Normally, I would say the holidays are not the best time for getting a new puppy. That thought is based on the fact that holiday celebrations involve extra people, busy schedules and possibly long absences from the house at a crucial time of training and bonding with that new member of the household. But 2020 is no normal year. In fact, the past nine months of limited activity outside of the home have resulted in an abnormally optimal condition for a new puppy. The result: puppies, puppies everywhere!
To get a puppy in time for Christmas, the breeder was setting it up four months ago, as it takes approximately two months of gestation and eight weeks more to successfully wean and rehome the offspring. It stands to reason that breeders might opt to start a new litter when they have the time to handle them and a four-month commitment is a drop in the bucket for 2020. Current restrictions might also have allowed for more time to advertise and then screen candidates for adoption, which results in good matches.
If you’re one of the lucky many who have recently obtained a puppy, you know that there is much to impart: where to go potty, where and when to sleep, what is okay to chew, and the difference between people food and puppy food are just the basics. You will also want your new puppy to learn to recognize its name and to bond with the members of the family. Each and every one of these dog skills requires time, repetition and patience. And then the real training begins. Sit, come, heel, down, stay and when it’s okay to bark and when it’s not. It’s easier to reinforce positive experiences when you are intimately familiar with and there to guide every minute of puppy’s day.
There are perks to having a new puppy in the house. Puppy breath tops the list in my book, and I’m not alone. It would be pure genius for a person to capture and bottle that intoxicating scent. But perhaps that product’s success would be limited because puppy breath is only partly scent. The real charm is holding that warm, curious creature close enough to get a whiff when it squeaks and yawns and nibbles at your chin and ears so ticklishly. Another perk is that you get to pick a name. Choose wisely, though, as it can backfire. For instance, standing on the deck and yelling “Phelps” can be mistaken for a cry for help, likely to attract a flurry of unwanted attention. Trust me (and one very embarrassed friend) on this. And avoid being too cute. “Princess Sassy Pants” might be precious in private, but draw odd looks on a walk. Perhaps the best perk of all is that you’ve now acquired a warm snuggle buddy while you’re spending so much time housebound. Whatever activity you’re keen to spend time on, puppy will likely join you. Sitting around binge-watching Netflix or taking ambitious walks, if you’ll be there, puppy wants to be there too. An instant best buddy!
Let’s talk about the puppy cute factor. Although it feels purely emotional, it is based in science. It’s at the heart of their survival for baby animals to be cute. If you bring a creature into your home that is likely to soil the carpet, bedding and hardwood floors, possibly put teeth marks in irreplaceable furniture, and deprive you of sleep, the sight of them must pull at your heartstrings. Watching them toddle across the lawn or practice barking should make your heart go all mushy. Don’t bother trying to fight it—it’s nature’s way of instilling patience in us humans and we’re better for it. Embrace how much you love your dog. It works both ways.
All this bonding, training and acquiring intimate knowledge of your puppy’s habits can have a drawback: they never want it to end. Puppy can get so used to having you around to snuggle, guide and give direction in real time that there is trouble if you try to leave. Even if you leave for a short while, many puppies suffer separation anxiety and it’s no small matter. Whining, scratching, howling and barking can manifest into a real problem, especially if you have close neighbors. Even trained, mature dogs can struggle with this, so many clever humans are inventing excuses to leave the house just to keep the readjustment to a minimum. We are all planning to resume a normal life someday, right?
Do I get a lift from learning about how many people have new puppies? Do I drool over the idea of seeing pictures and hearing anecdotes about them? Do their naughty antics make me giggle? Yes. Yes to all of it. Like a doting grandmother (which I am), I soak it all in with delicious anticipation. So, keep those photos coming, new parents of puppies. Be loud and proud about it. Puppies, puppies everywhere is a dog lover’s paradise!