The holiday season is finally here! For dog lovers like us, that means it’s time to start wrapping treats like Z-Bones, squeaky toys and maybe even ugly Christmas sweaters for our pups. Our friends with dogs (you know, the ones who are the most fun to shop for) will get t-shirts with paw prints, little picture frame ornaments with photos of their dogs inside, and of course, treats for their dogs.
Some people even choose the holidays as a time to give a pet to a loved one. But if they aren’t prepared to take care of a new pet, the dog can wind up in a shelter. In fact, animal rescue organizations brace for an influx of dogs after the holidays.
With this in mind, I spoke with Susie Hansen, director of the nonprofit Abandoned Pet Rescue, an inspiring no-kill animal shelter in Fort Lauderdale, FL, about tips for adopting a dog for the holidays. She said the most important thing to do is involve every member of the family to make sure you find the perfect fit. Here are some additional tips she offered:
1. Make the chance to adopt the surprise. Instead of putting a dog in a box under your menorah or tree, Hansen suggests buying a gift certificate to a shelter: “Maybe you wrap a collar and a leash with a note that says, ‘Let’s fill the collar.’ That’s a really fun gift, especially for children.”
2. Consider lifestyle factors. As Hansen asked, “Do you want a higher activity dog or a couch potato?”
3. Volunteer walking dogs before you adopt. In addition to being a rewarding way to celebrate the season by giving back, it can give you a sneak peek into the personalities of different dogs. If you have kids, it can help get them excited about animal adoption while learning responsibility.
4. Keep an open mind. Hansen said that it’s common for people to fall in love with a photo of an adoptable dog they see online—sometimes because it reminds them of a childhood pet—but once they’re in the shelter, they might find an even more perfect dog: “While they’re here, more often than not, they fall in love with a different animal.”
5. Consider adopting after the “holi-daze.” Transitioning a new pet into your home during the hustle and bustle of holiday entertaining can be stressful for everyone. If you adopt after life calms down, not only will it be an easier transition, but it will help you keep the joy of the holidays into the New Year. Plus, as Hansen noted, “Puppies and kittens are really hard on Christmas trees and other decorations.”
6. Include everyone in the adoption “meet and greet”—including your dogs. Hansen said she likes to see how children interact with animals, and how the family dog gets along with the potential new kid on the block. Hansen recommends doing it on “neutral territory” like a play yard and having a trial overnight to see how the chemistry is at home.
7. Let the dog pick you. “We encourage people to go and sit down and let the animal pick you out,” Hansen said. “Take note of which dog comes to you. That seems to ensure a much, much better fit than if you’re trying to convince them that you’re the love of their life.”
Happy holidays to all of our awesome “Dog Blog” readers and the loves of our lives—our dogs!