It may be better to give than to receive, but adopting a dog for Christmas sounds like the best of both worlds—one lucky dog receives a loving home and you receive the beautiful companionship of their love. But are the holidays the best time to welcome a new furry friend? 

The answer depends on your situation. Adopting a dog is a lifelong financial and emotional commitment and should be the result of a well-researched and informed decision, not an impulse buy. So, before you decide to put a new dog under the tree, consider the following  questions from Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital.

#1: Does everyone in the home want a dog?

Dogs may be adorable bearers of unconditional love and affection that can transform your house into a home, but they also can make a big impact on the household environment and routine. They can have undesirable habits, such as barking, shedding, drooling, jumping up, and chewing, and rescued dogs may have emotional baggage that includes separation anxiety or resource guarding. While some of these traits can be remedied with training, others are a natural part of who they are.

If your household is not in agreement, do not proceed with dog adoption. Situations like these commonly end with the pet being returned to the shelter, which is incredibly stressful for the dog and may lead to additional behavior issues and decreased likelihood of adoption. 

#2: What type of dog best suits your lifestyle?

If you’ve scrolled through PetFinder or your local shelter’s web page, you know how those adorable little faces can tug at your heartstrings. But without having clear and specific search criteria, you may adopt a pet based only on their physical appearance—and end up with an inappropriate match. 

Before you begin to investigate dog breeds or see what’s available near you, answer the following questions:

  • Who will be the dog’s primary caregiver?  This must be an adult.
  • How much space do you have for a dog?
  • Are there any breed or size restrictions where you live?
  • How much time can you devote to daily exercise? 
  • Are you or someone else physically able to provide for an active dog?
  • Can you afford a dog who needs regular grooming?
  • Do you have the time to socialize, exercise, and train a puppy? 
  • Do you have the financial resources to care for a senior dog or one with medical needs? 

Use your answers to help guide your search, and check out our previous post on how to choose the right dog for your family. While many adoptable dogs are mixed breeds, the American Kennel Club has an excellent dog breed selector quiz to help you determine what breeds or breed combinations may be most suitable for your home. 

#3: Have you budgeted for long-term veterinary care and other dog ownership expenses?

Adoption fees may be reduced during the holidays, but a dog is not an affordable gift. If you’ve adopted your dog from a shelter or humane society, they likely will already be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped, but ongoing care costs must be considered to ensure you can provide for your new best friend’s needs, including:

  • Routine and unexpected veterinary care 
  • Year-round heartworm, flea, and tick prevention 
  • Training
  • Grooming
  • Supplies
  • Care services (e.g., boarding, day care, dog walkers)

If you’re ready to crunch the numbers, check out this expense guide for some helpful budgeting tips and average care costs.

#4: Do you have the time to provide a consistent schedule during the holidays?

Dogs thrive in a home environment that provides consistency and routine. Unfortunately, such characteristics are rare during the holiday season. If your Christmas schedule is packed with parties, travel, house guests, or special events, consider waiting until January to bring your new dog home. A busy schedule with lots of comings and goings can make housetraining, bonding, and socializing more difficult, and may lead to fear or anxiety-related issues.

Ideally, you’ll want to bring your dog home over a scheduled time off or a long weekend so that you can devote several days to helping them settle in and establish a routine. Of course, if you’re expecting a quiet holiday this year, the timing might be perfect. 

#5: Are you adopting a dog for the right reasons?

Pets should never be given as surprise gifts unless the recipient is fully prepared for a dog and—preferably—has already met the prospective pooch. When dogs or puppies are given as a complete surprise, the recipient may not be financially or logistically able to provide appropriate care. In addition, the dog’s breed, size, or temperament may be inappropriately matched to the new owner or his or her current household pets.

Although dogs can make excellent companions for kids, never adopt a puppy or dog to teach your child responsibility. Despite their pleas and promises to take care of a pet, they should never be the pet’s sole caregiver.

Adopting a dog for Christmas can create wonderful memories, but it should never be done on a whim. If you’ve determined that the holidays are not the right time, consider becoming a shelter volunteer or collecting donations to bring Christmas cheer to the adoptable pets. If you do welcome a new furry friend, schedule a Fear Free medical assessment at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital as soon as they’re settled in to help protect their physical and emotional wellbeing.