Holiday Puppies: Should You Get a Puppy for Christmas?
"Don't get a Christmas puppy." "Don't give a puppy as a gift." We've all heard the warnings; even I, a professional pet expert, have warned people to not get a Christmas pup. But does that really make sense? And does getting a Christmas pup automatically doom the puppy to a shelter down the road?
Getting a puppy around Christmas doesn't necessarily doom the puppy when it becomes less cute, BUT there are huge caveats. Many unprepared dog owners choose their pets as presents, and since Christmas is the time when commercial breeders breed their balls of fluff, it's easy to understand why shelters get inundated with puppies three to six months after the holidays. Let's explore the concept of the Christmas pup.
Have you every been given a puppy for Christmas?
A Tale (Tail?) of Two Puppies
I'm going to tell you two true stories about Christmas puppies.
The First Story
There was a family with three daughters. The oldest one was thirteen, and the youngest was five. Dad took the youngest to a Wirehair Fox Terrier breeder to pick out a puppy for the oldest daughter. The young daughter picked out a cute puppy, and they surprised the oldest daughter with the pup on Christmas.
The problem was that no one had done their homework on Wirehair Fox Terriers and the amount of exercise the puppy needed. It began to chew everything in the house when it started teething. It got moved to the laundry room, and it chewed there. It got moved to the garage and chewed the brick and the car tires. The parents chose to hand the puppy off to a coworker who had "a farm," or so they told the kids.
The Second Story
The youngest daughter eventually grew up and got married. She and her husband had adopted one puppy from a coworker. The puppy ended up lonely and needed a buddy. They decided to get a second puppy as a friend. It was a few weeks before Christmas. They went to the shelter and ignored the signs saying not to get a Christmas puppy. They adopted a pretty blue merle Australian Shepherd pup.
Owning two puppies proved to be rocky, but the couple was committed to keeping the dogs. They learned the hard way how not to train. Eventually, they learned under a professional dog trainer how to train dogs. The Australian Shepherd puppy lived a long, happy life and died at 18 years old.
Same Person, Different Outcomes
If you hadn't guessed, I was the girl and woman in those stories. The first story shows the absolute wrong way to get a dog. Get a dog for a child by having another child choose the puppy. Choosing a breed without a thought for how it might fit in your life. These are recipes for disaster. As expected, the dog didn't fit my parents' expectations or their lifestyle, so the dog went. Not surprisingly, the incident eventually cemented my desire to never see that happen.
My parents, like most parents, meant well. I'm sure if they had been more committed to training and keeping a very active terrier, things would've gone better. But alas, they didn't understand the commitment a puppy like a Wirehair Fox Terrier had. They thought a dog is a dog. Don't make that mistake.
Different breeds have different behaviors and energy levels. They were bred for different jobs. Don't get an active, independent breed for a family who hasn't had a dog before.
The Australian Shepherd puppy along with his cohort, a mixed breed Newfoundland/Samoyed cross, were my first dogs as an adult. I tried to train the dogs the way I trained our Collie (the dog my parents got after the Fox Terrier). That proved disastrous. It was only after we enrolled in training classes, did I actually "get it." And then, it took a while before we got involved in sledding and mushing to really understand how to deal with an active dog's activity levels.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Give a Puppy for Christmas
- Does the person you're giving a dog to want a dog?
- Is the person who receives the dog an adult?
- Is this a dog breed that fits into the family's lifestyle?
- Is the person who receives the puppy going to train it and take care of it?
- Does the person understand that a dog is a 10-15 year commitment?
- Does the person's lifestyle support a pet?
A Better Way to Gift a Pet
There are better ways to gift a pet than surprising someone on Christmas day with a puppy. Consider doing the following:
- Give pet supplies (collar, leash, puppy food) and an offer to go with the person to pick out their favorite puppy at a shelter or reputable breeder after the holidays.
- Take the person out to the breeder or shelter before Christmas and have them pick out their perfect pet to be home by Christmas.
- Ask the person if they want a pet and find out when would be the best time to bring one home. Ask them if they want to choose the pet, themselves.
- Give your friend or family member a voucher for adopting or purchasing a pet for Christmas. Then, they can choose the pet they want.
The Take Away
It doesn't really matter when you get a puppy, as long as you're ready for the commitment of said puppy and the responsibility of dog ownership. Giving a puppy as a gift to a child isn't a good idea because children often aren't that responsible. Giving a puppy as a gift to an adult isn't a good idea unless that's really what the person wants. The adult needs to be a responsible dog owner too. If you do get a puppy, be sure it is something all the adults in the house want because that is who is really going to take care of the puppy and train it. Don't expect the kids to care for the dog—kids get distracted easily.
What saved that Australian Shepherd puppy we adopted all those many years ago was our commitment toward dog ownership. I had learned early on that once you own a dog, that is your dog for life. That a person has a duty to that dog to train and bond with him, and to take care of him to the best of their ability.
That's a lot to lay on the giftee's shoulders, which is why I don't necessarily recommend getting a puppy for Christmas. But if you do, be sure the person trains him and does the very best to care for him so he will be the best dog they've ever had.
© 2018 MH Bonham