Christmas is just around the corner
Most people I know are preparing for Christmas, either decorating their homes or shopping for gifts. Many children may have a dog on their wish list, some adults too. I understand the desire to share one’s life with a dog. My dogs have given me such joy that I really cannot imagine my life without them. I know I give my dogs joy as well. I see the light in their eyes when they look at me and my heart beats a little warmer. Is it a good idea to gift a dog for christmas? Lets run through some things to help you decide.
If your family is new to dog ownership, then I suggest that you do some research first. I have many pages here that can help you with that. Why you should adopt instead of buy from a breeder, or What is the best dog for me Part One, or What is the best dog for me Part two, Part three is coming soon. To start your dog right, read What is seperation anxiety in dogs?, so you know what can happen when you make certain mistakes. There is the page called Indoor dog versus outdoor dog? if you are thinking about having a dog to live outside. If you are still in the reading mood, then there are the pages on feeding under Healthy Dog and the pages on training under Well Behaved Dog. You may want to read all that later, so back to my original question.
If you have had many dogs before, and consider yourself a knowledable person regarding dogs, you can still benefit from reading onward. Who knows, you may learn something new here 🙂
Today is Thursday, November 23, 2017, the day before the US Thanksgiving, often called Black Thursday. It’s a great time to get some Christmas shopping done, you can get some great deals! It’s also a good time to seriously evaluate whether buying a dog for Christmas is something you want to do.
These days there is a great push to adopt a dog from a rescue…
instead of going to a breeder for a purebred dog. The dogs from humane societies and rescues are generally not free so you will in essence be buying a dog, even though they use the terms ‘adopt’ and ‘rescue’. Depending on the size and volume of one of these adoption agencies, you may have a choice of puppies to older dogs. Some may be purebreds, but most will be cross bred and mixed breeds. Some of these dogs as in the puppies, will be blank slates, just waiting for you to put in the training. Sometimes you will find some well trained and well behaved dogs that have been given up for various reasons. Maybe their owners have died and become too ill to care for their dogs. Maybe the dog became too much for someone to handle. A couple may have genuinely made an effort to raise their dog well only to find that their dog is not accepting of children. This can be a real problem when that couple has children of their own.
The greater volume of dogs that wind up in rescues have been abandoned or abused. I have taken in quite a few dogs myself, that were dropped off in our neighbourhood, like they were garbage. Some dogs have gone through terrible trauma, of beatings and torture, others through starvation and neglect. I won’t go into all the horrible details that many of these dogs have had to endure. My point here is that when you adopt a dog that has developed a history of his or her own, you are taking on that dogs’ history as well. Some might call it emotional baggage. I caution you, that only an experienced dog person should adopt a dog that has an unknown history.
If you allow your heart to rule your head, be prepared for the consequences.
You are not doing that dog a favour by feeling sorry for him or her, adopting him only to find out that you can’t handle that dogs problems. Taking that dog back to the rescue after he or she has begun to bond with you or your family, is going to add to that dogs’ emotional trauma. Yet, sometimes that is the best thing to do, to avoid having a bigger mess.. That is why I caution you, to tread carefully when deciding to rescue an adult dog.
Puppies are cute and fun, untill they aren’t…they grow up fast. When a puppy is 6-8 months old, he or she is in the human equivalent of the pre teen. Expect lots of chewing and exploring their boundaries. At that age, the male may show interest in females, and should be neutered at least by the 9-10 month of age. Females can come into their first cycle of reproduction called a heat between 6-8 months. It’s a good idea to spay a female dog before she comes into her first heat cycle, it prevents cancer of the reproductive areas later on.
Most rescues and shelters, but not all, will evaluate the dogs that they prepare for adoption for health and temperment. The staff will test the dogs to see if they are social with other dogs, good with other small animals like cats, tolerant of children etc. Young puppies don’t get tested because basically they have not experienced much yet. Some dogs go into Foster care where they are hopefully socialized more and given training if needed.
My best advice for choosing to adopt, is to be truthfull about your own situation and abilities when filling out the forms that are required. The staff needs that information to help them decide if a dog is right for you. You may fall in love with a certain cute face but the staff will know more about that dog. Maybe you have some very young children in the home and that particular dog is nervous around children. Maybe you have other pets, and the staff knows that the dog you have picked out has a high prey drive. High prey drive is an instinct that many breeds have to hunt and kill other animals and birds. On the positive side, perhaps the staff knows of a very gentle dog, that would be great with young children.
