Considering a warm bundle of joy waiting under the tree this Christmas? Reconsider, fast.
When envisioning winter puppies, we all think of adorable scenes including puppies entranced by the sight of snow, frolicking in powder and chasing snowflakes, but the reality is more like stepping into a fresh puddle on the rug, again, then struggling into a heavy winter coat and boots yet another time, trudging outside, and huddling against the driving wind and sleet while waiting for your little furball to do her business.
As with all puppy training, you’ll be making many more trips outside than you will at any future time in her life, because delaying potty trips outside will just prolong the whole training process, not to mention increase the amount of indoor cleanup required. And considering the time of year as well as who this fun responsibility will fall to MUST be carefully planned before you decide to acquire a winter puppy.
And this is just one of the reasons that a puppy as holiday present is one of the worst ideas ever. Here are three more reasons NOT to gift a puppy this holiday season:
1) The puppy will start his life out seriously stressed. Would you like to be cooped up inside a box only to have it ripped open to be confronted by shrieks and overwhelmed by hordes of new people? Didn’t think so. Neither would anyone. Consider that one of the most crucial stages of a puppy’s life is the stage characterized by “fear/avoidance,” which happens between seven to 12 weeks. In an interesting conundrum of nature, this is also the best time for new bonding with his new humans and new family. Just as in babies from about 12 to 18 months old, who experience separation anxiety and fear of strangers, puppies go through a period of feeling very fearful. This paradoxically can increase the bond between the little one and its new humans, however, if trust is established, and fearful stimuli are systematically desensitized. The puppy can learn to expect regularity, routine, and calm assurance in the face of new noises, people, and events.
But if a puppy’s first experience with his new humans is itself characterized by extreme stress, including the chaos of Christmas morning, the normal neglect caused by a house full of visitors and relatives, and loud hubbub fueled by hyper children, he may never recover from the trauma. According to PetRescue.com, “It is extremely important not to over-stress or unduly frighten your puppy during this vulnerable time. Fears learned during this first fear/avoidance period can be very difficult to overcome later, even with the best training or behavior modification techniques. In other words, traumatic experiences at this point can have a permanent impact on your puppy’s personality as an adult dog.” So unless you want to spend the next 10-15 years trying to correct his fear of all things holiday, don’t have your puppy’s first day home be Christmas morning.
2) One cute photo-perfect moment under the tree comes with a lifetime of responsibility. “Christmas puppies are often impulse gifts, purchased in the spirit of love and generosity that goes with the season, but without the hard self-assessment that goes into asking oneself if one has the time, energy and inclination to give the necessary commitment to raising, socializing and educating a puppy,” says PetRescue.com. Puppies, and the dogs they grow into, are basically babies that develop into small children. They’ll be dependent on you from the moment they arrive into your life until they depart it. Consider the considerable expense and time involved in caring for, training, and keeping a dog. Your puppy will need annual vet visits and the required vaccinations, medications, normal check-ups, dental cleanings, and other medical care and surgeries as needed. This can run anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a year.
Puppies, like kids, eat a lot. In fact, some people feel their dog eats them out of house and home in a way they didn’t prepare for. Add on several hundred dollars a year for good food, not to mention treats, toys, beds, crates, grooming tools, accessories like leashes, collars, poop bags, and clothes, and other necessities like travel crates, dog walkers, doggy daycare, and boarding facilities or pet sitters for the times you travel without your pet.
As for time required from you, in the beginning, puppies, just like babies, need constant attention. Potty training is a once-every-hour trip outside, with extra trips after meals and playing, and other kinds of training, including commands, socialization, and walking on lead all take additional patience and time. And to prevent boredom and destructive behavior, even adult dogs need regular exercise and play time periodically through the day. Is the recipient of the puppy (or the giver) ready to take on all of this responsibility and devote this time to the new dog for the next 10-15 years?
Raising a well-adjusted dog requires a lifestyle change. And too many times, puppies as gifts are impulsively given to someone who does not, or simply cannot, make the significant financial, time, and emotional commitment that comes along with having a dog. For the dog’s well-being, as well as the gift recipient’s, spending some serious time evaluating the costs involved in raising a dog before you ever bring a dog home is crucial.
3) Sadly, most “gift-wrapped” puppies end up at the shelter, or worse. Because most people overlook the serious responsibility that comes with a puppy when faced with those adorable puppy-dog eyes, when the newness of the puppy wears off and indoor accidents mount, while other needs can’t be ignored, many people decide they can’t deal with the commitment of caring for another living being. Unfortunately, most end up bringing the puppy to a shelter where it will most likely die. A lot of folks believe that they’re doing the best thing for their dog by abandoning it at a shelter, thinking that it will be quickly adopted by someone with more time or capacity for commitment. But even though the puppy may still be young, adorably cute, purebred and/or well behaved, because of the glut of puppies that arrive at shelters, especially after holidays, more than 90% of shelter pets are eventually euthanized.
How About a Gift Certificate Instead?
If you’ve got a dog-lover in your life who is clamoring for a Christmas puppy, unless you and your family has done the hard time considering and committing to the real truths behind the lifestyle change your whole family will have to undertake, consider a gift certificate to a local shelter. Most shelters would be more than happy to sell you a gift certificate instead of sending you off with a puppy that will be back in a short time. And this way the entire family can pay the shelter a visit at some point after the holidays, when life has calmed down a bit, and select the new family member together. And adopting a “holiday puppy” from a shelter is also a wonderful way to rescue one of these unfortunately-gifted and unwanted animals.
Also, you could give the dog lover in your life a starter kit packed with a leash, toys, treats, a gift certificate for puppy training classes and a first vet visit. That way, when they take it upon themselves to adopt their new puppy, at a time that is most appropriate for their life, they’ve already got a great head start.