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So the Kids Want a Dog for Christmas. Is Adopting One a Good Idea?

Insights + Opinion

By Sharon Elber

You may have heard that giving a pet for Christmas is just a bad idea. Although many people believe this myth, according to the ASPCA, 86 percent of adopted pets given as gifts stay in their new homes. These success rates are actually slightly higher than average adoption/rehoming rates. So, if done well, giving an adopted pet as a Christmas gift can work out.


However, to increase the odds that you will find a good fit for your family and will be ready for the challenges of pet adoption during a busy time of year for many, consider the following tips before you sign the dotted line and commit to opening your home to an adopted dog this holiday season.

1. The right fit is more important than the right time.

One mistake to avoid when deciding to rescue a dog over the holidays is to force the timing while compromising on the right fit for your lifestyle. Important considerations like breed mix and/or personality type can be neglected as families rush to adopt and make a selection from the limited options available at that specific time.

The holidays are a busy time for animal shelters which can cause the selection of dogs to wane in the weeks leading up to Christmas in particular. It is a mistake to adopt a dog simply to check the box. Instead, carefully consider your family's lifestyle and work with a shelter and/or foster and breed rescue groups in your area to find a canine companion with the right personality, exercise needs and training requirements for your family.

Consider offering an "Adopt a Dog" coupon if you can't find the right fit in time for the big day. This will give your children the excitement of knowing a new furry addition to the family is on the way, while also offering the benefit of getting them involved in the selection process. Dog toys in advance of your new dog's arrival also make great stocking stuffers.

2. Make sure to budget for post adoption expenses. 

The adoption fee often covers the cost of any vaccinations and/or spay/neutering that your rescued dog has already had prior to adoption. However, it is important to schedule a vet visit within a few weeks of your adoption, make sure your new family member is up to date on vaccines, and cover the initial cost of monthly medications such as heartworm and flea/tick prevention. These costs can easily mount to $300 or more, so be sure your post-holiday budget has room for these costs.

In addition, you will have food, toys and bedding costs that always spike when adopting a new dog. Allow for these costs as well or incorporate them into your other gift purchases this year.

3. Build a holiday schedule that accounts for the needs of your new pet.

Rehoming is generally a stressful time for animals in the rescue system. Often unsure if they have found a permanent home or just another temporary location, dogs can be prone to developing anxiety issues if transitions are not handled with care.

If you have holiday travel plans, it might be better to wait until the new year to adopt. Bringing a dog home only to drop them off at the kennel a few days later is not the best idea for your new pet. Instead, plan a "staycation" if you adopt a dog this holiday season and make sure to schedule time for dog-focused events such as extra walks, training sessions and fun games like fetch and tug.

4. Get the kids involved in the care of your new pet.

Depending on your child's age, taking on some level of responsibility for the care and training of the new member of your family is critical. This helps them to learn valuable lessons about caring for animals, responsibility, as well as offering a chance to build a human/animal bond built on trust and respect.

For example, children ages 3 - 5 years old can assist with daily care routines such as feeding, checking water and walking your dog. Older children can participate in training sessions and take on more responsibilities like joining in on puppy classes. Dogs need daily exercise and mental stimulation, so consider creating a responsibility calendar for kids so everyone in the household has a part in caring for your pet.

5. Look beyond the shelter for adoptable dogs. 

Finally, if you visit the shelter and don't find the dog you are looking for, do some research to locate other adoption options in your community. For example, there are many breed rescue organizations devoted to saving particular dog breeds from kill shelters, puppy mills and abandonment. In addition, many communities have networks of volunteers devoted to fostering dogs until they find their forever homes that you may find on social networks or by a basic internet search.

One big advantage of going through these volunteer organizations before adopting a dog for Christmas is that they have direct experience living with the dog in a home setting. This means they can speak honestly and knowledgeably about any special needs, compatibility with other pets in the household, or suitability for your family's lifestyle, dog friendly amenities (such as a fenced yard), and dog ownership experience.

Giving your kids an adopted dog at Christmastime is about more than watching their faces light up with joy when they receive their new pet. With a little planning and consideration, you can make sure your adopted dog is a good fit for your family so that the joy your new pet bring extends way beyond the holiday season.

Sharon Elber is a professional dog trainer and a writer at WileyPup, a website that provides information about canine health, nutrition, breeds, training and products.

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