If you choose a puppy…
be aware that with a mixed breed, there is no way of knowing how large or small that puppy will be as an adult. Some new dog owners are shocked to see how fast that tiny puppy is growing, from 10 lbs and soon gets to be 80lbs! Sadly, many dogs are given up for that very reason, families will complain that the dog is too large! Remember this when you tie a cute bow onto your new puppy’s collar and present him or her as a gift!
You have another choice, and that is to buy from a professional breeder…
that breeds dogs to a high standard. These dogs will be registered with either the CKC (Canadian), UKC (United Kingdom), and AKC (American) in most cases. The puppies from professional breeders will have tattoos in their ears or on their abdomens, numbers and letters corresponding with their registry papers. The advantage of buying from a professional breeder with a particular breed is that you know what you are getting in most cases. Puppies will grow up to be like their parents, so it is very important to check out the parents too. The cost is higher with registered purebreds of course. A reputable professional breeder will offer a guarantee on their puppies. It might just be a health guarantee, or it might include temperament too. Many professional breeders will also ask you to fill out information about yourself and will evaluate you as a prospective buyer for one of their pups..
There is a third choice and that is buying a pup from the amateur breeder…
some one who is breeding dogs for the money or as a short term hobby or maybe their dog was bred accidentally. The danger here is that there is no middle person or organization here, that can help you evaluate the temperment or health of the dog or pup that you are interested in. If you are an experienced and knowledge dog person, you will know what you are looking for and will take precautions. Do not buy a puppy from these types of breeders unless you can meet the parents, AND see WHERE these dogs are being raised! Many of these breeders are what we label ‘puppy mill operations’. You may think you are rescuing a puppy from one of these puppy mills but in fact you are enabling that breeder to breed more… and more…. Do not be fooled by pretty pictures of puppy advertisements, the reality can be very different. Pups and parents raised in cages or pens that do not allow for natural exercise. Look around, are there signs that the dogs are taken out for play sessions? Do they have a fenced play area? If not, then it’s very likely that those dogs are just breeders, living a life with no socialization.
Now that we’ve gone through some basics, let’s return to the main question. Christmas can be a very hectic and busy time in the home. Maybe you have a fairly responsible child or teen that has been begging for a dog of their very own. I watched a Christmas movie yesterday, where a young boy received a puppy for Christmas, handed to him by ‘Santa Claus’ himself. It made for a pretty picture. Parents, if you are seriously considering this, ask yourself who will be doing the house training, the basic obedience training , the feeding, walking and grooming? Are you prepared to take over when your children lose interest? Are you prepared to take over all the training and care of the puppy or adult dog when your children don’t have time? I am a parent too, and I know that after the initial enthusiasum wears off, it can be a struggle to maintain a routine that is good for the pet.
First, my suggestion is this…
if you have done all the research on a dog, and have decided on what kind of dog and where you will be adopting or buying him from, now you make the decision, Christmas gift or not? If you are trying to time it so that the puppy or dog is ready to be presented as a gift on Christmas Day, you have some more preparing to do.
Dogs need to be taken out for bathroom breaks 4 times a day, puppies more often than that. That will put a damper on all the Christmas fun, making sure your new dog or puppy has all his needs met first. Your new dog or puppy will be feeling a little scared or nervous, being presented to strangers and by the excitement of the celebrating going on.
You will need a quiet place for your dog to sleep and eat, secure and safe. Ideally you should have a fenced yard that your dog can spend some time in when you can’t walk him on leash. Expect to stay home with your new dog, going to Christmas gatherings and leaving your dog alone is a bad idea. Remember, your dog does not know you, he or she has been uprooted from his previous familiar home, your dog will be feeling very anxious. Expect messes on the floor if you and your family don’t stick to a routine. A puppy meant for the outdoors will not present quite so much the problem with house training but you will still have to provide a secure and weather proof place to live outside. Do not expect to simply deposit your puppy outside to fend for himself!
Do you still think it’s a good idea to gift a dog for Christmas?
Wouldn’t it be better to plan for a new dog or puppy AFTER the holidays? A better idea is to gift the person who is going to receive the dog or pup, some dog supplies that you will need anyway. Crate, dog bed, dishes, quality food, quality dog toys, collar (if you know the size), leash. Present the person with a card saying that you are gifting them with said dog or pup, to be picked up after the holiday celebrations are over. This way the person receiving the dog can be part of the process. The excitement of a new dog or puppy will only be increased by the anticipation of waiting!