Is it Ever OK to Give a Puppy as a Christmas Present?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you'll have heard the slogan “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”, or “Adopt, don’t shop”.
Unfortunately, the tragic case with a lot of puppies (and dogs) who are given as Christmas presents, is that they end up in shelters, rescue centers, or even being euthanized after being given to someone who didn't really want a puppy or dog in their life in the first place.
Tragically, every year there are reports of puppies being abandoned on boxing day (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42180503). This end result is due to the fact that there's a number of reasons why we definitely shouldn't be giving puppies as a surprise present at Christmas (or any other time of year for that matter!).
The surprise Christmas puppy
It might be that your friend or your family member has expressed a desire to have a puppy. They might go all gooey over a puppy when they walk past one on the street. It is only too natural to think that it’d be a great idea to give them their own dog as a Christmas gift that they are bound to love.
But the actual reality of having a dog is very different. It may well be that while this person loves the idea of having a puppy, when they have sit down to think about the practicalities of owning and caring for a dog they know that they're not able to commit to the time it takes or have the finances available to care for a puppy in the first place.
They may realize that they’re not going to be able to take them out for walks. They're not going to be able to spend the time and play with them, socialize their puppy properly or commit to training. They may not feel secure in their home or worry that a dog will impact where they can and can’t rent.
There are any number of reasons why your family member may not already own a dog despite longing for one. Making the decision for them by giving a puppy as a surprise Christmas gift will actually put them in a really difficult, and potentially heart-breaking position. That’s not the kind of present anyone wants to give!
Add in the fact that, depending on breed, you could expect a dog to live for 12-16 years, and you can see that in fact, you could be forcing a long and significant relationship onto someone who is just not ready for the commitment. Getting a dog should be a decision that people go into with open eyes and have the ability to choose themselves, rather than have that responsibility thrust upon them.
The bottom line here is that I would never recommend giving a puppy as a surprise present at any time of year. Christmas is no exception.
Now if you do decide that you want to give a dog as a present, it should be a joint decision rather than an unexpected surprise. If this describes your situation then there are a number of things you both need to think about.
Is a puppy a good gift for children?
One exception to the ideas I’ve just talked about is giving a puppy to a child at Christmas. There are probably very few children who wouldn’t love to receive a puppy in their stocking from Santa. They would promise to walk them twice a day, always clean up their mess, wash and brush them regularly, and whatever else you asked.
You need to be aware though that in giving your children a dog you are actually going to be the person with ultimate responsibility for it’s care. While it hopefully won’t be the case, if you children lose interest in the puppy then you are responsible for it’s ongoing care. If it gets sick then you will need to pay the vet bills.
You will be welcoming a dog into your family and with that comes responsibility (as well as a whole load of fun!). You need to be just as committed, if not more so, than your child.
While a pocket pet like a mouse or hamster is often a better option to first test a child’s commitment, they still need to be cared for, cleaned and handled regularly to make sure their quality of life is not compromised. The bottom line is that every animal needs to have their needs respected and met, no matter how big or small.
What about a pet shop puppy?
So where do you get a puppy from? A pet shop is an obvious choice. Now, thankfully in some parts of the world, pet shops aren't actually allowed to sell puppies anymore, for which there are very good reasons. If you're not in one of these areas and you do see puppies in pet shops, then I've written a whole article about whether you should get a puppy from a pet shop.
The bottom line is don't because you're effectively supporting puppy mills or puppy farms.
What breed is best?
The next big question you need to think about is choosing the right breed of dog. That is the right type of dog for the lifestyle that you want to live. Again, I've got another article all about choosing the right dog for your family. You need to think about size, energy levels and potential health concerns among other things.
You definitely don't want to just choose a puppy based on looks or what is popular.
How do you buy a puppy?
Once you decide which breed is the perfect fit for the family, the next step is deciding where to get them from? And there's a number of different places. So it could be a recommendation for a breeder from a friend. You could ask your local vet, groomer or dog trainer. You can go online and search for kennel club registered breeders.
Choosing a healthy puppy takes time and effort but is not something to be rushed. You need to visit your new puppy several times, you’ll want to see the litter with their mum, you want to know what their reputation is like, you need to ask questions about past health and understand the potential risks of inherited diseases.
In fact, there’s so much to think about I put together an article all about how to buy a healthy puppy.
How about a rescue dog?
Here’s one final thing to really think about. Is it actually going to be better to get a rescue dog?
There are so many rescue dogs, wherever you are in the world, who are looking for good homes. Many are in the shelter through no fault of their own. It may be that there's been a marriage breakup, it may be that the previous owner had to move house. The bottom line is that there are many fantastic dogs desperate for a new home. As a bonus, they're likely to come fully house trained, understand basic commands, have been vaccinated and neutered.
Given half a chance they will become loving family members. They just need to be given that chance of having a new life.
Having a dog in your life is amazing. I know, having grown up with dogs in the house. They teach us so much. They provide massive benefits for our health, both physical and mental. But it's also a relationship that lasts such a long time. We definitely need to go into it with open eyes and whoever the Christmas puppy is for needs to be 110% committed.
A dog should never be a surprise Christmas present.
Our Pets Health: because they’re family