How to Break the Holiday Dog Adoption Blues

You've seen  the commercials:

The parents sipping their coffee by the Christmas tree as the kids run down stairs to unwrap their gifts and lo and behold, there is a puppy with a ribbon around its neck.

What a great present!

Fa-la-la-la la-la... wait.

Let's pause on that for a moment and look at some of the top reasons for folks relinquishing their pets to shelters:

  • behavior problems
  • not enough time
  • cannot afford care
  • allergic
  • new baby

With the exception of the last item, the first four are reasons that are only obscured by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  Let's look closer on how to avoid these:

Behavior problems - I've already written a Benefits post on this. Wouldn't you have more fun with a dog who already gone through the learning curve of a puppy?

Not enough time - During the holidays people are taking off and have time to spend with new pets, however pretty shortly they're back to the grind and poor Sparky is left to fend for himself.  You want to allow a little extra time to be with your dog when they first enter your life and find ways to keep them entertained when you're not around. Going from having everyone home to having a big empty house is a big change for a dog. Be mindful that this can introduce the stress of uncertainty to your new canine roommate.  

Cannot afford care - A few months back I witnessed a sad goodbye at a shelter. A boy was returning his dog to the shelter because his family couldn't afford medication for a urinary tract infection. Please, when you're bringing home a new dog, understand that it's not just a one time expense with an extra bag of food added to your shopping bill. Dogs of all ages have their medical issues.

Allergic - This seems like an obvious issue to identify, but an extra sniffle around this time of the year from a pet allergy might just be the remnants of a cold, right? Maybe, maybe not. 

The first way to avoid these is to understand that a pet is a life long investment and not use it as that big bang Christmas present. It'll be just as rewarding if you add a pet either before or after the holiday season and you'll be better equipped to provide a stable environment where everyone is in their routine and you're able to observe Fido and how he fits within your everyday routine.  

Next, consider the large number of older pets in our shelters. The same illnesses that come up with an older dog can be present in a puppy, so why not make a difference and give an oldie a second chance? Bring your family to the shelter and make it a family experience, where you're showing your kids by example the importance of rescuing an animal in need.

Finally, if you're unsure about bringing a new dog will work for you permanently, foster a dog. Every dog not in a shelter frees up a spot for another. You're saving two lives for the price of one. Bring that new dog home for a few months and see if it's a good fit for both of you. Others might be interested in your foster and you can get another, but just maybe you'll find that somewhere along the line that very special dog adopted you and you'll have no choice but to return the favor.

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Photo by Larry Abgarian

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