A new puppy brings with it so much hope for the future. Will he become the kind of hunting dog that legends are made of? If plans include field trials or hunt tests, it’s natural to envision the pup’s first hunt, first bird, first ribbon. And who wouldn’t love to savor a winter’s evening with snow swirling against the windowpane as the north wind howls, sitting in an overstuffed chair near a crackling fire sipping warm eggnog as pup sleeps soundly curled up on his owner’s lap? So Currier and Ives.
"Is Christmas a good time to get a new puppy for the family?
Adding that pup to your home during the winter is a great idea for many reasons. Typically, in the wintertime, people are not as busy with the kind of activities that keeps us occupied in the warmer seasons, so we have more time to spend bonding with that new puppy. Bonding with pup is the key ingredient in establishing a successful relationship - whether you intend to hunt him, participate in field trials, hunt tests or just want a spaniel who will become a part of the family. The bonding phase develops trust and cultivates the pup’s desire to please. It also enables the young dog to become in tune with your mannerisms, so that when warmer months arrive and structured field training takes place, handling will become effortless.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not difficult to housetrain a pup in the wintertime. It is done the same as you would at any other time of the year; watch the pup closely and take him outside upon awakening, directly after meals and at any time when he appears nervous or unsettled. During the housetraining phase, using a plastic kennel crate can help make the process easier. Pup can be crated at night, while you are away or other times when you are unable to watch him closely. Be sure to take him outside as soon as you release him from the crate. Also, provide water only at meals, when outside or if you are watching him. Withdraw water at hour before bedtime and crate him for the night after he has relieved himself.
Actually, housetraining a pup is more of a process of training yourself. The more vigilant you are in working towards that goal, the more rapidly your pup should achieve success.
Once the bond is established between pup and owner, the foundation for future formal field training can be laid. Teach your new pup the simple things such as: how to kennel when told, develop his listening skills, how to sit or hup, come, etc... For those who live in cold climates, these are activities that can be accomplished in the house. Your job isn't to become a drill sargent, so remember to always keep it fun and limit the focus to one new thing at a time. Keep it brief so that you don't run the risk of boring him. Your pup should not even realize that he is being taught, but rather, each new thing should be percieved as a discovery. And always offer encouragement and praise for a job well done.
This is an excellent time to enroll in an obedience class. Most communities have these classes available. Besides aiding in establishing basic obedience and good manners in your young dog, classes are a great opportunity for socialization and confidence building. Your pup should be over four months old, have completed his puppy vaccinations and be in good health in order to participate.
Is Christmas a good time to get a new puppy for the family? Absolutely.
Often the weeks leading up to Christmas are busy with gift shopping, seasonal parties and children’s holiday programs. Once Christmas arrives, life tends to settle down, again. So why not treat the family to that new puppy?
I wouldn’t, however, advise giving a puppy to someone else as a gift - at least, not without their knowledge and consent. A new puppy involves a lifelong commitment to his well-being. This responsibility should not be forced upon an unaware recipient. Doing so is neither fair to the recipient nor is it in the puppy’s best interest.
"Your pup should not even realize that he is being taught,
but rather, each new thing should be percieved as a discovery."
Choosing a puppy is a very personal experience. What breed is appropriate and appeals to the prospective new owner? Will the pup be hunted or strictly a pet? What type of personality or temperament best suits the recipient? Does the new owner have enough time to devote to a puppy? What is the recipient's past experience, if any, in training a puppy? Are there other animals in the household and if so, are they friendly towards younger dogs?
There are so many questions to consider and these just begin to scratch the surface.
Some serious thought should be given to the long-term picture. Most puppies have a lifespan of 10-15 years, depending on breed. For an older prospective new owner, one needs to consider what would become of the dog, should he outlive the owner.
A puppy that may appeal to the giver, may not be enthusiastically welcomed by the receiver. If, for instance, someone wished to give a gift of a new puppy, it would be wise to discuss it ahead of time and include the recipient in the decision making process. This will help to insure a successful match for both the recipient as well as the new puppy.
For those who are interested in a flushing spaniel for hunting or field competitions, another point to consider is that by adding a new puppy to your family in the winter, he will be an ideal age come spring or summer to begin his formal field training. This pup will also be at a good age, mentally, to have enough focus and maturity to hunt the next fall - or participate in puppy trials, if that’s your goal.
Many spaniel breeders sell their puppies by advance reservation. Often, spring litters are sold out even before they are born. With the current economic slowdown and uncertainty we are facing in the US, fewer breeders are planning litters for the coming year, so there could be a shortage of puppies from good field lines available. If you are considering finding a new hunting buddy, sooner may well be better than later.