Believe it or not, the season in which you get a puppy can really make a difference – and there are pros and cons to consider on both sides.
Let’s start with winter. Puppies who go to their new homes in winter (or autumn) are usually much better at being handled, towelled off, groomed and bathed. They’re more resistant to extreme weather, so they’ll probably be more confident with rain, wind and darkness.
They’re also likely to cope better with fireworks and loud bangs, since most events that feature fireworks take place in the winter. Pups’ first fear phase (when they can become scared of new experiences) will likely have passed before firework season, and the potential second fear phase will most likely come after it.
There’s a downside for owners, though. Evening walks are darker and colder, while late night trips outside during housetraining can be bracing. Winter puppy owners are also on the back foot when it comes to the all-important socialising of their dog, with fewer daylight hours to fit in interactions with people, environments, animals and traffic.
Winter pups are also likely to come across fewer dogs and people on walks than summer pups, so they’ll have fewer opportunities to learn how to deal with these situations.
So those are the general pros and cons of a winter puppy. Summer puppies, though, also have plenty of their own quirks.
Some breeders think of summer as “puppy season”. Many people buy their puppies at this time of year, encouraged by the longer days and, for some, the prospect of school holidays to spend time training and playing.
Longer days and warmer weather are a bonus for those countless housetraining trips to the garden. So is the presence of more dogs and people out on the streets, helping to expose a young pup to all the sights and sounds we want them to accept and behave around.
But of course, you lose all those upsides of winter pups. The summer weather means there’s less need for towelling, washing off and grooming, so you have to make a special effort to get them used to it.
Puppies will also reach the adolescent phase as winter hits - pushing boundaries and being more rebellious at a time when we’re asking more of them. It’s against their nature at that age to sit, stay still and be messed with.
Many are likely to be at the stage of “neural pruning”, where the brain is maturing and learning what it needs to fear for survival reasons. When Halloween comes along with its scary masks, and Bonfire Night follows hot on its heels with noisy fireworks, it can cause a lifelong fear if not managed correctly.
When it comes to summer or winter, there’s no right answer. It’s just a case of considering these things when you’re thinking about when to add a puppy to your household – and planning accordingly to counteract the downsides.