All I want for Christmas is a dog!

It is a familiar refrain uttered by children across the globe. However, is adoption during the busy holiday season a good idea? And, how can you make sure to meet the needs of both your family and your new furry friend if you decide to adopt? This guide will offer some tips to help you make sure your Christmas gift becomes a valued member of your family instead of an impulsive decision that you come to regret.

How to Decide if Adopting a Dog Is Right for Your Family this Holiday Season
by Sharon

The “Ideal” Dog

The first and most important step to deciding if a dog is right for your family is to spend some time talking about what everyone wants in a dog. By getting the family involved in the decision making process and thinking through what type of dog would best meet your needs, you can ensure a better fit for your family’s lifestyle.

For example, if your family is looking for a lap dog who enjoys apartment living and hanging out with the kids while they have a video game marathon, then a small dog with a laid back temperament is probably a good choice. On the other hand, if your kids are a bit older and you and your active family are looking for a dog to join you for outdoor adventure, then a dog from the herding group might be more up your alley.

After you have a list of some personality traits that fit your lifestyle, do a little research on dog breeds, top dog sites like are a good starting place. Even if you have decided to adopt a mixed breed dog from a shelter or rescue organization in your area, knowing a bit about the basic breed groups can help you make sure that fit for your family’s lifestyle is a top priority. And, if you have a list of traits you are looking for, the staff or volunteers that work with rescue animals can help make sure you find a good candidate.

Consider the Timing

Timing the arrival of a new member of the family to Christmas morning can be difficult to pull off, and, it is probably not the right time to introduce a new dog to your home anyway. The chaos and travel that many of us experience during the holiday season is not usually helpful to giving a new dog a sense of the normal routine. Since rescue dogs usually have some history of getting bounced around on the way to their forever home, this additional stress can make a transition all the more difficult.

Instead, consider wrapping up a stuffed animal with a note that a real dog will be coming in the next few weeks or months. Doggy toys and treats make great stocking stuffers too. That way the dog can be a part of the holiday celebration but make their entrance after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season has passed.

If you decide to wait until after the holidays to begin looking for the perfect dog for your family, it takes the pressure off as well. Instead of trying to meet a deadline and compromising on fit, you can take your time to make sure that you find the right dog for your family.

Negotiate Responsibilities

One of the best ways to make sure a new addition to the family will be a success is to discuss the responsibilities of pet ownership with the kids before bringing home a rescued dog. This has a few main advantages. First, let’s face it, kids are more enthusiastic about taking on responsibility when a dog is still an idea rather than a reality. Second, it helps to set the expectations so that the kids are invested in meeting the needs of a new pet before they arrive.

Think about age appropriate tasks that each of the kids may be able to help with so that everyone has a “chore” to do to help care for the new family member. For example, a five year old child can participate in helping at mealtime or refreshing the water bowl. A ten your old is probably old enough to take on some of the daily walking responsibilities. Pre-teens and teens are ready to take on dog training responsibilities, taking a puppy class to learn positive training techniques, or enrolling in dog sports such as Flyball or Agility.

Budget Accordingly

Remember that the costs of a new dog are usually at their highest right around the time of adoption. Although adoption fees usually cover initial health costs such as early vaccinations, you will still need to schedule a vet check-up, pick up heartworm and flea/tick medications (usually sold in 6 month packages), as well as invest in some basic gear and toys.

These expenses should factor into your holiday budget to be sure that you are financially prepared for dog ownership. Since the holidays often come with a spike in household expenses, travel costs, and of course making sure there are gifts to unwrap under the tree, putting off dog adoption may make it easier on the budget.

Where to Rescue a Dog for the Holidays

Finally, make sure you know where to look to find out about the dogs available for adoption in your area. Wherever possible, work with bonafide rescue organization or county run animal shelter. Although it may be tempting to adopt from local ads on sites such as Craigslist or apps such as LetGo, these are also places where dog adoption scams and puppy mill dogs are found in large numbers, especially around the holidays.

Instead, search for dogs in your local area on sites that work with adoption and rescue groups such as PetFinder. If you have a particular breed in mind, do some internet research to see if there is a breed rescue organization near you that may have adoptable dogs in the breed you are most interested in.

Author Bio: Sharon is a professional writer and received her M.S. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.