Q: My 4-year-old son is begging us to get a puppy for Christmas this year. We’ve never had a dog before and wanted to know how we pick the right dog for our family? Is Christmas a good time to get a new puppy?
A: Every year there are many parents in the Cayman Islands who give into the begging of their children and adopt a puppy or kitten for Christmas.
Although it may sound like a fun idea at the time, there are some good reasons why reputable animal breeders and shelters refrain from adoptions during the holiday period. The prime reason is that animals are not toys and the decision to adopt an animal should not to be taken lightly. Pets are for life and will be with your family long past the Christmas break.
Of course there are benefits bestowed on children through pet ownership. Kids can learn a great deal of responsibility through caring for a pet and the emotional enjoyment can be beneficial to the adults they will become.
However, research shows that the impact animal ownership has on children can also be negative if the animal is not well taken care of, abused, neglected or abandoned.
The holiday season is also a busy one and it can be very difficult (or near impossible) for training a new pet.
Bad habits are much easier to prevent than to correct at a later date.
One of the No. 1 reasons why animals are abandoned by people (whether they are cut loose to fend on their own, or abandoned at an animal shelter) is due to behavioural problems.
Training is a very big part of having a well- mannered animal and can really affect how much enjoyment a family receives from their pet.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is not a good environment for training a puppy or kitten and it can be a difficult time to implement house rules.
Pets are great for children and children are great for pets, but perhaps Christmas is just not the time for this relationship to begin.
The age of your children should be the first consideration on when to get a pet.
Research shows that kids younger than six are unable to relate emotionally to an animal.
For instance, they do not understand that when they hit the dog, that it hurts it, just like it would hurt if someone hit them. For this reason, waiting until the child is of school age is probably best for everyone involved (including the pet).
The next thing to do is to research the type of pet and the breed that is best for your family. There are many books and websites related to this topic and may we stress that this is an extremely important topic to research.
Although choosing a specific breed does not give you any guarantees, it can help you to pick the right size, appearance and temperament of the animal that is right for you and your family.
For instance a long- haired breed may not be good for people with allergies and a big breed may not be suitable for a family that lives in an apartment.
Remember pets are for life, so take your time and choose the pet that best fits your family’s needs and lifestyle. Merry Christmas to you and your pets!