As a parent, I know the temptation of finding each day of the Holiday season a special opportunity to make our child’s material dreams come true. If you’ve asked your child “What would you like for the Holidays?” there is an implied obligation to ante up and deliver. If begging for a puppy is the child’s chant this Holiday season, simply dig in your heels and say “No!”
Adopting a dog into a family can set an example for good behavior for a child’s lifetime. How you treat this pet will be a tangible experience in love, patience, responsibility and handling adversity. I think everyone should have a dog. I actually think everyone should have two. I think every child should grow up learning the lessons animal ownership can teach. Unfortunately, I am wrong. There is a lot to consider first. Be sure to think through the consequences of bringing a living and often demanding addition into your household before you rush out and do something in haste to meet the Holiday deadline.
The fact is, you have a lot of homework to do first. Successful ownership and training is rooted in all the decisions you should be making before the dog joins your family. Your first decision is, what kind of adult dog you want to live with. After about ten months, that adorable little pup you bring home is going to look like a full grown whatever it is you’ve decided on.
Go to the library or search the internet and refer to one or more breed manuals. Pay particular attention to the pictures of adult dogs and the descriptions of a breed’s traits, temperament, size and demeanor. If you are interested in “designer” breeds, no one can guarantee a 50/50 split on the traits of each side of the puppy’s background. Cockapoos and Labradoodles aren’t pure bred dogs. There is nothing wrong with wanting one, simply understand it’s just a genetic tumble that could turn out any way at all.
Have a family meeting so that everyone agrees in advance what it is you expect.
Nod and smile sweetly at your child as the assurance is made that they will do everything for the dog, they will be completely responsible for feeding, care, long walks and poop scooping, if only, oh please, they can have a puppy for the Holidays. Forget all of that. It won’t happen and it never has. Not since time immemorial have Mom and Dad not wound up taking care of the dog.
Once the family has chosen the breed of dog find a reputable breeder. Ask your local veterinarian and contact the American Kennel Club for recommendations. Preferably find someone who is breeding dogs to show. These breeders take great care to produce the soundest, best quality dogs for their own use. After picking one or two pups from a litter to keep, the rest of the pups are available for sale. “Pet only” breeders are not as concerned about minor flaws that may pass on in generations of breeding and may not be as good a source.
Once you’ve found a good breeder, ask when their next litter of puppies is due. It probably won’t be for The Holidays. Be willing to wait. A puppy is an investment of your time, your energy and your heart. Bringing a puppy into your home should be an event and celebration all its own. So don’t rush out to bring home a puppy for The Holidays. For the Holidays, an IOU for the right puppy later, should do.
Wendy Crann is President and Executive Director of Working Animals Giving Service for Kids., training and placing service animals to children with disabilities in Northeast Ohio. Wendy’s book, “Dogs Don’t Speak English” outlines everything you need to know to pick a puppy and train him as a service animal or simply the best pet you’ve ever had. To find out more go to www.wags4kids.org.