Top 3 Tips for Christmas Puppies and New Families

This week thousands of excited children will be given a new puppy for Christmas, just like in this scene from a recent McDonald’s commercial.

What could be more adorable than puppies and kids? Too often it turns out poorly though when the realities set in. Here are three tips to help improve your new puppy’s odds of making it.

1. Bond First – Rules Later.  As thrilling as it is for the family to welcome a new member, realize that it’s a disruptive and confusing time for the puppy. Think about it: ripped from its mother and siblings, caged, shuffled around, and then sprung on an excited group of strangers. After being ignored and left alone for hours each day, it must be a shock for your dog to suddenly be the center of attention. Yet, this strange experience also opens a door to your dog’s heart.  If you handle it correctly, you’ll have a great opportunity to make a lasting connection. It is foundational. Get off on the right foot and you have something to build on as you teach your dog all the important lessons later on. Your dog needs to recover from this initial shock and confusion. A dog that can’t recover and stays confused will tune out and be difficult to reach. Give it time to relax and spend quality time with each member of the family.

2. Dogs Aren’t Toys. Small children love puppies. It’s only natural. Puppies are soft, cuddly, and playful. When my kids were little, every year they requested a puppy under the tree. Each Christmas I was tempted to grant their wish, but I knew better. The reality of caring for puppy was not in their heads. Instead they were thinking how a puppy would be an awesome new toy. Even adults sometimes think of their dog as a toy. They acquire it for entertainment purposes and willingly discard it when it becomes an inconvenience. You need to drill into your kids that your new dog is a member of the family and deserves equal respect and consideration.

3. Be Consistent. Gather the family together. Decide on what rules the new puppy needs to learn first. To start you’ll probably want to teach it appropriate places for bathroom breaks and appropriate objects for chewing. Make sure everyone agrees on how the lessons will go. Make sure that everyone agrees on the commands to be used. Above all make sure everyone participates. Just like you and your kids, your dog will figure out how to adjust its behavior to get along with each family member. If you expect your dog to follow the important rules consistently, you’d better make sure that everyone in your family is on the same page when it comes to teaching your dog and enforcing the lessons.

These tips apply to new puppies any time of the year. There is a reason Christmas puppies don’t fair so well, though. Too often parents succumb to the pleadings of small children and are unprepared for what happens when the excitement wears off and the responsibilities hit home. Each year by February and March shelters see an influx of dogs from families that just can’t make it work. If you decide to take the plunge, please follow these tips.  It will go a long way to making your adoption a successful one.