The image is precious: a cute, cuddly puppy with a big red bow on its collar, wiggling and squirming and eagerly licking the hands and faces of the grinning, squealing children who hold him. It tugs at our heartstrings, and if you are a parent whose children have been begging for a puppy of their own, it can be quite persuasive.
Whether you have considered adding a puppy to your household for a significant amount of time, or have suddenly come to the conclusion that a dog would make a great Christmas gift, we are here to say: DON’T. Don’t give a puppy as a gift. Don’t bring a puppy home “in time for Christmas”. Regardless of whether you are looking to adopt from a local shelter or to buy a purebred puppy (hopefully from a good breeder who is not just pumping out puppies for profit or breeding because their female “was such a wonderful dog, and we just wanted to have puppies from her”), Christmas is one of the WORST times to bring a new dog or puppy into your home.
Christmas and New Year’s Chaos
Think about your home over the holidays. Think about the level of excitement and chaos. There are decorations everywhere: a tree with tinsel and lights and ornaments (some of them irreplaceable family heirlooms), garland and poinsettias around the house, a manger scene with multiple pieces, stockings by the fireplace, a tree skirt and presents under the tree, decorative figurines of wood and ceramic scattered throughout the house. There are family get-togethers, Christmas parties, big dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve parties to attend. Add in the preparations for your children to attend these events, plus the supplies and toys required to entertain them. Already the holiday season is looking very chaotic and busy!
Now imagine adding a puppy to the mix: a wriggling, squirming, energetic bundle of joy that explores its world with its teeth, that does not know it is supposed to go potty outside, that physically cannot hold its bladder for more than a few hours at a time, that cannot tell the difference between a chew toy and the family Christmas decorations or your child’s toys. Puppies think the ornaments and tinsel on the tree are fun to play with; they do not understand that chewing on wires might give a nasty electrical shock, that ornaments and tinsel can be dangerous and deadly, that poinsettias are poisonous and should not be eaten, and that there is such a thing as “good manners”. A puppy bites, chews, digs, barks, yelps, and whines until it is trained to perform more acceptable behaviors. Somewhere among the busyness of the holidays you must find time to start potty-training, crate-training, obedience-training, and manners-training your puppy, while preventing it from having an accident in the house, chewing up your valuables and your children’s toys, and causing a Christmas disaster by destroying the tree, the presents, or the decorations.
Even if you wish to adopt a dog from a shelter, many of the same issues abound; just because a dog is from a shelter does not mean it has learned any sort of manners or better behaviors like chewing only on chew toys and going potty outside! Additionally, a dog that has been surrendered to the shelter may need some special care and a longer period of time to adjust to its new home, particularly after being in a sterile kennel environment. Throwing such a dog into the midst of a lively, busy, noisy, crowded holiday season–particularly a holiday like New Year’s that involves fireworks, which many dogs are terrified of already (and accounts for a number of dogs being added to shelters each year)–is a very bad idea. Christmas and New Year’s is not a time to introduce a dog of unknown temperament with unknown previous experiences to your family!
But We Really Want a Dog!
If you and your family still have your hearts set on adding a dog to your household, then please wait until after the holiday season. Wrapping up a collar and leash, a food and water dish, and some Kong toys in boxes will still get your point across, without the added stress of bringing home the puppy just then. This allows you adequate time to prepare for a puppy (stocking up on toys, treats, a crate, collars and leashes, etc.) and to puppy-proof the home. In the meantime, you and your family can create a game plan for how you will train, socialize, and care for your puppy, starting from the minute he arrives at home. Some of our previous blogs may be good starting points:
And if you have not found a breeder yet, this will allow you time to do your homework and select a good breeder who trains, titles, and health-tests their dogs, and who makes good temperament and health top priorities in their breeding program!
Whether you buy from a good breeder (not a backyard breeder whose only claim is AKC-papered dogs) or adopt from the local pet shelter, adding a dog to your home is a long-term commitment. Dogs are not an impulse buy! A puppy will soon become an adolescent, then a full-grown dog. Its puppy cuteness will wear off, and if it has not been properly bred for good temperament and then properly socialized and trained as a puppy, this once-cute bundle of joy can turn into an out-of-control nightmare. An adopted dog may also have genetic temperament issues and environmental issues to work through, some of which are uncovered over time as the dog integrates into your lifestyle. Take your time, investigate before you buy or adopt, and only bring a new dog or puppy into your home when you are fully prepared to devote the necessary time to its well-being and its training for the duration of its life.
Old dog, old friend.
Santa knows: dogs are a long-term commitment, but are worth every moment.