Robin and I were in Alpharetta last Tuesday getting in some last-minute Christmas shopping. As we were walking past a pet store, we glanced in and saw that it was filled with people looking at all the puppies. Some were just looking at the puppies in their cages, but others had the puppies out and were playing with them. As we are all aware, Christmas is a very big time when it comes to puppy purchases.
Many people think it would be great to surprise a family member, or significant other with a “Christmas Puppy”. They might have heard the person say “I wish I had a dog” or they love dogs and think that their family member or close friend would love dogs too. They pass by the pet store, see “the doggie in the window”, remember their friend or family member, spend a few minutes in the store, and walk out with a four legged, cute, cuddly, and canine present.
After observing this “slow motion train wreck” take place for so many years, let me get right to the point and answer the question about giving a puppy as a gift. The answer is almost always “No”. A gift is defined as something given to one person to another that is often a surprise. This could be a cell phone, shirt, chain saw, or even a Peloton. These are all good things that are often appreciated and wanted by the person receiving the gift. (Santa: I would like a new chain saw under the tree, please!) If the person doesn’t want the gift, they can throw it away or return it for something else. They could keep it and give it to someone else when they need to give a gift. You can’t do any of these things with a puppy.
So, let’s all agree that you shouldn’t give a puppy as a Christmas gift. Let’s be clear; I am not saying that you absolutely can’t give a puppy as a Christmas gift. You simply have to spend a lot of time and effort to assure that the person wants a puppy and you are giving them the right puppy. Some of the things you need to consider and do are:
- Does the family want a dog? The decision of bringing a puppy into the home must be made by the entire family. Since the dog will eventually become everyone’s responsibility (no matter what any individual family member may promise, the puppy will eventually be taken care by all family members), everyone must want to have a dog come into the family.
- Is a young puppy or slightly older dog the best for your family? Puppies are super cute and adorable, but they can also be a whole lot of work. You will have to endure potty training, destruction due to teething, and the long training process for behavior, obedience, and socialization. An older dog, maybe two or three years old, is probably already potty trained, is socialized, and could know most of his commands. Although many times not as cute, they often transition into the family unit faster than a new puppy.
- Can the family devote the appropriate time for a puppy or dog? Puppies are not like a 65-inch flat screen television that you install on your wall and simply turn on. They require a 24 hour a day, seven day a week commitment. If your house stays quiet and empty for most of the day because of the current responsibilities and obligations of the family members, you will probably not have the time to devote to a new puppy or dog.
- Are there rules in your Homeowners Association or local community that limits or bans pets? Two of our current dogs came from a client that had purchased two puppies and forgot that the HOA in their condominium complex banned all pets. This community rule became crystal clear when they road up the elevator of their condo complex with the president of the HOA. Review your HOA Rules and local ordinances.
- Is a family member allergic to pet hair or is any family member a “neat-freak?” No matter what you may think, it never works out for the dog if a family member is allergic to them. Even if you keep the puppy in another room or another part of the house, the hair “will mysteriously float” to the allergic family member. Some dogs are “just messy” and that will cause a constant issue between them and a “neat freak” family member.
- Can you afford the expense of a dog or puppy? Puppies or dogs can be expensive. Even if you get your puppy or dog at a rescue group and don’t pay a big breeding fee, there are many other costs. It is your responsibility to feed them for the rest of their life. When you go away on trips, you may need to board them. If they need to be trained, you will need to pay a dog trainer. There will be veterinary bills. As “the proud parents”, you will always be buying him toys.
Please understand; I am not trying to scare you off of getting a Christmas puppy or doggie. But, if you get this far and decide you want a puppy or a dog, you still have to decide what kind. Some of the things you need to think about are:
- How big should the dog be: You shouldn’t get a big dog if you live in a small house or condo. If you are getting up in age, a big dog may be more difficult to handle. If you want to get a big dog, you should have a fenced in back yard or enclosed area to let them run and play.
- Temperament: Do you want a crazy or calm dog? Many people enjoy the more hyper dogs like Jack Russells or Dalmatians. Other people prefer the calmer dogs like English Bulldogs. Pick the temperament that fits your lifestyle and personality.
- Long Fir, Short Fir, Hypo-Allergenic: Long haired dogs are often very pretty, but they will require a lot of brushing because of their shedding. As I mentioned above, some people are allergic to many types of dogs. If that is the case, hypo-allergenic dogs such as Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, or Poodles would be the best choice.
Congratulations, you have decided that getting a dog is a good idea and you have decided on the type of dog. You aren’t ready to bring him home just yet. There are more details to discuss:
- Who will be the dog’s lead care giver? Although everyone “agreed” that they would take care of the dog, there always needs to be a “main care giver”. Although this person does not have to perform all the chores for the dog, this person will be the final say in keeping the dog safe, healthy, and secure. This person is the puppy’s “Virtual Mommy”.
- Who is responsible for what? You must now decide who will perform each activity that will keep the puppy or dog healthy, happy, and safe. A “starting point” of required chores should include: Potty Training, Walking, Feeding, Vet Visits, Play Time, Socialization, Obedience Training, Bed Time, and Proper Behavior.
- A “pinky-swear” among all family members: You never know what emergencies may arise during the course of the day and sometimes the “designated chore performer” won’t have the ability to fulfill their obligations. The group, as a whole, must proactively agree (“pinky swear”) that the others will step up to assure the puppy’s safety and well-being. You can deal with “the slacker” later. Your main focus must always be on the dog.
You are almost there! You have prepared everyone for the arrival of a new puppy or dog. You are now ready to search for the perfect puppy or dog for your family. We suggest either of the following routes:
- Rescue: Research the local Rescue Groups and Humane Societies. Visit the shelters with the entire family to see the dogs and spend time with them. I strongly suggest having at least two visits with a puppy or dog before bringing them home. If you are bringing home an older dog, always try to get the dog’s history to see if there is anything that might preclude a good fit.
- Breeder: This is a more expensive route, but it will allow you to immediately focus on the breed you want. It is critical that you do your homework on the breeder. Check them out on the internet and look for reviews. Contact local vet hospitals, humane societies, and dog clubs near the breeder to see if they can offer any background on the breeder or the quality of their puppies. Visit the breeder several times to see how the puppies are being raised and to pick out your puppy. If you can’t visit the breeder because of distance, make sure they have an acceptable return policy.
There are a lot more things that I could review regarding getting a puppy or dog. I have tried to provide you with the bare minimum. I hope you now understand that you shouldn’t rush into giving a puppy or dog as a Christmas gift. It takes some hard planning, discussion, commitment, and investment of time. Making the right decision will enrich your life. Making the wrong decision can be very bad.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.