VANCOUVER -- Seven-year-old Beatrix got the best Christmas present a kid could wish for this year: a puppy.

“We’ve been thinking about getting a dog for a long time,” her mom Erin Hannah says. “We were actually looking into getting a puppy when the first lockdown happened, and you could not find a puppy anywhere.” 

Puppies were hard to come by. Rescue organizations had fostered out all their dogs, or sent them to new homes. And scammers had started taking advantage of the high demand – online puppy frauds are still an issue. 

“When this second round of restrictions happened in November, we thought let’s get back on trying to find a dog, 'cause I think it’s going to be a very long winter,” Hannah says with a laugh. 

This time, the East Vancouver family was lucky, and they found Phoenix, a 12-week-old pomsky. Hannah took some time off to help train him, and is planning to change her workday to accommodate his needs. 

“My schedule is relatively flexible. I don’t work the full day, and we’ve lined up some dog walkers and some doggy daycares,” she says. 

Lisa Ricker with the American SPCA says the time you spend at home is crucial for new puppies. 

“They need exercise, they need enrichment,” she says. “They need basic training so that they can be a good member of the household.” 

But what happens when the pandemic is over? 

Matt Stern and his partner, Brandon, who live on Vancouver Island, adopted their mini Aussie Max in the fall. 

“We were like it’s kind of an ideal situation if we’re stuck at home, everything is closed – then there’s no better time to have a new puppy,” Stern says. And the couple is making permanent changes to accommodate Max. Stern is a musician so he can often work from home, and – “Brandon got a work from home job so that he can be at home with him as much as possible.” 

If you do have to go back to the office somewhere down the line, there are a few things you can do to start to prepare your puppy for what’s to come. 

“You’re going to start to go back to work, and your dog still wants your attention, but you have to think a little bit about what your life will be like and not necessarily what your life is life during COVID,” Ricker suggests. 

That can mean hiring a dog walker, like Hannah plans to, or paying for doggy daycare. But you can also start gradually beginning to mimic what your pet’s schedule will look like on a typical work or school day by spending a few hours at a time in a separate room, or lengthening the time you spend out of the house without them. 

And while it may take your pet a while to get used to the new schedule, eventually, they will. 

In the meantime, Stern said their new pet is bringing the family – and even passersby on the street – a bit of joy during a difficult time. 

“We didn’t know any of our neighbours in our building and since we got Max, we know everybody because everybody is so drawn to him,” Stern says. “That’s a huge factor in this too – the human social factor that happens when you have an animal. We’ve all been so isolated from other people and I already find that’s happening, just talking to strangers again.” 

With files from Consumer Reports