Many people dream of receiving a puppy for Christmas. If you're considering this gift, you can probably imagine the look on your loved one's face as they meet their new companion. But is getting a puppy at Christmas time really a good idea? Before you bring home a new dog for the holidays, it's important to consider the pros and cons.
Should You Get a Puppy at Christmas Time?
The scene looks like something out of a Hallmark movie: the tree is trimmed, the lights lit, and the gifts waiting to be opened. Suddenly, a box begins to wiggle and then tumbles over, spilling open to reveal an adorable puppy with a big red bow around their neck.
It certainly sounds whimsical, but this is not a gift to be given lightly, or without careful consideration. That initial delight could turn out to be a burden if the recipient isn't prepared to handle the needs of a living, breathing pet.
A puppy may be the most wonderful gift a person will ever get, as long as you're sure the recipient truly wants one. Consider the advantages of choosing a puppy as a gift.
Today's puppy is tomorrow's lifelong companion. A puppy will provide its owner with unconditional love for their entire life. With proper care, you can expect to enjoy 10 to 15-plus years of adventures, laughter, and kisses together. Evidence also demonstrates that dog ownership can promote physical and mental wellbeing, so having a dog is good for your own health, too.
Availability of Puppies
Shelters are always brimming with available puppies, and the Christmas season is no different. In fact, a lot of shelters offer discounts on adoption fees around the holidays. You can even take advantage of Black Friday or Boxing Day sales while shopping for puppy supplies, too.
Many breeders plan for Christmas all year long, timing breeding as closely as possible to coincide with the Christmas season. There is usually a bumper crop of pups to choose from, so finding the breed you want may be easier than ever. As Christmas draws closer, breeders want to assure that every pup finds a home, so you could end up getting a deal on the price you pay.
Time for Training
A lot of folks have several days or weeks off around the holidays. This open availability means extra time to become acquainted with the new pup. Begin training as early as possible. If you have children, you can build a routine around feeding and walking the puppy while on winter vacation, so they're in the habit when school is back in session.
It's not all candy canes and mistletoe when you bring a puppy home at Christmas time. Be mindful of the disadvantages associated with getting or gifting a Christmas puppy.
A house full of guests can be quite nerve wracking for a young pup. With new visitors coming in and out of the house, there's a greater risk of your puppy escaping through an open door. There are also more chances for them to get hold of dangerous holiday food or get into trouble with Christmas decorations.
The extra hustle and bustle around the house during Christmas may not be conducive to concentrating on puppy training. If your puppy gets off to a bad start with house training, it may take them weeks to get back on track. In the meantime, you will enjoy your new family member significantly less if you are constantly cleaning up their little "gifts." Be sure you can commit the time necessary to care and training -- not just through puppyhood, but for the next 10 to 15 years!
Unless you live in a warm climate, potty training in the coldest months of the year is no easy task. Understand that you'll likely be forced to stand outside in your yard at 3 o'clock in the morning waiting for your wee one to wee. Many small breeds with short hair are especially sensitive to cold weather, so these puppies may need special attire to stay warm. You'll have to purchase several as your new pup will be growing quickly.
Cost of Care
Caring for a new puppy comes with a considerable price tag, one that many new owners may not be aware of. As the saying goes, "there's no such thing as a free puppy." The recipient of a gift puppy will have to pay for food, supplies, and veterinary care. Review these costs before taking the plunge. Pet insurance can be a wise investment should any unexpected medical issues arise.
Poorly Bred Puppies
Unfortunately, the lure of easy money from Christmas puppies prompts many people into indiscriminately breeding their dogs. You'll need to be especially vigilant about checking out any breeder from whom you consider buying a puppy. Ask a lot of questions about what kind of testing has been carried out on the parents to determine if they are free from genetic flaws that could be passed on to their litter. Spend time evaluating and interviewing a potential breeder.
Also, be cautious about buying a puppy from a breeder if the dog is less than 8 weeks old. Bringing a puppy home who is too young can pose health risks and impact their behavior later in life. Though there is debate about how old a puppy should be before leaving a breeder's care, typically a pup that is 8- to 10-weeks old is ready for their new home.
Quality breeders focus on socialization during the crucial 6- to 12-week window of a puppy's life. The phrase, "Raised under foot," which is often seen in breeder ads, implies a puppy was raised like a family member with proper socialization. Ask the breeder about how they socialize their puppies, how they introduce puppies to children, and what they do to enrich puppies' early life experience.
Incomplete Immunity to Viruses
Even in the cold months, your puppy can contract harmful diseases like parvovirus or canine distemper from the environment. These diseases may not be as serious in adult dogs, but for puppies, they can be fatal. Obtain current vaccination records for your new puppy and take necessary precautions if they are not yet fully covered.
Making an appointment with your chosen veterinarian between Christmas and the New Year will be a considerable challenge, so schedule their next vaccine visit as soon as you can. Also, be careful about exposing your puppy to any unsafe environment outside the home until you are sure they are protected from infection.
Gifting Christmas Puppies to Children
Many children ask Santa Claus for a puppy, but everyone knows who will end up bearing the brunt of the work: the adults. This is something to consider when gifting a new dog to your child. Sure, having a puppy can be a great way to teach kids responsibility -- you can make them accountable for feeding, walking, and training -- but these chores aren't like others with no strict timeline.
Your child can face the consequences of having a messy bedroom, but a puppy cannot go without eating. Be prepared to oversee these tasks and complete them when the kids forget or get bored. Ultimately, accept that you are responsible for the new puppy.
Also, before even considering getting a puppy for a grandchild, niece, nephew, or any other beloved child, you must ask their parent or caregiver for permission. Although this present might seem like a generous gesture, the adults may not see it that way. They're the ones who will ultimately be responsible for the pet, so it's their decision to make.
Planning for Your New Pup
If after considering the pros and cons you decide to forge ahead and bring a puppy home at Christmas time, here are some suggestions that will make the transition easier.
- Collect all necessary supplies beforehand. Purchase a crate, dog bed, and bowls for the pup, as well as a puppy-safe toy to chew on.
- Place the crate in a quiet room away from the holiday action.
- If possible, limit your in-home celebration to your immediate household members to avoid overwhelming the puppy.
- Plan the rest of your activities around the fact that your new puppy will need to be brought outside every half hour or so if you hope to get potty training off to a good start. Accidents may happen during this training period, so anticipate cleanups.
- Explain to any children that the puppy will need quiet time and monitor them as they play with the pup. Sometimes, children don't understand the signs of a tired or irritated puppy.
- Avoid sharing any of your Christmas dinner or other goodies with your new dog. These foods are sure to upset their stomach. Stick with regular kibble instead, and find out what the puppy was eating before coming to your home so you can offer the same diet, at least at first.
- Make sure that all mistletoe and poinsettias are completely out of your puppy's reach. These plants are toxic to adult dogs, and even more so to puppies.
Take the Commitment Seriously
Whether you purchase a pup or adopt a rescue dog, bringing a puppy into your home during the holidays is a serious decision. Unless you are sure you can deliver the same amount of attention, care, and guidance during this time as you would at any other time of year, it may be better to hold off on a puppy until after Christmas is over and you're ready to give them the time and attention they deserve.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of a Christmas Puppy
Before you gift yourself or a loved one a puppy, ask yourself if this is really the best time to bring a new pet into your home, especially one that requires so much care. The answer to this question depends a lot on each person's situation as well as their holiday plans. A low-maintenance pet or an "I owe you" for a puppy when the time is right may be better gift options.