- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Christmas puppy: why you shouldn't get one

December 16th, 2005, 08:57 AM
By Jon Katz
Posted Friday, Dec. 16, 2005, at 6:09 AM ET

Christmas morning. Jimmy and Susie rush down the stairs in their pj's and shriek with delight. Santa has finally yielded to their incessant requests: A sweet, wriggling puppy is waiting for them beneath the tree, adorable in his big red bow. It's love at first sight. The puppy slurps the kids' faces then curls up on their laps. The children beam. The camcorder rolls.

This could be a mess.

Even if your kids don't pester you all year for a dog, which they probably did, TV ad campaigns and treacly movies will make sure you can picture how lovely it would be to bring a puppy home for the holidays. Don't succumb.

Why is a Christmas dog a mistake?

First, because no animal should be a surprise. The arrival of a dog changes a household considerably—for years. Someone has to take responsibility for their daily needs—feeding, exercise, health care, grooming. The decision should be thought about, talked about, negotiated. A new dog, not necessarily a puppy, either, should be the result of a process, not an impulse.

Kids can be unreliable; kids change. The puppy melts their hearts for a few days or weeks. But then it needs to be walked every day (in the rain). It needs careful attention to its feeding and eliminating if it's going to be housebroken effectively. It needs to be taught not to jump on Grandma. The kids oohing and aahing under the tree will soon move on to IMing and texting their friends. Few children outside of 4-H programs and Future Farmers of America want to be tied down to conscientious animal care, and their parents are often no more enthusiastic. Reality will soon supersede the Christmas morning fantasy.

The bigger problem with the Christmas pup is that good dogs are usually unavailable for holiday giving. Hardly any ethical dog provider will support the idea of a dog as a surprise present. Good breeders have carefully constructed breeding programs that are rarely tied to the idea of seasonal gifts, unless arrangements have been made with people they know well far in advance. Breeders don't want their dogs to end up in households where nobody understands the work involved in raising them. Experienced rescue group volunteers and shelter workers hate the whole idea of the Christmas dog because they know many of those dogs will be coming back to them.

The dogs that are readily available at Christmas are the kind you probably don't want. Puppy mills grind out thousands of puppies to meet holiday demand. They're the dogs you find in pet stores and malls—cute as puppies but often inbred, poorly socialized, and more prone to genetic health problems like allergies or bad hips or to behavioral difficulties like compulsive barking or chewing.

For Christmas, get the kid an Xbox 360, or an iPod. They'll love it and use it. You don't have to clean up after it, and if they lose interest, you won't have to walk it in the middle of a snowstorm.

If you and your family really want a dog, choose it carefully, and take your time. Get one from a reputable breeder, an experienced rescue group, or an established animal shelter. Ask lots of questions about the dog; expect the breeder or staff to ask you a lot, too. If they don't, be wary. A store clerk or amateur breeder who simply hands you a dog in exchange for your credit card is not your friend. Experienced dog people know the dogs they sell and the people they are selling them to. And don't worry if the dog comes to you in April instead of on Christmas morning. It will be just as adorable without the tree and the bow.

Jon Katz is the author of Katz on Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Choosing, Training, and Living with Dogs. He can be reached at

December 16th, 2005, 09:16 AM
:thumbs up :thumbs up :thumbs up :thumbs up

November 21st, 2006, 02:30 PM
Just wanted to post to add that it's not just puppies that shouldn't be given as a gift (even to your significant other!) at Christmas (or Thanksgiving or any other majorly disruptive holiday). Cats, guinea pigs, birds, even fish are bad gifts. Basically, if it's an animal, it's a bad idea.

Consider instead getting a gift certificate to a local shelter or rescue organization, so the person/family in question can pick out their own "forever friend".

If you want a pet for your family, and are willing to take responsibility for it, feel free to pick out the one (at a breeder, shelter, wherever) and present the kids with PHOTOS of the new addition as presents for Xmas, then go and pick up the actual animal on a later date. Most shelters won't let animals leave in the few days before Christmas anyways, but some may charge a "boarding" fee if you are responsible enough to refuse to take the animal home on the spot.

