• This is the time of year when new puppies or kittens appear as Christmas gifts. Pet stores are stocked with adorable animals to bring home to eager children. Sometimes the new addition is well planned and researched. Other times, the acquisition is a spur of the moment purchase. In an effort to be sure a new pet is right for your family, consider what breed, age or sex of the pet is appropriate.

    First, do you have time to housebreak a pup? Or will he sit in a cage for 8 hours while you’re at work? Do you really want to housebreak a pup in January? It’s cold out there. When the wind comes whipping across the fields-seemingly from Siberia, you and he might prefer to be indoors.

    Given that, perhaps a dog who is already housebroken is a better bet. If so, have you thought about breed differences? Dogs just don’t look differently, they behave differently. For instance, herding breeds have a lot to say. Shelties bark. Labs need room to exercise. Huskies run. Beagles dig.(and they run, never looking back!) Familiarize yourself with the attributes and characteristics of the breed which interests you. Cats too have distinctive characteristics. Siamese are known to be one-person cats. Maine Coons are outgoing and gregarious. Red males are generally friendlier than female calicos. (Did you know that the calico is the Maryland state cat?)

    In addition to breed characteristics, males and females have different temperaments, and of course, even within a litter, each animal is an individual with his own personality. There are temperament tests which reveal certain traits. For example, a pup’s response to being rolled on his back will show if he’s easy going and will not mind a submissive posture, versus if he’s more dominant or independent and will resist and struggle. Check out the website www.americanhumane.org for more information on assessing a pup or adult dog’s personality. Of course, the local library is a great source for books on pet ownership.

    If you are going to welcome a new pet into your home, then you may consider adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue organization. The local shelters in Kent, Queen Anne, Cecil and Caroline Counties all have kittens and puppies who need loving homes. There are independent groups like Chesapeake Cats and Dogs or Animal Resource Foundation as well. You’d be saving a life. Some shelters will allow a dog to go home for a few days to assess how he or she will work in the home environment. Of course, all rescue groups want a prospective owner to spend time with a potential adoptee prior to release to see if there’s a fit. But ascertaining how the new animal-especially if it’s a cat, will fit into an existing group is something that can only be accomplished at home. Check out the website www.spca.bc.ca which has great information regarding introducing new pets to the home.

    People often think of giving pets for Christmas, but in general, that’s not a good idea. Unless you’re going to be the one walking the dog, or cleaning the litterbox everyday, then don’t impose a pet on someone else. But if you do want something that purrs or barks under your tree, then here are some helpful numbers:

    Humane Society of Kent County: 410-778-3648
    Cecil County SPCA: 410-397-1590
    Caroline County SPCA: 410-820-1600
    Chesapeake Cats and Dogs: 410-643-9955
    Animal Resource Foundation: 410-643-8700