Many of us dream about getting a puppy during the holidays! We happily envision picture-perfect moments: the family photo by the tree, sipping eggnog with a sleepy puppy on our laps, the kids playing with a puppy while still in their jammies, rosy faces smiling and twinkle lights aglow. 

I can hear the laughter and delight, can you?

But what we may not picture are the not-so-fun moments: the chewed-up heirloom ornament, the stinky  “present” surprising us on the rug, the excitable puppy knocking over Aunt Gladys as soon as she walks in the door.

I have good news: with proper planning and managed expectations, you can still have that magical December you’ve been dreaming of! 

I’d love to share a quick story with you…

When I think back on my childhood in NYC, one of the places I can picture most vividly is a teeny-tiny bakery on the Upper West Side.

On Tuesday afternoons, my mom would pick me up from school and walk me to my math tutor. I dreaded those tutor sessions, so to sweeten the deal (and probably to keep me from whining), my mom added this pleasant snack stop into our weekly routine.

The bakery was a delight for the senses. The smell of fresh cookies beckoned us in from the sidewalk, and as we crossed the threshold, the warm steam embraced me. The gleaming display case of croissants, muffins, eclairs, angel wings and plate-sized chocolate chip cookies lured me in, as if in a trance.

Each Tuesday, I would lean on that case, wide eyes eagerly taking in the glorious possibilities. And each time, my gaze would come to rest on the irresistible-looking cookies that were glazed half white and half black. Black and white cookies are a quintessential New York treat, and something about them always made my mouth water.

As I made my selection each week, my mom would reliably remind me that those black and white cookies look better than they taste! But no matter how sound her reasoning was, I still wanted that particular cookie. 

And, each week, after my initial delight, I’d nod my head slowly in agreement! They unfortunately looked better than they tasted. Suckered once again!

How does this relate to dog training?  Well, let me explain: getting a puppy during the holiday season can be a little bit deceiving, like that black-and-white cookie! 

There are definitely some pros to a holiday puppy. The family is all around, you likely have some time off, and it’s truly the most magical time of the year!

But, there are also some important details to consider. This is a busy time of year filled with activities, friends and neighbors, traditions, music, late nights, festivities, and loads of stimulation.

 I certainly don’t want to be a grinch, but I do want to temper your expectations: sharing the holidays with a puppy is likely to look different than your normal holiday season, if you want it to go well!

This holiday season, I want you to thrive (not just survive!), so here are some tips I hope will help!

1. It takes a village!  

Puppies require supervision! We don’t want a puppy eating pieces from the recently unwrapped lego set your kids are playing with, and we don’t want them peeing on the rug, either. Supervision means keeping an eye on the puppy, but multitasking is likely to mean something gets missed. It seems like the busiest person in the room is also usually the one who finds themselves responsible for the puppy! So, instead of defaulting to “doing it all” and resenting it later, ask for help.  Simple schedules with designated roles will make the entire holiday go much more smoothly!

2. Play pens and gates make everything great!

I love to use the playpen for awake times while the puppy is playing. They might still have an inevitable  potty accident, but at least it is not hidden or hard to clean up. And, the best part is your puppy will not destroy your cherished ornaments or jump to grab a snack from the cheese plate. 

3. Puppies need sleep!

A well rested puppy is a calmer puppy! With all the chaos, noise, music and people this time of year can bring, it’s really important your pup gets plenty of down time and enough sleep. The crate provides a quiet and safe sanctuary where your pup can settle down and rest. While they might protest at nap time for a few moments, know they will benefit from the necessary sleep, and you’re doing the right thing!

4. Puppies thrive with predictable routines

If you are getting a new puppy, you will want to welcome that pup with some sense of order and routine.  This will help them adjust faster to you and their new home, and allow them to feel safe and secure as they learn these soon-to-be familiar routines. Structured routines can be a challenge for us during the holidays as our schedules look a bit different, and the joy of Christmas is often doing things a bit spontaneously. But, if you can plan a schedule ahead of time, penciling in your special activities for when your pup is asleep in the crate, you can enjoy having a well rested puppy AND participate in many of your favorite traditions, too!

5. Older dogs can benefit from socialization opportunities and reviewing some manners!

If your dog is older, they will still benefit from some consistency during this busy and exciting time. Keeping mealtimes, morning routines and any favorite training time as similar as possible will help them feel less confused by the change of routinet! Adding in some elements they look forward to each day can normalize an otherwise unpredictable season with cornerstone grounding moments. For example, if your dog loves an afternoon game of fetch, carving out a short session might keep undesirable behaviors at bay.

To help you out during this busy season, I made you a Holiday Survival Guide for dog owners that goes into a lot more detail! It is written with brand new puppy parents in mind, but it also has valuable information for older pups who need some review or skill building during the holidays. 

There is no better time to work on socialization and polite manners than this holiday season! 

The guide includes some good family activities and the accompanying emails will even share training games and KONG recipes! I hope you enjoy it and I sincerely hope it brings you peace and silent nights this merry time of year.

Download the Holiday Survival Guide now! 

Wishing you and yours a wonderful, joy-filled holiday season!

Dre Nolon is the founder of My Loyal Hound, a digital space where dog parents can find tips, resources and training methods for building strong, loving relationships with their canine counterparts. Dre is also the creator of The Puppy System, an easy-to-follow virtual puppy training course that turns new puppy parents into confident leaders raising the dogs of their dreams – in just four weeks! Learn more about The Puppy System and enroll today here.