Ahhh, the holiday season. Sipping on hot chocolate, decorating the house, spending time with family.....and puppy fever?? ;)
Certainly there is nothing is cuter than a puppy or kitten for the holidays. But if you are seriously thinking about getting a new furry family member this Christmas, you should take a moment to evaluate your lifestyle and expectations. Young pets are certainly a huge temptation and can be a great fit for many households, but for others an older animal is a much better choice of companion. Plus, there are lots of pets in shelters who are looking for their forever homes. Here are a few things you should consider before you bring home a new addition:
1. How much time do you have? Younger animals require a lot more exercise, attention, and training. Puppies, at least initially, cannot be left alone for more than a couple of hours at a time. More mature pets, even those just a year or two old, are generally more obedient, already potty trained, and require much less time overall (especially if you prefer to relax once you get home from work).
2. How much patience do you have? Are you willing to commit to puppy classes as well as follow up training at home? The majority of shelter dogs are surrendered between 6 months and 18 months of age because this is when dogs enter their challenging adolescent stage. If you don't have the time or patience to get through this or to properly socialize or train your dog, a slightly older pet who is already past this stage may be a better choice. Plus, with an older pet you already have a good idea of their personality and whether it would be a good fit in your household.
3. How often are you home? Younger pets don’t do well being kept alone by themselves. They may try to escape, bark, or become destructive. Older pets are generally more settled and happy to snooze the day away until you’re back from work. If you have a puppy, you need to be home more often for at least the first few months to relieve stress on your pet.
4. How active are you? How physically able are you to care for a pet? A high-energy, working breed of dog will not do well in a household that does not enjoy daily exercise and can't provide that kind of stimulation. Also, buying a puppy or kitten as a companion for elderly parents (or grandparents) may not be the best choice. Many older people have difficulty bending down to change kitty litter, for example, or are physically unable to take a new puppy for 30 minute walks twice a day. Little pets, especially active puppies or kittens, can also become a trip hazard for older people with mobility issues.
5. What do you want from your pet? Are you looking for a pet to exercise with, take out to the dog park, and play with your kids for hours? Then a puppy or kitten may be the best fit. If you’re looking for a calmer companion, though, an older pet may be more suited.
Overall, choosing a new furry family member is a big decision, and not all pets are created equally. There are definitely certain breeds that are much more active or high maintenance than others, but in general puppies and kittens are going to be much more work (and more of a financial burden initially) than their older counterparts. Therefore, when choosing a pet, it’s important to think carefully about your individual needs and lifestyle before making a decision.