Don't forget that besides the responsibility of a pet, Christmas is full of distractions, scary noises and downright dangerous things (ribbons, chocolate, turkey bones, Christmas light wiring, trees in not-so-stable-stands) and the easiest way to spoil your big family dinner is to have the new pet chew through the cord of your tree lights, get a shock, freak out, knock over the tree onto your just-placed turkey dinner and the subsequent emergency room visit for both the new pet and gramma's broken hip, which was caused when the tree knocked her out of her chair.

Give the gift of companionship, but not on Christmas day.


November 21st, 2006, 02:39 PM
Our local SPCA has changed it's stand in regards to Christmas adoptions. The old rule was no adoptions during the holiday season now they are looking forward to placing around 300 animals in new homes over the christmas season. They also stress the no surprise aspect of giving and offer gift certificates as well. They have had this policy for a couple of years and have found it to be a great idea with only one animal returned.

December 9th, 2007, 07:03 PM
Our local SPCA has changed it's stand in regards to Christmas adoptions. The old rule was no adoptions during the holiday season now they are looking forward to placing around 300 animals in new homes over the christmas season. They also stress the no surprise aspect of giving and offer gift certificates as well. They have had this policy for a couple of years and have found it to be a great idea with only one animal returned.

interesting. i'd imagine this would be more to do with cost pressures though, the SPCA is getting more and more cash strapped all the time.

our local SPCA is a quonset hut

December 10th, 2007, 09:30 AM
Great post!!

Unfortunately if you look at any paper, Kijiji, Craigslist, and buy and sell paper, ALL the lovely backyard breeders are using this as a seling point!! GET YOUR PUPPY FOR CHRISTMAS:mad:Or
Give your loved ones a sweet little Puppy for christmas.....we have all breeds :rolleyes:!!:mad:

It's disgusting really, breeding should be banned, or at least licensed.

Jim Hall
December 10th, 2007, 11:17 AM
Well i got a dog on christmas when i was 6 and i love it and cared for it
for a long time so I dont relly agree with this
I understand imuplse puppies are not a good idea but if you pan for it and the parents are responsible I say go for it

beside any thing to get animals out of shelters is a good idea in my opinion

December 10th, 2007, 11:33 AM
There are exceptions to every circumstance. Some people may have excellent experiences with Christmas pups and everything turns out and the dog dies at a ripe old age after many years of love and companionship.

However, there are far more pups that end up as outdoor dogs after Christmas is over. The kids get too busy with their toys and forget about the dog. Adults end up feeding the dog, and often feeding bargain basement garbage food. Adults work all day long, kids are in school all day long. Credit card bills piled high, no one remembered to buy a crate in advance and then there's not enough money to buy one.

So... the dog gets fed by the parents in the morning, the adults go to work, the kids go to school, and the dog is left home all day.

Everyone comes home at the end of the day and discovers that the cute dog isn't so cute any more because it ate the couch, destroyed the walls, crapped on the floor and smeared it in, ripped up bedsheets and mauled stereo speakers.

Next thing that happens, the dog is all of a sudden a BAD DOG and is sent to live outdoors, chained to a tree. No longer getting affection, a warm place to sleep out of the elements. In some situations there may be abuse on top of the outdoor living. Dog isn't altered. Males try to break out, and females end up pregnant.

Last step in this horror tale... the dog lacks exercise and discipline, isn't fed correctly, water is forgotten. Dog begins to bark furiously at everything or anyone. Neighbors complain about the noise. Cops show up on the property and issue a ticket. Then the dog gets an anti-bark collar that shocks when there's a bark and then you hear yelping sounds.

At this point, dog is either abandoned on a road, killed, shot, tortured, or goes to a shelter where if it doesn't become adopted, is euthanized.

