Bringing home a new puppy requires oodles of planning and know-how, but timing is part of the equation as well. When is the best time of year to bring home a puppy?
The easy answer is whenever it's the best time for you, whenever you and your family have enough time to focus on socializing and training the puppy, according to Richard Walther, DVM and veterinary advisor at Pawlicy Advisor.
But if you can make that commitment any time of year and want to know the most hospitable season for dog-rearing, Walther says late spring or summer is ideal. You'll want access to the outdoors for potty training and experiencing new people and places.
Winter will present a bigger challenge, but if that's the best time for you, it's the best time.
"Really, the biggest thing, I think, is when you [pick] a time of year where the family actually has the bandwidth to spend the quality time with the dog," Walther says.
Best Time of Year To Get a Puppy
Access to the great outdoors is a massive part of dog ownership, especially in your pup's first weeks, so you'll want the nicer weather summer and late spring usually provide.
Potty training means frequent trips outside, so you'll want nicer weather as you teach your dog to go to the bathroom. Yards and parks are also excellent locations for your dog to meet new people, dogs, or objects.
A reminder from Walther: A puppy's socialization window lasts only the first 16 weeks of his life, so you'll want to get in as many new experiences as you can—especially when your kids are home from school.
But summer might not work for everyone, and some parts of the country feature exceedingly hot temperatures or severe weather. That's why Renee Rhoades, the head dog behavior consultant at R+Dogs, says fall is the best time to bring home your new pup because of the milder weather.
"No matter what time someone chooses, there's always the problematic situation of trying to acclimate the dog to other weather conditions, unless you live somewhere where the weather is consistent throughout the year," she says.
She and Walther agreed on the most challenging time to bring a new puppy home: winter.
Why Winter Is a Challenge
Put it this way: You don't want to be heading outside every hour with a young puppy in the cold, snow, or ice, do you? Didn't think so.
Yes, the weather adds an extra challenge to potty training, and you'll likely have to seek indoor opportunities for socialization or puppy classes. Plus, you might be busy with year-end work or holiday travel. But you can still bring home a new dog if you're prepared.
For potty training, you can start indoors with a designated area. Rhoades and Walther both recommend using artificial turf or another grass equivalent for your dog to his business. That way, the shift to peeing and pooping outdoors will be easier because your dog will recognize the surface. It will require a second round of potty training, however.
"It is going to be an adjustment period, so people should be aware of that," Walther says.
For the socialization aspect, check out puppy classes at a local pet store or doggy daycare, Walther says. Just first make sure your pup is up to date on his vaccines. When at home, give your pup plenty to do—provide interactive toys and plenty of time to play with you and your family.
Are You Ready for a Puppy?
Regardless of the time of year, there are several things you should do before you bring your bundle of joy home.
First, can you afford a new dog? Walther says you should expect to spend between $1,000 and $2,000 on your new dog in the first month, so you'll want to have that money set aside for the adoption fee, spay or neuter costs, and all the essentials you need for your home. If you're getting your puppy from a breeder, expect to set aside more.
Next, do you have enough time to train the new pup? Remember, the time of year needs to work for you too, and training and raising a dog will be like a second job for the first weeks. Crate training alone can keep you up at night, Walther warns.
If you know your take-home date, Walther advises setting up your veterinarian care ahead of time so your pup can start his vaccines right away and doesn't have to wait months for care. You'll also want to consider pet insurance and puppy-proof your home, too.
C. Croney, A. Pietraniec, T. Shreyer. Basics of Socialization. Perdue University.