Christmas is a time of indulgence and this can be particularly true when catering for the demands of children and their requests for a full-time family member as a festive gift. Yes, they promise to feed, walk and clean up after their new friend but sadly in too many cases the novelty wears off all too quickly once the holidays are over.
This leads to a huge amount of discarded family pets being dropped into already overflowing shelters in the New Year.
In a lot of cases, these once loved dogs are found tied up to the gates when the staff for work as owners don’t want, or can’t afford to pay the €50 handover fee. Can you imagine the trauma these once loved pets suffer on finding themselves suddenly abandoned at a shelter?
With this in mind, when deciding on which breed of dog, whether a puppy or fully grown small, medium or large dog, it is essential to buy a very informative dog book for all breeds from your local pet store and absorb it.
In my case, I had read the section on Neapolitan Mastiffs. I understood that they are only for the highly experienced dog owner but nothing prepared me for the Neapolitan Mastiff that arrived to share our home. Having recently lost my 14 stone St Bernard, I felt it would be a walk in the park, but Neo’s are a WHOLE different ball game. Bossy towards my daughter and myself, she made our other two dogs lives almost impossible until we took her very much in hand.
The granddaughter of Hagrid’s dog Fang, we adopted her when she was six months old. These dogs became very popular with the Harry Potter movies and many became discarded Christmas presents that outgrew their welcome. Very wrinkly and beyond cute as a puppy, they become very protective as an adult and the amount of drooling they do is legendary. They need a huge amount of socialisation when young if they are going to fit in.
So, make sure to read the book before deciding on the best breed for your family. Most importantly, please ensure all members of the family and, particularly the person who will eventually be the main carer, are all in agreement with the purchase or adoption. Otherwise, what should be a wonderful experience will turn into a disaster with your new pet being on the receiving end of this misfortune.
Sadly these days, with the recession still at our doors, far too many dogs, including beautiful pedigree dogs, find their way into shelters around the country. This means there is an abundance of beautiful dogs on offer. It is important to remember that highly bred pedigree dogs are often subject to health issues. In many cases, closely bred very large breed dogs often suffer from hip problems. Pet insurance from the start is a must in these cases as vet bills can really mount up.
Remember, although cuddly and cute, puppies can be highly destructive unless watched constantly and given plenty of toys to distract them from your furniture! At night they can be put in a suitably sized crate in the kitchen to minimise any damage – do not leave dogs outside on cold winter nights.
Very large breeds also have a much shorter life expectancy than their smaller counterparts. Having owned many beautiful large pedigree dogs this is heart-breaking. In my own experience, I have found that cross breeds are generally much healthier. Whether beautiful or beautifully ugly, these one of a kind dogs are so unusual I find them hard to resist. Others may disagree with this point but I have a real soft spot for my Neo.
There are some really important things to remember if you are choosing a dog this Christmas:
- Space – the space available in both your house and garden
- Grooming – long-haired dogs need to be groomed unless you want a matted mess which is very uncomfortable for the dog and can lead to costly medical issues
- Injections – all necessary annual injections, regular worming, flea and tick protection will give the new member of your family the very best start in life
- Pet food – it is so important to feed the appropriate food advised by our Nutritional Advisors – these are Super Premium, hypoallergenic with a suitably sized kibble to adjust to their growing needs
- Feeding amounts – very young puppies need five small meals daily as they have very small stomachs. This can be reduced to two measured meals daily as your dog matures
So, if you decide to take the plunge this Christmas, please take into consideration all things I have mentioned in this blog and find the dog that most suits your family. There are many registered breeders to choose from but do also consider adopting from one of the many shelters available throughout the country. Don’t rush into taking the first dog you see, you can always pay a holding fee while you consider your options.
The sanctuary will pair you with the most suitable dog for your family and will insist on a home visit to check you have a safe enclosed garden for the dog to play in. If you do choose from a shelter you are not only giving a deserving dog a wonderful new home and a second chance but making room in the shelter for another disadvantaged animal. Best of luck on this fantastic journey and I will leave you with this, “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.
This piece was written by Tina Koumarianos, Connolly’s RED MILLS Nutritional Advisor, TV3 Midday Panelist, Contributor on RTE’s John Murray and Sean O’Rourke Radio Shows and Author. Proud adoptive owner of three dogs and two Parrots!
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