What a life... then again this can happen any time of the year, not just as Christmas.


December 14th, 2007, 10:42 PM
Christmas isn't the only holiday... realistically, I think that giving a pet as a gift, no matter what the occasion (or none at all) is a horrible idea.

The little dog which is currently laying at my feet was a Valentine's Day present... who 9 months later had spent most of his time in a vari-kennel, and finally broke out, spilled garbage everywhere, pooped on their bed, was kicked in the head, not given veterinary care until the next day and finally ended up with me, after which he had to have one of his eyes removed.

So I speak from personal experience when I say that pets do NOT make good gifts; to yourself perhaps, but not to any other human being, whether they live with you or not. Stories like Jim's ARE the exception to the rule, especially when it comes to Christmas. But realistically, animals are abused & neglected even when the entire family wanted to get them at the time (no matter what time of year), but when they're a surprise or a gift (to even one person in the family), it's just more likely to happen.


March 31st, 2008, 12:06 PM
We looked at getting a dog for months. Not that my kids, especially my son, didn't ask, but it was not persistent. We have a cat too, but it was more of my wife and daughters pet. My wife has a mild allergy to dogs and cats so it had agree with her. Also my kids are 6 and 9, so we wanted a dog that met these two requirements.

We heard all the horror stories about pet stories being supplied by puppy mills, but you never really know. We looked at dogs for months and did some reading and decided on a poodle, but I didn't want a little one that barked and elped all the time because it always seemed that way. At least a couple of my neighbors dogs did. So we got a standard poodle the end of last June.

We were going for just after christmas, but our cat, an Abasinian, broke its leg in three places, so it gave us more time to play with the idea.

Anyways, we got it at a pet store because after talking to a couple of breeders, we didn't like their attitude. We had to fit their profile or some requirement. I understand that they want someone who will care for the dog, not someone who will abuse it or abandon it etc.

We wanted a puppy that would get use to the kids and be ok with them and he has. The kids are great with him and he with the kids. They play chase and wrestle together. the dog lets them lie on him and even when he chews his bone, my son pots his head on him when watching tv. they are great together. We got him at a pet store and we've been fortunate for the last 9 months. Chester, the dog, will be a year in a couple of weeks and weighs 85 pounds. his health has been good and the vet does not see any problems.

Our concern with the SPCA was not wanting to get someone else's problems, having young kids at home that might make them fearful of dogs. Not that things couldn't be corrected, but it was like trying to start with a clean slate. fresh and new etc. I'm sure they have puppies there at the SPCA too. There are plenty of horror stories out there and its terrible and unfortunate.

Something should be done. it would solve many problems of unhealthy dogs, overcrowding at the SPCA and I'm sure may other ones as well. furthermore, they should make neutering mandatory, subsidized or not, just because people can be irresponsible.

April 2nd, 2008, 02:06 PM
A few years ago, my cousin and her then husband got a beautiful Lab puppy for their kids for Christmas. The kids loved him. But, my cousin and her husband naively gave the responsibility of taking care of the puppy completely up to the kids. At the time they were 9, 7, and 4! They never trained him thus, he had no dog manners at all. As he grew the kids couldn't handle him because he was too powerful for them to handle. As a result then the responsibility was taken on the parents, who constantly complained and argued as to who's turn it was to take the dog out or feed the dog.

They didn't have poor Blizzard for even a year when they got rid of him. As I recall they gave him to another family.

Recently I found out my cousin, purchased a Yorkie. I feel sorry for this little dog. My cousin is not a pet person. She doesn't like to be bothered half the time by her own kids, much less a pet. I only hope her children have now actually since they are older have taken their responsibility more seriously. The only thing that makes me think he/she is being cared for is my aunt loves little dogs and she lives with them. If she's taking care of the pup, then I know it's okay.

April 29th, 2008, 08:00 AM
The city where I live is now requiring everyone who breeds dogs (even accidentally) to obtain a license. They will be imposing fines on people who are caught in the act.