I was at a new Home Dog Training client in Acworth last Wednesday working with the family and their thirteen-month-old Golden Retriever named Benson.  Benson had “classic Golden lines” and was just a happy, beautiful puppy.  He would constantly run around the house and yard and loved to jump on just about anything and anyone.  Whenever he met anyone, the first thing he wanted to do was to play.

There are many things you should consider before giving a puppy as a Christmas gift

Although all these qualities make him a “fun puppy”, Benson’s overabundance of these qualities also made him a little difficult to manage and sometimes quite annoying. We needed to let him know what the “rules of the house” were and that he needed to pay attention to and obey my clients when they “told him what to do”. Very quickly, I was able to teach my clients how to be Benson’s leader and inform Benson that he needed to obey my clients.

This would still allow Benson to have fun, run, and play.  He simply had to enjoy these activities under the guidance of my clients.  They were now the boss of him. Needless to say, my clients were delighted with the results and couldn’t wait to continue what they had learned that day.

As I was finishing up with the lesson, they mentioned that they were thinking about giving a puppy as a Christmas gift. Their seven-year-old nephew loved coming over to play with Benson several days a week.  They had been checking out Golden Retriever breeders in North Georgia and Tennessee and thought it would be a magnificent surprise to give their nephew “his own Benson” for Christmas.

He told me that he currently hadn’t discussed “the puppy present” with his brother or sister-in-law.  He didn’t see any issue with giving his nephew a Christmas puppy because it was obvious that his nephew loved dogs.  His brother and sister-in-law had no problem with his nephew playing with Benson, so how could there be any problem of them having a puppy of their own?  He then asked me what my opinion was on the matter.

I started my conversation by warning him that giving a puppy as a “surprise Christmas gift” can be a great thing or a very, very bad thing.  There are a great many considerations that need to be reviewed before placing a puppy under the Christmas tree. We all can agree that puppies are sweet, cute and cuddly.  Who doesn’t love puppies?

Even though I am positive that all their intentions are only the best, years and years of data has proven that many Christmas puppies end up at animal shelters within several weeks of arriving under the tree. I told the family that I had read a recent article that provided some startling statistics. This article stated that 47% of the dogs turned to animal shelters between January and July are under six months old.

Having their nephew come over to play with Benson at their house and adding a new puppy at his brother’s home where they will now have to care for him 24/7 are two different scenarios. The first thing that my client needs to verify is that his nephew and his brother’s entire family are ready to take on the responsibility of a new puppy in their home. Puppies are not battery-operated toys that can be switched off when you are finished playing with them and stored in the hall closet. They are a 24/7 responsibility. Even if everything checks out and his brother’s family is “ready for a puppy”, I suggested that they place a stuffed puppy with a gift certificate from the breeder under the tree.  This will allow his nephew to pick out the puppy that “he falls in love with”.

At that point, I tried to make it clear to my client that I was not trying to be negative (most of our dogs came to us as puppies), but simply realistic.  His brother, sister-in-law, and nephew must understand that a puppy is not a part-time play buddy. The arrival of a puppy into the home comes with a fifteen-year (normally) commitment from the family that they will be responsible dog owners.

Playing with a puppy is one thing; owning a puppy is something totally different. Their nephew, who sincerely loves Benson, never had to experience potty training, crate socialization, teething, and tearing up of pillows and other stuff around the house that my client and his family had to endure.  His nephew popped in for the “good puppy times” and was normally long gone for the “bad puppy times”.  I offered an alternative solution where my client could help his nephew find a slightly older dog (fourteen to twenty-four months old).  These dogs have normally been potty trained and often respond to direction better than new puppies.

I emphasized that he would need to explain the “bad puppy time” activities to his brother and sister-in-law.  His brother and sister-in-law would also need to understand that even if their son promised “I will take care of the puppy”, that almost never happens.  They will be on the hook for all the “bad puppy times” of misbehavior, picking up poop, chewing up things, etc.

In any case, we always stress that we need to give our new puppy the best chance for a wonderful and long life.  These are some suggestions that Robin and I have given to our clients over the years:

  • Research puppy behavior and the natural traits of the puppy you are considering before you do anything. “Preparing yourself” for your puppy’s first year is vital in acting on his needs and not reacting to surprises.
  • Give your puppy calm direction, clear instruction, and repetitive consistency.
  • Make sure that everyone in the family agrees to the “puppy house rules”. Delegate tasks that define the “puppy responsibilities” of each family member. Once assigned and placed in practice, there can be no excuse of “why a family member did not step up to their agreed responsibilities”.
  • Puppies can be very, very expensive.  Like boats, the most expensive part of a puppy isn’t the purchase, it is the maintenance. Make sure that your family budget can absorb the extra food costs, vet visits, daycare charges, pet store accessories, and training fees.
  • Purchase a crate for your puppy and immediately socialize him to the crate. Your puppy’s crate is an important part of his potty training. When your puppy is happy to spend time in the crate, it allows you to properly manage him when you are not physically present.
  • In the same manner that you would “child-proof” your home for your young child, do the same for your young puppy. Puppies are naturally inquisitive and are always exploring.  Make sure that you have wires, plants, and anything you don’t want broken out of his reach. Always safely secure items such as toxic chemicals, antifreeze, fertilizers, alcohol, detergents, and tobacco so that your puppy “will not find them”.
  • Baby (doggie) gates are excellent and we recommend you use them. They are the perfect training device to keep your puppy out of places “he shouldn’t go”.
  • Only allow your puppy to have “dog-appropriate toys”. I highly recommend the puppy-sized Kong™ as a “pet-friendly” toy to encourage his proper focus and redirected chewing. Do not give your puppy old clothing or shoes as toys.  He will not be able to discern the difference between the old clothes you gave him and your new clothes in your closet.  If you allow him to chew and play with one, why can’t he play and chew the other?
  • If you are becoming frustrated, give your Vet a call.  They can walk you through most puppy problems because “they see a lot of puppies and puppy owners”.  If your puppy is still making you go crazy, consider professional training.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.