Chilling Out the Puppy Fever Pitch
For some, Christmas time conjures images of puppies and kittens under glittering, adorned trees, gifts for those who may not even have wanted them at all, or gifts for people who initially may have believed they wanted them but subsequently arrive at a number of reasons as to why they cannot keep them. Fold in a worldwide epidemic on its eleventh month, and the adorable image of rolling puppies and wobbly kittens becomes something even more sentimental and poignant, distorted as it may be. The coronavirus has no doubt upped the ante on our collective, widespread desires for self-soothing. Oddly, that overarching desire to self-soothe, so preternaturally prevalent in 2020, overlaps with the anxiety of not knowing what's coming next, a strange sense of ennui, and an emotional urge to nurture something vulnerable, something soft and warm that needs us and depends upon us. And that desired something is very much that "heartbeat at (our) feet" Edith Wharton so eloquently and sentimentally described.
Dog adoptions and sales are staggering for 2020 - compared to the Cabbage Patch Kid craze of 1985 by The Washington Post - and most county and city shelters have been closed to the public since March of this year, with animal rescues trying to keep up the pace with an exponential increase in applications, as well as a pivot in home check protocols and meet and greets. Top on that list is often times "we want a puppy." We think it's worth mentioning that, in our collective opinion, adult dogs are matchless in their excellence and that each of us prefer fostering and adopting adult dogs any damn day of any week, month, or year over puppies. Puppies need no PR campaigns. They're clumsy and adorable and they basically sell themselves. Well, they would, if humans weren't so busy selling them for a profit. (But, that's another story for another post.)
Let's talk puppies and the holiday puppy fever pitch, which, to be fair, holds steady throughout the year but certainly hits its zenith around both Christmas and Valentine's Day. We're here to bust up some myths and fallacies that serve as shitty ballasts for a worldwide obsession.
1) Puppies are sweet and cuddly. Yep. Guess what? Puppies are also destructive. They shit. They piss. They whine and bark for attention. They are unruly. They will wake you up many times throughout the night. They will test your patience. They will bite you, your clothes, your furniture. They need proper training and socialization. And boundaries. Unless you want to raise a dog who will be "that asshole" and ultimately need training anyway because you let them get away with assholery during their youngest years.
2) I need to imprint on my dog when it's a puppy.
Imprinting upon a dog happens at ANY AGE. It's a myth that a puppy's first year of life with its humans is vital to creating a trusting, emotional bond for a lifetime. Dogs imprint upon us and we imprint upon them regardless of age. An older dog will follow you, snuggle with you, sleep with you, listen to you, and stare at you with endless adoration just as willingly as a ding dong puppy will. And they won't do it while chewing a hole into the back of your vintage armchair (this true-life tale told from personal experience).
3) I want a dog who'll be under "20 lbs"/"40-50 lbs"/"no bigger than a bread box"/"no smaller than a canned ham" when fully grown. Seriously - if you really REALLY need to know the adult size of a dog (i.e. "under 20 lbs" or "no smaller than a canned ham"), adopt an adult dog who is already fully grown - easy peasy. Puppies from rescues and shelters, even the ones with their mommas, are essentially a DNA mystery, or, at best, an educated guess in terms of future weight and size. So, if you want a dog in a specific size range (particularly if there are size restrictions in your apartment building, for instance), there are PLENTY of them, fully grown, waiting for you to find them at your local rescues or shelters.
4) I need to get a puppy so I can train it myself. Oh are you a professional dog trainer? If not, you likely don't have the same expertise and knowledge of dog behavior. Teaching a puppy sit, stay, and down are just the tip of the iceberg. There's crate training, potty training, leash walking, a solid recall and good manners around people and other dogs. It's a time-consuming undertaking and let's be honest, there's no guarantee that you'll do it better than anyone else. Many adult dogs have already mastered these skills- making the transition to your home so much easier and freeing you up to work on the ever important "roll over" and "high-five."
5) My kids want a puppy. And I want house in Tuscany. We don't alway get what we want as the Rolling Stones so wisely sang. Of course children want puppies-they look like little stuffed animals. Except the real ones have sharp teeth and nails, are mouthy (see #1 above), have crazy energy and jump up on anything that moves. Getting a puppy is, in essence, adding a toddler to your household (and let's face it Mom, who do you think will ultimately take care of it?). A well-balanced, tolerant adult dog who's happy to wear silly hats, hang out in a makeshift fort, tag along on trips to the park and just enjoy being part of the family, is what your kids actually need (and what you probably REALLY want).
6) An adult dog is already "too old." A dog's lifespan can range from 7 to 10 years for giant breeds like Great Danes and mastiffs, while many large dogs regularly live to a ripe old 13 -15 years. Small dogs often exceed expectations and hit 16, even 18. That's a long time. Depending on the dog, adolescence can linger on meaning a 2-6 year old can have the energy and enthusiasm of a puppy and those 7-10 are still great walking and even hiking buddies. The undervalued bonus of adult dogs is they LIKE to sleep. Unlike puppies, they can be left alone and be perfectly happy to relax a good part of the day. Adult dogs offer all the best of canine companionship along with the freedom to lead your normal life.
7) I don't know where that adult dog came from. Yes it's true that you won't know an adult rescue dog's backstory. But look at it this way: with a puppy, you won't know the genetic history (see #3) and with an adult dog, you won't know its life history. But years of working with shelter/rescue dogs has taught us that dogs, unlike people, don't show off an "ideal" version of themselves on the first date. They are who they are - it's all out-front and on display. Their temperaments and go-to responses to environmental stimuli are there to witness: nervous about loud noises, ecstatic about being scritch-scratched, doesn't trust strangers, loves everybody, human or animal. A responsible rescue group will always gather this information in advance and advise about the best homes for dogs in their program. Shelter staff and volunteers try to learn about their dogs in order to set them up for the best possible second chance. Trust them!
Lisa McGowan says...
This is THE BEST! Accurately, effectively, and passionately stated. And so important — thanks so much for this post, which could save the lives of so many wonderful dogs. Really: tears.
On Jan 03, 2021
Pamela Brodsky says...
Fantastic article! I feel odd saying that as I try to get my rescue litter adopted around the holidays, but this so all so so true!
On Jan 03, 2021