Welcome to Pumpkin Spice season. Now that we’ve welcomed fall, most of us are probably thinking past Halloween and into Christmas. Getting a puppy for Christmas is a huge decision that many families make this time of year.
Many families choose to surprise the kids or significant others for Christmas. One of the most adorable and longest standing traditions is the puppy under the tree, with a big bow around his neck.
However, it’s not really so simple from the perspective of the puppy. The poor baby is taken from his family and thrown into revelry and celebration, exhausted, and potentially feeling ill.
Today, we’re going to talk about why Christmas isn’t usually the best time for the puppy to leave his family. We’re also going to talk about why it’s super important to start finding a breeder now, and the important things to have in place before picking up your puppy.
Should we get a puppy at Christmas?
For most families and most puppies, Christmas is a terrible time to bring home a puppy. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get a puppy for the family, just that you have to be strategic about the timing.
Puppies Get Sick
Think about it. Your brand new puppy is going to leave their family. Their immune system has been facing stress due to the normal puppy shots. And even if you keep the same food, your puppy will have different water.
So it’s super normal for your new puppy to develop diarrhea and vomiting in the first few days at a new home. Before coming home (or shortly after), they’ll take a round of puppy shots that’s intended to push their immune system. They’ll change water sources, and their natural stress and nerves will cause digestive upset–just like it does for you.
You’ll also need to make sure that your puppy doesn’t end up dehydrated, as they can become very sick if the symptoms aren’t relieved. You may incur additional vet bills during an already expensive time of the year. Make sure you can afford to keep your puppy healthy during this time.
In the middle of Christmas, with the kids home from school and possibly out-of-town guests, is having a sick puppy the right choice for your family? Or do you plan on a quiet, peaceful Christmas at home, where you’ll have time and patience to deal with this particular side effect?
Will you have guests?
You might be planning to have guests over for Christmas dinner. Or you might have family and in-laws flying in from all over the world and staying for two weeks.
These guests will bring pathogens–diseases–with them. You know how your whole family gets the flu the week after they leave? It’s because flu strains are different in different areas, and while you’ve become resistant to your local strain, a new strain stresses your system.
It’s the same with puppies. Your family will bring different strains from all over. They also may be exposed to the normal diseases in your area and bring them into your home. Parvovirus kills thousands of dogs every year, and more people entering and leaving your home mean more opportunities to bring disease in.
Do you have many fun activities planned?
Puppies thrive on routine and consistency–just like a toddler. They need consistent exercise, sleep, and feeding.
Getting a puppy means that you’ll need to structure your days around your puppy’s needs. It’s not fair to get a puppy, then immediately send him to stay with a friend while you take your kids to the indoor waterpark for the weekend. It’s not even fair to leave him for several hours on a day trip.
If you have many plans, it might not be the best time to bring home a puppy. Getting a puppy during the school year is easier for your puppy.
Reasons to Get a Puppy at Christmas
It’s not all doom and gloom. Your family might be perfectly fine getting a puppy for Christmas.
It’s important to make sure you aren’t having a bunch of guests that are exposed to who-knows-what, and that your family has something of a routine.
If your family prefers to have nuclear family Christmas dinners, and generally stays home during the winter break, instead of stuffing breaks full of activities, your family might do well with a Christmas puppy.
Why To Find a Breeder Now
If, despite these precautions, you’ve decided to bring home a puppy, it’s important to start now, in September, to find a breeder that will have a litter of healthy and sound puppies available when you are ready to bring them home.
Good Breeders Book Up Early
Canine breeding science isn’t exactly precise. While breeders can use progesterone timing to know exactly when their dog will birth her puppies, they can’t control when that is or if she’ll actually get pregnant.
Breeders that will have puppies available around the holidays have already bred their females (called “bitches” in the trade.) Their dogs will be giving birth from now through the next six weeks in order to have puppies old enough to go home at Christmas.
Since you also want to find a breeder that produces healthy and sound puppies, you may not have a ton of good choices. You’ll be looking for a breeder that completes health screening on the parents, and makes sure that puppies are physically sound and have good temperaments. These breeders usually have waiting lists. Now is the time to reach out.
Many Breeders Don’t Send Pups Home at Christmas
Many good breeders don’t breed litters to be sold around Christmas. They do this for many reasons.
Most breeders are cautious of the issues we talked about before–the potential exposure to germs, and the puppy entering a chaotic household. Besides that, many often have their own plans around Christmas and having a litter of puppies hampers the fun. With pups at home, they can’t go on vacation, or have guests either.
Depending on your breed choice, you might only have a few breeders in your area to begin with–and some will deliberately not have puppies, others won’t have had a girl in season at the right time, and others will already have a waiting list. You might need to do more work to find a good breeder.
You’ll Need Time to Prepare Your Home
If you do find a great breeder that will have puppies for the holiday, you’ll still need time to research and prepare your home. You’ll want to have everything you need to take home your new puppy. (Some families wrap up the supplies as gifts, then pick up the puppy after New Year’s.)
Because the holiday shopping season is so chaotic, you’ll want to give yourself extra time to find the essentials. The Ultimate New Puppy Shopping List has my top picks for essential puppy gear. You also want to make sure you have a bag of the same food your puppy has been eating with their breeder and littermates.
You’ll also want to make sure your home is completely puppy-proof. While most families are great at watching for everyday threats, the holidays present unexpected surprises. Puppies can get very sick from eating people food, scraps, or leftovers. Some decorations–specifically, tinsel or “icicles,” the thin strips of shiny plastic, kill multiple pets every year from intestinal damage.
Still getting a puppy?
I hope your puppy adventure goes amazingly well. Make sure to check in on the Facebook group if you decide to bring home a puppy this Christmas, and share some of those adorable pictures.