Thousands of pets that are given as gifts during the Holidays end up being surrendered to animal shelters - or just abandoned - because the recipient was unprepared to care for a pet. During a time that is synonymous with giving, we need to be aware that not everything makes for a great present - especially animals. Between 3 and 4 million homeless cats and dogs are euthanized each year. Before giving the gift of a new pet, careful evaluation of ones lifestyle is needed to ensure that the pet is brought into a good home that is properly prepared to take on the responsibility of a new companion.
Families that collectively make a sound decision to get a dog, whether it is for Christmas or for any other occasion, should strongly consider adoption. Most shelters house a wide array of animals and will work with you to find the best pet for your family.
Here are some helpful tips on how to choose the best dog for your family from Heidi Ganahl, CEO and Founder of Camp Bow Wow.
• According to the Humane Society of the United States, about 25% of all dogs and cats surrendered to shelters are purebreds. The effects of having a family pet have shown to help mental and physical health, so take the time to research local shelters and find the perfect companion for your family before purchasing from a pet store this holiday season.
• Be sure your new pet correlates with the ages of those in the household. A good rule of thumb: the new pet should fit the current physical capabilities of the caretakers with a perspective for what the next 10-15 years will bring.
• It is not advised to bring a pet five months or younger, or toy-sized, into a home with young children. As young pets like to teethe and play, a young child may risk being bitten by a playful pet or may accidentally injure a toy-sized pet. A better choice for a household with young children is a medium-to-large sized pet over five months of age.
• If there are elderly members in a household, a strong vigorous adolescent pet is not advised. Large breeds also demand more physical upkeep, something that an older person may no longer be fit for.
• As most families are extremely busy, figuring out who will take care of the new family pet while the others are working, at school or away is a key point to consider. The best decision to make before buying a new pet is to designate a primary caretaker who will be responsible for it when the fray of life picks up.
• Although it is exciting to surprise the family with a new pet for the holidays, the best approach is to bring the family to meet the candidate and gauge how they all interact. Do some research and poll each family member to find out what they are looking for in a new pet so that the pet you choose aligns with the circumstances of the household.
• The price of a new pet can range from "free to a good home" to several thousand dollars. A budget must be set not only for the up front cost of taking the pet home, but also for immediate follow-up costs like veterinary check-ups, a training crate and pet obedience classes. Also keep in mind that your pet will need to be fed and groomed and will also need chew toys and additional supplies like food bowls, a dog bed, brushes, leashes, etc. Also keep in mind the necessary chunk of money needed for veterinary emergencies.
• A new pet will cost the family by ways of time and energy. Various breeds and ages will make different demands, requiring more time in training and daily exercise than others. Any pet will require exercise, training and supervision and any age pet will require commitment from the family to establish house rules and routines.