Robin and I were in Buford the other day at the Mall of Georgia doing some Christmas Shopping. As we passed by the pet store in the mall, we noticed that it was packed with people looking at all the puppies. Some were just looking at the puppies in their cages, but many had the puppies out and were playing with them. As we all know, Christmas is a really 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 puppy. They might have heard the person say “I wish I had a dog” or they love dogs and think that their 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 watching this event play out for many years and seeing the result, let me cut to the chase 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 sweater, power tool, perfume, or even a car. These are all great things that are often appreciated and wanted by the person receiving the gift. On the other hand, if the person doesn’t want the gift, they can put it on a shelf or return it for something else. They can also throw it away or “re-gift” it to someone else. You can not do that with a puppy.
So, let’s all agree that you shouldn’t give a puppy as a Christmas gift. That is not to say that you can’t get a puppy at Christmas time. You simply have to employ a far better decision making process in the possible acquisition of the puppy. Some of the things you need to consider and do are:
- Does the family want a dog? Successfully bringing a dog into a home can not be one member’s decision. Since the dog will eventually become everyone’s responsibility (you may not think so, but this will happen), everyone must want to have a dog join the family group.
- Do you want a puppy or older dog? Even though a puppy is really cute and playful, it can also be a lot of work. You will have to go through the potty mistakes, destruction due to teething, and the long training process for behavior, obedience, and socialization. An older dog, maybe two or three years old, has already gone through these life stages. Although many times not as cute, they often transition into the family unit faster than a new puppy.
- Do you have the time for a puppy or dog? Puppies are not like 65 inch flat screen televisions that you can just turn on and off. They are a 24 hour, 7 day a week responsibility. If your family group has long hours away from the home, or travel a good amount of time, you will not have the time to devote to your new puppy.
- Are there rules in your HOA or apartment complex that limits or bans pets? Believe it or not, two of our dogs came from a client that had purchased two puppies and forgot that the HOA in their condominium complex banned all pets. This became crystal clear to them when they road up the elevator of their condo complex with the president of the HOA. Check for bans and limitations.
- Does any family member have allergies to pet hair or is any family member a “neat-freak?” You can’t have a puppy when a family member is always sneezing. 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. If anyone is a super “neat-freak”, some dogs are just messy by nature. This will cause family tension.
- Can you afford a dog or puppy? Puppies or dogs are not cheap. Even if you get yours at a rescue group and don’t pay a big breeding fee, there are many other costs. You will have to feed him for the rest of his life. There will be training and possibly boarding costs. There will be veterinary bills. As “the proud parents”, you will always be buying him toys.
So, 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 consider are:
- Size of dog: You probably don’t want a big dog if you live in a small house or condo. If you are older, a big dog may be more difficult to handle. If you want a big dog, you will probably need to have a fenced in back yard or enclosed area to let them run and play.
- Temperament: Are you ready for a crazy dog? Some people love the more hyper dogs like Jack Russells or Dalmatians. Some people love the calmer dogs like English Bulldogs. Pick the temperament that fits your lifestyle and personality.
- Short Hair, Long Hair, Hypo-Allergenic: Long haired dogs can be very pretty, but they bring on issues such as shedding. As I mentioned above, some people are allergic to many types of dogs. If that is the case, hypo-allergenic dogs such as Poodles or Doodles would be the best option.
So you have all agreed to get a dog and have decided on the dog you want. Now it is time to sit down to work out the details:
- Who will be the main care giver? Although it was previously agreed that the dog will be everyone’s responsibility, there always needs to be a “main care giver”. Although this person does not have to take on all the chores for the dog, this person will be the final say in assuring the dog’s safety and well-being. Think of this person as “The Mommy”.
- Who does what? Now it is time to decide who will perform each activity necessary in keeping the puppy or dog healthy, happy, and safe. A partial list of these items include: Potty Training, Walking, Feeding, Vet Visits, Play Time, Socialization, Obedience Training, Bed Time, and Proper Behavior.
- A pact among all members: Life happens and sometimes one person in the group may start to slip in their duties. The group, as a whole, must proactively agree (form a pact) that the others will step up to maintain the puppy’s safety and well-being. You can deal with “the slacker” later. Your main focus must always be on the dog.
Once you have, at the minimum, performed the above actions, you are ready to move on. The next step is to find the puppy or dog. You can go two routes.
- Rescue: Ever since I was a boy, all my dogs have been rescues. They are great. Take your time and research local Rescue Groups and Humane Societies. Visit the shelters with the entire family to see the dogs and spend time with them. I normally 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 focus on exactly your target puppy. Make sure you do your homework on the breeder. Check them out on the internet and look for reviews. Call vet hospitals, humane societies, and dog clubs near the breeder to see if they have any opinion on their operation. 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 subjects that I could discuss regarding the acquisition of a puppy or dog. These are the bare minimum. What I now hope you will understand is that you don’t give a dog as a Christmas present. Having a dog is a big responsibility that lasts the rest of the puppy’s or dog’s live. It should never be made lightly or in the heat of the moment.
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 fourteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.