As soon as the holidays have ended, Christmas or Hanukah has come and gone, the New Year has just begun, people head back at work, kids go back to school, and shelters are bombarded with owner surrenders of puppies, kittens, dogs and cats. The weeks following Christmas are the busiest time of year for most shelters in the United States, because people quickly realize the soft, cute, cuddly puppy they picked up for a quick smile on Christmas morning is now peeing on the floor, attacking the Christmas tree, and requires a lot more time and effort than anticipated.
Almost always, giving an animal as a gift for Christmas Hanukkah, Valentines Day, Easter or any other holiday is not a good idea, and usually results in the animal being turned in to a local humane society’s animal shelter. The financial and time commitments necessary for raising a puppy are so great that often the recipient of a gifted puppy or dog will become so overwhelmed they will feel they must rehome it, take it to a shelter, or in the worst case illegally “dump” or turn out the animal onto the streets.
Puppies chew things! They’ll chew up furniture, rugs, even molding on the walls! They’ll chew mom’s shoes (only the most expensive ones), your child’s toys, and dad’s briefcase complete with important work documents. It’s hard for families, especially those with young children, to have the patience for puppy behavior. Puppies are of course attracted to your holiday decorations too – shiny balls on a tree, strange new scents, fatty foods that can make your puppy sick that are tempting to give a begging puppy. After the holidays end many families realize they just don’t have the time and patience to commit to a puppy.
Puppies bark! They bark a lot. They whine. They cry. If you like peace and quiet this will surely get on your nerves! When you’re trying to focus on writing a letter or studying for something they will bark. If you’re working from home they seem to wait for your turn to speak on an important conference call before being exceptionally noisy. There will be many long nights, especially in the beginning, where your puppy whimpers through the night because he is scared and lonely without his mother and littermates. If you have to get up early for work you’ll have all sorts of stressful emotions when you come down stairs to a pile of poop or a pee, have to walk your puppy who then wants to play, and have to rework your entire schedule around this new animal. If you gave the puppy to your children to teach them to be responsible, they might soon get bored with the puppy after a few morning walks before the school bus arrives in chilly, wet weather.
Puppies don’t come potty trained – you need to train them! It can be very difficult to potty train a puppy or dog, and many people are not prepared for this process. Potty training relies on keeping a very strict schedule, especially in the beginning, with specific feeding times, play time, and walk times. Even when watched closely a new puppy will manage to squat and pee or poop on your new carpet, furniture, and even your mattress or bedding! You can not quickly potty train a puppy. It is a major commitment that needs to be worked on daily – you need to continue potty training when your stressed, when your child is sick you still need to stick to the schedule, and when all you want to do is sleep in on Saturday morning your whining puppy will remind you sleep is no longer a luxury in your life.
Puppies grow up quickly! They become dogs that slobber, shed, jump on people, require training and attention, chew your shoes, and dig in your flower bed. They might knock a small child over, and may even bite! If not trained properly a big dog can be very dangerous, especially around children. Training is an extra cost, often requiring going to obedience classes, and is a large time commitment for the owner who will need to practice with the dog between classes. It is best to start obedience classes as soon as you get a puppy by enrolling in puppy kindergarten.
The truth behind Christmas puppy classifieds! It is never a good idea to give an animal as a gift, and often times people are led astray by unscrupulous breeders after a quick buck that list “Christmas Puppies” in the classified sections of the newspaper. A responsible breeder, knowing how hectic the holidays are and the high turnover rate of gifted puppies, would never plan a litter with puppies available to go home over Christmas. Instead, the Christmas Puppy ads you see are often for-profit breeders who cut corners in health and nutrition of their dogs and puppies to make some extra holiday cash. Breeding responsibly is expensive – costly health clearances must be done on both parents (performed by board certified orthopedists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, etc. and not just a general bill of health from your vet), dogs should not be bred until they are at least two years old, vet bills for both parents and puppies, high quality food for mother and her litter, the cost of a whelping box, add in an unforeseen cesarean section and often times a breeder loses money on a litter – and most responsible breeders barely break even.
There’s no such thing as a free puppy! If you’re reading this and still want a Christmas puppy you might be thinking, “Well, I’ll just get a mutt that’s free.” You must know there is no such thing as a free puppy. The cheapest part of owning a dog is the initial cost – whether it is “free”, purchased from a breeder, or the adoption fee. The first year and last year or two of a dog’s life are the most expensive. A puppy requires shots that equate to numerous vet visits in the first year alone. In many areas you will also be required to register your dog with the county or city and purchase a dog license. If you rent you’ll either need to pay a monthly pet fee or put down a hefty pet deposit – usually a few hundred dollars. You will need to spay or neuter your puppy, there are low costs spay/neuter clinics that are about $100, but if you use your regular vet for this procedure expect to possibly pay up to $400 for a spay. If your puppy gets sick it will be another trip to the vet, and costly medications to treat your puppy. Puppies often require special diets if they have any health problems, and these can be costly. The less glamorous side of puppy ownership includes fleas, ticks, common parasites or worms, mites and other nuisances that are expensive to get rid of. Then of course you’ll need supplies for your puppy – food, bowls, collars and leashes, a crate, training classes, a bed, heartworm preventative given monthly, flea and tick preventative, brushes and shampoos for grooming, ear cleaning supplies, nail clippers or a Dremel, treats, and plenty of toys to keep your puppy occupied so it is not destructive in your house.
