Updated: Nov 4
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Konrad and I have experience with traveling to pick up a puppy over the holidays. When we went to pick up Heidi, we woke up at 3 am and drove all the way to Newport Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving. I found Heidi through a Facebook page and chose her based on the breeder's recommendation. We were very nervous to be driving all that way and spending alot of money on a dog that we had never seen or met in person. Of course, as soon as we met the little butterball, all our fears melted away and we were ready to take Heidi to her new home. The breeders almost convinced us to take two puppies home, but we decided to pass on this offer and find a cheaper pup from a different litter. We didn't think it was a good idea to drop that much cash in one day. After we got Heidi, we drove all the way back to Texas to make it in time for my husband's family Thanksgiving dinner.
Looking back, we know we made a mistake because of how amazing Heidi turned out AND because our cheaper pup, Birdie, has had medical bills that cost over two times what we would have paid for Heidi and her sister. If you find a dog with a price tag that is less than the average price for that breed, you can bet you will end up spending alot more on vet bills and other complications compared to a pup from a quality breeder. Good bloodline really does matter!
I wanted to write this blog post to help you think through your plans for picking up and taking home your puppy.
What to bring:
bowl for water
several towels (for accidents)
cleaner and cloth/paper towels (for accidents)
grocery bags or similar to bag up any accidents
Many puppies get car sick, some pups grow out of it and some never do. I remember Heidi throwing up on our way home. It's not pleasant but it's totally normal! At this age, puppies have very small bladders. They have to pee every 30 minutes or less, and when they do, you wouldn't believe that much liquid could be stored in such a small creature. The other issue: puppies aren't supposed to step on grass until they are 8 or 16 weeks old. I honestly don't remember how we handled this part of our long car ride with Heidi. At the time, we didn't know that puppies weren't allowed on grass, so we probably aired her at gas stations without realizing the risk. You can talk to your vet and do some research, opinions on when a puppy can go on public ground varies. We had a small kennel with us, but Heidi ended up in our laps for the entire drive. Not the best plan for safety, but we made it home and I won't judge if you do the same.
What you will depart with:
a puppy (in case you got this far without realizing what this post is about- You're getting a puppy!!)
a small bag of puppy food
New Puppy folder: AKC registration paperwork, a signed copy of your puppy contract, up to date records of vet visits and vaccines, microchip information, results from the Volhard Personality Test, and a copy of your puppy's information (my spreadsheet)
a breakaway collar
an item with mom and siblings' scent
What to have ready at home:
a spot set aside to be puppy's "space"
towels or bedding that you're okay with possibly getting stained or shredded
rags or paper towels for cleaning up messes
food and water bowl- we like bowls like this for puppies
a durable chew toy like this - puppies love to chew and shred anything. If you don't provide something, they will find something to shred. Look for durable materials that are safe for ingestion. Plush toys can be bought if you don't mind watching it get destroyed over the course of the week- and if you don't mind picking up tiny bits of stuffing throughout the day.
If you are headed back to extended family, I advise having a game plan in mind for where puppy will stay and if and when people can hold her. Keep in mind that your puppy has not been mentally preparing herself to be taken away from her mother and introduced to a crowd of strangers all in the same day. I did my best (as a non-assertive person can do) to ease Heidi's transition by putting her kennel in our room with a towel over the kennel (breathable), the light off, and the door shut. Konrad wasn't as concerned as over-protective momma bear me, so Heidi ended up making her rounds meeting the entire family while I anxiously watched. At the end of the night, Konrad realized it wasn't the best move for Heidi. Out of guilt and concern that yelping would disrupt sleep of the family, Heidi slept in bed with us for the rest of the holiday. I was not prepared for the newborn routine of waking up to air a puppy in the cold night. Heidi slept really well that week. Her fidgeting in the bed alerted me to take her out to potty. I recommend doing research on kennel training and deciding for yourselves what is best for your family.
Your puppy will yelp, howl, and whine in his kennel that first night, maybe even the entire first month. It's different for each dog. He's gone from sleeping snuggled up with all of his siblings and milk-bag momma, to a lonely kennel surrounded by new sights, sounds, and smells. We will send you home with an item that has Heidi and sibling's smells. Not much can be done to prevent the crying. Remember that it is a short-lived phase that all dog owners have to get through!
Most of you are bringing home puppy as a surprise for your family. I don't know the specifics of each of your situations, but it may be a good idea to have a back-up plan if you don't want the surprise to be ruined.
When I was in elementary school my parents surprised my younger brother and I with a German Shorthaired Pointer on the day after Christmas. They put us down for a nap at our grandparents and went to "run errands". We were woken up early from our nap and came downstairs to see a huge present box, rattling on the ground. My mom had found a box that fit over the entire kennel. She wrapped it like a present, leaving the bottom side cut open. While my mom woke us up and brought us downstairs, my dad aired the puppy, put him back in the kennel, and quickly set the present cover on. We thought the time for presents had come and gone so we were completely taken off-guard. Lucky for the puppy, we were still sleepy and both of us were naturally shy, so we were very quiet and in shock when we saw the puppy. Many kids (and adults) might not be able to keep from screaming or grabbing the puppy over-enthusiastically. Make sure to think about what is best for your family- which now means the puppy! This is a very exciting time for everyone in the family, and we want to do our best as responsible caretakers to welcome the pup. Thankfully, pups are elastic and will not be traumatized if anyone gives him a fright upon first sight.
*If you can, get your kids (or whoever is being surprised) out of the house for a bit. During this time, allow pup to explore the home and scents of his new family members (bedrooms, laundry, new kennel and space in the home, etc.).
Ideas to keep the surprise a surprise:
let puppy spend the night at a friend or family member's home (someone willing to air puppy once or twice in the night).
let puppy spend time leading up to the moment in a detached garage or shop (with safe temperature control methods) to minimize sound clues made by the pup
let your kids spend the night at a family member's home that night (nobody has to air your kids in the middle of the night...hopefully)
have a non-suspicious excuse for needing to go to the area puppy will be hiding to air him while the moment comes
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment on this post, or email me. I am so excited for each of you and the puppies!