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Is there ever a good time to get a dog?

sage on hols

When it comes to taking on the commitment of a new dog, the simple answer to this question is ‘Yes’. Settling your new addition into the family and succeeding to raise a well adjusted family dog can be influenced directly by what’s happening in your life and that of the people around you. Given recent developments in 2020, this questions has never been more relevant with folk making snap decisions to add a puppy to the family, without thinking about longer term commitments and responsibilities.

Seasonal changes can have a huge bearing on the dog’s development both mentally and physically and should also be factored into any decision to take on the commitment of a new pet. There is no denying that if you are determined, nothing will stop you succeeding. However in reality, life often takes over and it will make things easier on you, your family and the dog of course, if you take into account several factors when making the all important decision of timing.

Let’s assume you’ve done your homework and selected a breed that suits your lifestyle. Realistically, good breeders have waiting lists of up to 2 years for one of their puppies, so be prepared to wait. It will be worth it! If you’re rescuing a dog, you may have contacted local rescues multiple times to see if they have something which suits your needs. This is the reality and shouldn’t be rushed.

From experience it then takes approximately 2 years to get the family dog to the stage where everyone is happy.  During those two years, you’ll be dealing with initial puppy socialisation and training, the dreaded teens and the maturing of your dog into a well adjusted family pet. This takes hard work and often doesn’t come naturally to many people or many dogs.

Consider the right time to get a dog and there is a right time.

Lifestyle Changes-especially relevant during 2020!

There are certain times in one’s life, when getting a dog is simply not a good idea. From experience of working in rescue and as a professional dog trainer and behaviourist, major life changes take up far too much time and energy. This can and cause so much stress that most people have little or no time to concentrate on the family pet, et alone work on training and development. If any of the following are in any way likely to happen within two years of getting your new dog, please think twice about whether the time is right or not.  New job or career change; pregnancy or planning a baby; house move; another dog under 2 years old in the household. It’s less likely your dog will reach his full potential as a well adjusted, content and properly trained family pet.

Seasonal changes.

Certain times of the year have a bearing on the training and development of your dog.  Dogs born around January, February or March for example, in my experience are more likely to have fireworks phobias.  I put this down to the fact that they will be entering their secondary fear period (usually from 6-12 months) in conjunction with Halloween. This is a time when, unless they have had careful early socialisation and habituation to loud noises and bangs, they will first hear fireworks. In addition, certain breeds will be more likely to bark or react to strangers while out and about if they are entering their fear period when the dark nights are creeping in around October time. This is especially true of the guarding breeds, or those of naturally aloof temperaments such as some of the Asian breeds. Unless you are a very experience handler, I would avoid getting such breeds during the first quarter of the year.

Christmas is the season for extra stress, family disputes, domestic strife and if nothing else, an incredibly busy time.  The first few weeks your dog spends with you has a direct impact on bonding, training and good habits. If you are out at Christmas parties, have a full timetable with people visiting, or a full house, this is rarely a good time to bring in a new addition to the family. Hectic lifestyles almost always have problematic results. I find it strange that for many years now reputable rescues will not re-home for the entire month of December and early January for the very reasons listed above. Yet some breeders will still plan and sell puppies during this time. This would make me question whether they have the puppy’s best interest at heart.

The bonding issue again comes into play if you have holidays planned. This can mean your dog will be separated from you soon after you take him home. Developmentally, there is limited time to make an impression on your new addition. The first few weeks are crucial. I would avoid taking a dog home if you have any holidays planned within 6 months of the new arrival, unless you can take puppy with you. Additionally, asking the breeder to hold onto your new puppy because you’re going on holidays should only be considered if the breeder is prepared to focus on socialisation and habituation to new people, dogs and locations.  Otherwise you risk missing out on your puppy’s crucial and very limited socialisation window.

House training problems are more likely to occur with puppies or dogs brought home over the winter months. For understandable reasons, both the dog and human in question are less likely to want to take regular trips outdoors, needed to instill good toilet training habits.  Consider carefully if you want to spend hours standing outside in the cold with a dog who just wants to go back into the warm house. A dog who isn’t interested in emptying bladder or bowels because he’s just too cold to concentrate.

Finally, ongoing and planned socialisation, is crucial for a well adjusted puppy. Dark evenings and foul weather bring certain restrictions, which mean it will be hard work to give a autumn/winter-born-puppy the same level of life experience which a spring/summer-born-puppy would enjoy. Summer fetes, late night football games, outdoor parties, bar-b-ques, trips to the beach or forest with the family, camping, walking among livestock, picnics etc. All are wonderful opportunities where your puppy is likely to meet and greet people and dogs, smells, noises and excitement. All are more likely to occur during the late spring and summer months.

Thankfully, more and more people now do their homework when it comes to choosing a suitable breed for their family and when selecting a breeder or rescue who are experienced and knowledgeable. Far fewer people though, consider the timing of bringing their new dog home. Let’s hope through spreading the word, more people realise that there is in fact, a right time to make such a commitment.