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5 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Are Thinking of Getting a Puppy for Christmas

Christmas Puppy It’s Christmas season again. The time of year when so many families consider putting a puppy under the tree as a surprise. Dogs can be a wonderful addition to your life, but they come with an enormous amount of responsibility. When considering a puppy, this responsibility is greatly magnified. Far too many dogs are left at shelters or abandoned to the streets because their owners were unprepared for the time, effort and expense that go along with pet ownership. Answer these five questions honestly before you decide to bring a puppy into your home.

Do I have time for a puppy? Puppies require a lot of attention throughout their entire day. Someone needs to be home with them most of the time. It is not acceptable to leave a puppy alone in a crate all day while you go to work, even if you plan to return home over lunch to take them outside. This is a pack animal that has been recently taken from its family. It needs regular handling and attention so it may bond with its new pack, (your family) and will not do well being alone. Too much alone time will lead to house-breaking struggles and destructive behavior problems that can be difficult to rectify.

Does my home provide the right environment? A house with a safe, fenced, back yard is ideal. Your new puppy will need to be taken outside as frequently as every half hour when it is awake to prevent potty accidents. If you live on the 20th floor of a high-rise apartment building this can be a significant problem. Also take into account the activity level of your home. Puppies feed off of the energy level around them. Calm dogs come from calm environments. Loud parties can over-stimulate or even stress and frighten your puppy. Careless people coming and going a lot can allow your puppy to slip out and become lost, injured or killed. Puppies belong in stable family homes, not loud chaotic frat houses.

Can I afford it?  Dogs require food and healthcare just like people, and the first year can often be the most expensive. Your puppy will need a few trips to the vet for vaccinations and to be spayed or neutered. Puppies are clumsy and poor decision makers as well, and this can often lead to more unexpected medical bills. Don’t plan to feed your puppy cheap dog food either. These foods will contain a variety of unhealthy glutens, binders and fillers that have devastating long term effects on your dog. Saving a few dollars today can cost you thousands down the road.

The ASPCA estimates annual dog care costs for a small adult dog to be $1,314. This cost increases commensurately with the size of the dog, and the first year costs for a puppy can easily be triple that. This doesn’t even include damage to your home and property that are very likely to occur. Carpets are particularly vulnerable to accidents, and puppies love to chew and claw on anything from shoes and mini-blinds to doors and cabinets.

How will my children or other pets react? Small children may play too rough with a puppy. This can make it fearful and lead to behavioral problems. Be sure to supervise their interactions closely. If you have other pets, a new puppy will turn their world upside down. In particular, cats that have not been exposed to dogs before can be very aggressive. Your current dogs may not play well with others either. If possible, arrange for a prospective puppy to visit your home and be sure your existing pets react favorably to its presence.

Am I in this for the long haul? Plan to provide your puppy a stable home for its entire life. The median life expectancy for dogs is 12.8 years, but this varies greatly in different breeds. Some breeds average 16 to 20 years, others only 6 to 8. If your future is uncertain, so is theirs. If you are planning to join the military 2 years down the road, then this is not a good time for you to adopt a pet.

If your answers to these questions are all favorable, congratulations! A new puppy can make a wonderful and exciting addition to your life. If not, don’t adopt, but don’t be discouraged either. The perfect puppy will still be out there waiting for you when the time is right.

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