Why is a Puppy a Bad Christmas Present??
There are numerous reasons pets given as holiday presents rarely stay in their new home. The following reasons demonstrate why puppies and kittens make terrible Christmas gifts.
- It’s the most
wonderfulhectic time of year. There are many stresses during the holiday season – buying gifts, traveling to see relatives or preparing for out-of-town guests, decorating the house, attending parties, wrapping up end of the year responsibilities at the office, planning meals, entertaining… the list goes on. The hectic aspects of the holiday season make it very challenging to care for and bond with a new pet. The success of a puppy often is connected to the owner following a strict schedule involving plenty of attention, training, care and love. It is very difficult to accommodate a puppy’s needs with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and the result is a puppy’s whose needs were ignored resulting in a puppy with behavioral problems, and a stressed, frustrated and overwhelmed owner realizing they bit of more than they could chew.
- Bonding with a new puppy is an important step for owner and pet – there must be a connection there for it to work. All puppies are cute, and it might seem like a wonderful idea to surprise your significant other, parent, sibling, child or spouse with an adorable, cuddly puppy you selected for them, but this should be avoided at all costs. Selecting a puppy that is right for a person is as individual a decision as selecting your spouse – one person’s spouse might be great for them, but you know would be a terrible match for you – you probably don’t want an arranged marriage where you have no say, so would you want a lifetime commitment of a dog where you didn’t take into account your wants and needs? A pet owner should personally select, or select with the guidance of a breeder, their new furry family member to ensure the owner and pet’s personalities do not clash. When I decided to adopt Milly there was a strong underlying attraction I had for her – there were plenty of other dog’s at the shelter that day, but there was a reason I was attracted to Milly. That initial attraction was a critical step in our bonding process, and enabled me to happily open my home and heart to Milly for the rest of her life. Adopting or purchasing a puppy is a very personal process, and it must be done by the new pet owner to ensure happiness of animal and human alike.
- Timing is everything – is it really the right time for a new pet? I’m constantly saying “I’d love to get a puppy!” I make this desire clear to my boyfriend multiple times a day, but I haven’t come home with a dog on my many visits to the shelter in the three years we’ve been dating, and the reason isn’t because there wasn’t a puppy or dog I felt a connection to. Just because I want a puppy or second dog, I know the timing needs to be perfect. To give a puppy or dog to a person as a gift is like thrusting a major life commitment on a person that may not be ready. The receiver of the puppy will most likely be put in an uncomfortable situation where they logically know the time is not right for a pet, but they are now holding a cute puppy with a great personality, and the new owner might be compelled and somewhat guilted into keeping the puppy, or accepting the gift. The emotional aspects of holding a puppy, the soft fur, the little paws, the cute personality can easily tug at the new owner’s heart strings and soon they’ve lost touch with the sensible, logical reality that states, “I don’t have the money to afford vet bills on a puppy,” “I don’t have time to train a puppy,” or “I travel too much to give the puppy a good life.” This situation is unfair to both puppy and human, and is a great reason not to gift a puppy.
Alternatives to Giving a Dog or Puppy as a Christmas Gift:
It’s never a good idea to give a living animal as a holiday or birthday gift, but there are instances when you know someone in your life truly desires to own an animal, is ready for the commitment, and you want to give the gift of lifelong animal companionship to that special human in your life. If you are 100 percent sure the person is ready for a pet you can use some of these creative alternatives to giving a live animal as the gift, and ensure your loved one receives the animal they so desire.
Head to your local pet supply store and pick up some basic puppy or dog supplies and/or a gift certificate to the pet supply store. You might want to start with a collar and leash (make sure they’re exchangeable, because you won’t know the size), a few puppy toys and chews, maybe even a dog bed – put these items in a box and wrap them and put them under the tree.
When your loved one opens the box they’re reaction will be one of slight confusion “Why did you give me this stuff? I don’t have a dog /puppy.” This is when the gift giver can explain to their loved one that the real gift is a trip to the local animal shelter or to a breeder, all-expenses-paid, to select the new puppy or dog. The gift giver should explain if selecting a breeder that they can take all the time necessary, and a puppy might not be available immediately, but they can select the breeder and get on the waiting list for a litter if need be. This situation is the ideal way to give the gift of a canine companion to a human that is ready for the commitment, because it enables the pet recipient to not only select the right puppy or dog for his or her lifestyle, but it also enables the recipient to prepare his or her life for a puppy, even if that means postponing getting the actual puppy for a few months to prepare the house, acquire the supplies necessary, ensure he or she can take a few days off from work to be with the puppy, and get all finances in order before acquiring the new pet.