Pet Guide & Resources Directory

Why are holidays usually a bad time to introduce an animal to a new home?

* The new owners will probably be too occupied with holiday preparations, celebrations, cooking, cleaning and guests and overall activity to give the new pet the attention he or she desperately needs. It is already a jolting adjustment for a puppy to leave his mother and litter mates. The first few days in a new home and with a new family are critical to a puppy. His transition into new home and family will affect his ability to bond with and trust humans. A stressful introduction can have negative after-effects and impede safe, successful integration into the family.

* Busy holiday time is a really hard time to keep to a proper house training, feeding and elimination schedule, and it is vital to start house training on day one and establish an effective schedule on which the pup can learn to rely on his human caretakers.

* The activities in the household might present safety hazards and increased opportunities for the pup to get in trouble or hurt. Especially when the household is not used to having a pet around and underfoot, it can be hard to keep ornaments, decorations, tinsel, wrapping, string, scissors, candles, potentially poisonous holiday plants and other dangerous items out of animals' reach.

* The holiday hubbub of guests, flashing lights, noisy toys, gift unwrapping, camera snapping, romping children, etc. can scare an animal of any age, particularly a puppy. Guests and household members may even step on pets, which can be traumatic even if no bones are sprained or broken.

* Elderly guests may trip over the pet and get hurt.

* It is essential to always supervise when dogs and children are together. Since this is hard to do during a big holiday, the chances of a bite increase. Children not used to having a dog in the home are more prone to behavior that can frighten a dog or pup, provoking a defensive bite. That's a bad start for kids and the pup alike.

* Visitors entering and leaving the house mean lots of chances for a pet to escape. A new pet can be more prone to running faster and farther since he has not yet bonded with the family, and he is stressed out by his jarring transition to a new, busy place full of large unfamiliar beings.

* The abundance of holiday food, drink and candy will enchant pets, who may get sick from ingesting food or choke on wrappers.

* Giving a pet to a child as a holiday gift is not good for the child or the animal, cautions Dan Lapsley, an educational psychologist at Ball State University. He adds that it is a mistake to use a pet as a way to teach a child responsibility. Even adolescents aren't ready to handle such a commitment of time, money and energy alone, so getting and caring for a pet should be a family venture. Parents need to learn proper animal care first. After all, the best way to teach responsibility is for the parent to demonstrate responsibility.

* Yet another reason to avoid introducing pets on a holiday: young children are often used to being the center of attention, and may be confused, jealous and act out to redirect adults' attention away from the new pet and back to themselves. Lapsley likens the experience to bringing a new child into the family; the parents need to discuss the introduction of the new pet before getting a pet, explain how things are going to change at home, and emphasize that the whole family must work together to make the pet a welcome (and well-adjusted) member of the family. This is why so many shelters, animal welfare groups and breeders will not place an animal during gift-giving holidays. At some shelters, an estimated 50 percent of holiday adopters eventually end up back at the shelter.

To improve the chances of a successful adoption, introduce pets during a relaxed, quiet time when you can devote full attention to helping the pet adjust.





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