I intended to write my holiday blog post about my favorite holiday dog gifts like the Squishy flirt pole and play dates at Doggy Daycare and Spa but yesterday I spent an hour working with a client at one of the pet supply chain stores. There were puppies everywhere…an inordinate amount of puppies. I am not sure I have ever seen so many puppies in one place outside of a training class. And then it hit me. It’s Christmas. It is the time of year when every dog lover fantasizes about the moment that their adorable new puppy appears out of a wriggling box from under the Christmas tree….

Don’t get me wrong, puppies are wonderful, adorable fur balls full that create magical moments for families. The problem is that as puppies grow up, humans are not prepared for or, willing to suffer through their growing pains. Adolescence in a dog can last from 8 months to 2 years—many months of barking, jumping, nipping, destruction, etc..[Cue moment of Dickensian angst for the dog trainer] The 12 month-old dog in the shelter was one of those cute little puppies in Christmas past. He had food, toys and humans who loved him and has no idea why he is spending Christmas present in the local animal shelter.

Dog lovers like me will assuage their Christmas guilt by taking food, toys and blankets to the local shelters this season. What these dogs really need are homes. Shelter and rescue staff volunteers work tirelessly to provide shelter, food and comfort for homeless dogs but the reality is that the needs far out weigh the resources.

Try to adopt before you shop. Adopting a rescue provides Christmas future for one more dog who might otherwise be euthanized or doomed to spend months or years in a shelter.

Shelter dogs make great family dogs. They will require training and supervision but generally not for the two year period that it takes to raise a puppy. Not sure how to pick the best dog for your family? Ask your veterinarian to suggest breeds that best suit your family’s activity level. Ask a dog trainer to help you select, prepare for and work with your new family member. You’ll never miss the puppy wiggling out from under the tree…I promise.