your children don't feed your dog any human food! To avoid this, get dog treats instead. Also remember to always keep your dog hydrated. A growing pup needs all the nutrients and fresh, clean water.

Love them, feed them, never leave them

Once again, puppies are quite similar to babies in the way they require lots of nurturing. It is important to show your pup some affection by petting, cuddling and playing with them. Christmas or holiday time may be busier than usual so make sure your puppy is in on the fun and never neglected. Spending time with your puppy will make them familiar with you and also strengthen the bond with your kiddies, making your dog more social in the process. "Just like children, puppies can’t be left alone for long periods of time. For a young pup, 3-4 hours is the max," warns Faustina.

"Always supervise pups with very young children. Puppies start teething and naturally play with their mouths which can be scary or sore for little children," she adds.

According to Faustiana, "being handled too much can make puppies grumpy just like a tired baby being passed around to everyone, so downtime for naps is super important."

The social pupperfly

Letting your pup get some fresh air and interact with their own kind every now and then will result in them becoming more social and friendly around dogs and humans alike. This will ensure that they are able to handle themselves more gracefully in future situations when they come into contact with other dogs. 

"Pups go through what is called a fear period (in fact, they go through a couple). This can happen when they are a few months old, so it is important to always monitor their play," says Faustina.

"Playing with a dog that is far too rough can end up with your puppy growing up to be fearful or reactive with certain dogs it associates with that first bad experience," she adds.

"If your puppy is scared or unsure, remove him/her from the situation, for example, a busy dog park or too many people at one time) and slowly build him/her up to have positive associations with these situations," she says.

Do you have any tips for new dog owners? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

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