Adopting a pet for Christmas

adopting a dog

In the lead up to Christmas, I always feel it’s important to urge anyone considering giving  a loved one or friend a pet as a gift, even if adopting a pet for Christmas, to make sure everyone involved is 100% committed to caring for this pet for all of it’s life.

Being a huge pet adoption advocate I absolutely would love as many people to be adopting a pet right now, as right across Australia kitten and puppy season is in full swing and tens of thousands of them, probably more, are desperately needing homes. Not to mention how many animal shelters are already at their capacity.

However, it is as equally as important that the decision is well thought through and that any new pet owner is well aware of the long term commitment that a pet, even pocket pets like rabbits and guinea pigs, are and that they are able to meet all of their needs for life including the financial, family time, love, training, health care and more that all pets need.

If you are absolutely sure everyone is ready and you are well researched and committed to getting a pet as a gift, then adopting a pet, rather than buying from a breeder is a wonderful gift that gives twice.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the responsible breeders out there doing the right thing,  but the fact is that in Australia and indeed all around the world, we simply don’t have enough people to provide loving and secure homes for those dogs and cats that are already born, and well over 100,000 dogs and cats are being euthanised each year in Australia alone through no fault of their own as a result.

Avoid pet scammers

Some well meaning people who run out of time to purchase a dog or cat, puppy or kitten, turn to online classifieds in a desperate last minute Christmas rush.  This in turn can fuel the type of backyard breeding activity that we know is negatively impacting on animal health and welfare.  Not to mention the massive rise in in puppy scams at the moment. For tips on how to avoid puppy scams, click here.

I’ve even heard one story from multiple people about puppies being sold out of the back of a car near a popular Melbourne shopping centre in the week leading up to Christmas to desperate shoppers who simply aren’t going to question the health or breeding conditions.

So, rather than adding to the demand for even more puppies and kittens to be bred, why not consider what Christmas is all about – a time for giving.

Contact your local animal rescue group now as there are many desperate to find homes for the never ending arrival of new kittens and puppies being dumped at their doors, which is something that I am hearing a lot.   You can also find a listing of pets up for adoption on the Pet Rescue website as well, supported by PETstock’s Petspiration Foundation.

Foster first

Even better than rushing out to buy a new puppy or kitten,  or adopting a pet on a whim, consider fostering a dog or cat over the holiday period instead so that you can help relieve the many tireless volunteers who desperately need a break, plus help get tens of thousands of dogs and cats out of the shelters and into loving homes.

Even if temporary, it will help you to understand what is involved in caring for the pet and you can see if you and your family are ready for the full time commitment of adopting a dog or cat.   Studies have shown that ‘sleep overs’ help to drastically reduce the cortisol levels (the stress hormone) of dogs in shelters, so what better Christmas gift can you give than that?

Please consider the long term when buying or adopting a pet

Far too many dogs and cats are being returned to shelters following pandemic purchases. Many first time dog owners and new puppy parents were unable access the support and services they needed at a critical time, or weren’t prepared and didn’t bother putting in the training or setting boundaries with their puppy and now these dogs are reaching adolescence – a time we often see behaviour changes including increased energy levels, destructive chewing and digging, barking and jumping on us to get what they want.

We also start to see frustration and even aggression emerge due to fear and anxiety, often due to a lack of positive socialisation, training, poor breeding and good leadership, so sadly while they aren’t ‘bad dogs’, there are some dogs (and cats) spending far too long in the shelter than they deserve, which causes their behaviour and mental health to deteriorate.

So while you need to consider the long term commitment with a puppy, you still need to consider the commitment, patience and training that will be required when adopting a pet as well of course.

I can tell you though, as the owner of a rescue dog with anxiety that is prone to fear-based aggressive responses, every small improvement you make, and seeing your dog loving their new life with you, is well worth the hard work.  Learn more about dog reactivity and other issues relating to anxiety HERE.

For more on what to expect when adopting a dog, read my article HERE.

Benefits of adopting a pet

By adopting a pet you can save thousands of dollars which can go into training and health care instead.  All adoptable pets from animal rescue organisations are health-checked, vaccinated, de-sexed where required and temperament assessed.

Adoption fees are also much cheaper than what most breeders or pet shops charge and cover all of the basic health expenses as well microchipping, worming and flea treatment and desexing too.

For those of you haven’t yet experienced the joy of adopting a pet and think that dogs and cats in shelters must have something wrong with them,  the reality is that pets end up in pounds and shelters for many reasons through no fault of their own.

Some of the most common reasons they end up in shelters include getting lost with no microchip or identification tag, owners passing away or moving into a nursing home with no family to take care of their pet, a lifestyle or family change.

Consider adopting a pet in the new year too

If you think that juggling a puppy or kitten or a new cat or dog over Christmas will be tough, you are right!. So, if you are willing to wait until the new year, why not have fun creating a ‘Pet IOU’ card or voucher and also pop down to your local PETstock store to give the kids or friend or family member a stocking of all they will need to be prepared for bringing a new puppy home.

That way you can build even more excitement about the impending new family member, reflect on the wonderful fact that you will be saving a life, and also enjoy the experience of finding a pet in the new year together with your loved one.

Get straight on to training no matter the age

If you have done your research and due diligence and a puppy or kitten is going to be welcomed into your home. Make sure you read all of the information we have on this site about being prepared for bringing a new puppy home and plenty of other information in our Training & Behaviour section. There are tips on how to keep cats entertained and happy as well, as they too need plenty of exercise and enrichment. You can read about cats as pets HERE.


About the Author: Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, pet food nutrition specialist, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love Your Dog

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