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A Hound for the Holidays

Allison Willoughby with her dogs

The holidays are an exciting and stressful time of year for many, and are not exactly the best time to add a new pet to the family.

Dr. Allison Willoughby, adjunct assistant professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and advisor to the small animal specialty club, shared the hazards of getting a new hound for the holidays.

“People often get really excited at the prospect of having a new pet and they tend to forget about the timing of bringing an animal into a new home,” Willoughby said. “Often the holidays are so busy, it’s best not to get the pet right at Christmas mainly because it’s so stressful for the new animal. Its better to wrap up dog dishes or toys and say, ‘Hey we are going to get a dog.’”

She also emphasized the importance of parents really thinking about what it takes to care for a dog or puppy, especially before they decide to get one for their children. Pets can be a big responsibility for the whole family.

“I think giving a child a puppy or a kitten can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes the parents have this idea that the child is going to be the one primarily taking care of it,” Willoughby said. “Kids go to school, get busy and they forget. I think parents shouldn’t give this gift unless they are completely on board too and they want this pet.”

It doesn’t matter whether you choose to adopt a dog or puppy from a shelter or purchase a dog from a reputable breeder, Willoughby said. What matters is how that animal fits with your lifestyle and energy level.

“It’s great to rescue an animal, but it needs to be a pet that fits your family,” she said. “Shelter dogs can be great. You just have to see if they fit in with your lifestyle.”

Cache Humane Society Executive Director Stacy Frisk discussed the importance of the human animal bond in the adoption process.

“When someone tries to adopt an animal as a gift for a friend or family member, they miss out on the match-making process,” Frisk Said. “That pet may respond very differently to the intended owner than he or she does to a gift-giver stopping by the shelter.”

It’s important to consider the financial implications of a new puppy or dog as well. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the first year of dog ownership will cost anywhere from $1,314 for small dogs up to $1,843 for the largest breeds. Included in the estimate are one-time expenses such as neutering, spaying, training and initial medical expenses. Willoughby echoed these concerns.

“ A family may get a puppy with its first set of shots, however; there is a whole series of shots the animal needs to get,” Willoughby said. “Sometimes people don’t realize that it can be several hundred dollars to get through the first few months. Then you need to talk about spaying and neutering, and that can be another couple hundred dollars. You do have costs beyond food and toys. The initial cost of a dog is usually the least amount, compared to the lifetime of a dog.”

Last minute Christmas shopping should include candy or slippers, it shouldn’t include buying or adopting a new dog or puppy.

Writer: KailCee Harrison, kailceeharrison@usu.edu
Contact: Allison Willoughby, allison.willoughby@usu.edu