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Should I Give a Puppy as a Christmas Gift?

Tis the season to go shopping! As you meander the malls looking for the perfect gift for your kids, your wife, or even a close friend, a thought occurs to you. Maybe you won’t find the ideal Christmas present at a big box store. Maybe…you need to go to a local shelter or call a breeder to purchase a puppy for your family or friend for Christmas! What could be better? Puppy breath on your nose, puppy snuggles under the covers…a puppy would complete your picture perfect Christmas and create lasting memories—and photos—for years to come. But is buying a puppy as a Christmas gift a good idea? 

To Buy or Not to Buy a Puppy at Christmastime

Buying a puppy should never be an impulse decision. While puppies certainly are adorable and lots of fun, they are also a lot of work. You may find the puppy you thought was such a great idea on December 24th might end up on the door of the nearest shelter come January 1st.

A puppy is a very personal decision. With so many different breeds and mixes to choose from, it is difficult to make a choice for someone else. While you might love the look of an Old English Sheepdog, the recipient of your well-intended gift might not appreciate twice monthly visits to a groomer and nightly brushing to keep the dog’s coat tangle free. Think a Jack Russell Terrier is the cutest thing ever? The dog’s new owner might not love having to take up running to wear their Christmas present out every night to get an hour or two of peace after a long day at work.

Here are a few things to consider before purchasing a puppy as a Christmas gift: 

  • Not everyone wants the commitment of a dog.

Many people who love dogs aren’t prepared to actually own one of their own. In order to be a great puppy owner, the person needs to have the time to devote to raising the puppy properly and the interest in using their free moments in this manner. But more than this, the person’s personal home situation must be right. It’s possible that the person you are considering purchasing a puppy for lives in an apartment or home that won’t allow pets and will be forced to return the puppy or risk eviction. This is but one of many possible caveats you might not be aware of that would make owning a dog a commitment your family member or friend is not ready for this Christmas. 

  • Not everyone has a lifestyle that will allow a dog.

Though many people love dogs and express a desire to add one to their home, the timing has to be right. Caring for a puppy is a full time job in the early months of a puppy’s life. If the person you are considering giving a puppy to works a regular job outside the home, they may not have the necessary time to devote to raising a baby puppy. Sometimes people want something that they are ill-prepared to handle in the cold light of reality. A puppy has a very small bladder and little control over it in the early months of its life, so keeping a dog crated for eight hours while the puppy owner works is not an option. Will the recipient of the puppy have the necessary time to devote to house training, socialization, and obedience classes? Do they have enough hours in the day for exercise and play time? These are all considerations that only the person who will own the dog can honestly answer. 

  • Not everyone can afford a dog.

Let’s face it; dogs are expensive. The initial purchase price of a puppy is merely a down payment on a lifetime of costs. While no true dog lover ever minds spending money on a beloved pet, not everyone has the financial means necessary to properly care for a puppy. Puppies need pee pads, puppy food, toys, leashes, collars, vet visits, regular vaccinations, and more. Puppies can also be very destructive, meaning that the recipient of your gift may find themselves needing to replace furniture, flooring, and footwear as well. You will be paying the purchase price for your well-intended gift, but can the recipient actually afford to pay for the things a puppy will need for the rest of the puppy’s life? It would be a terrible shame to think you were giving someone a blessing to discover you instead saddled them with an untenable financial burden.

When it comes to financial considerations, the breed you select also determines affordability. What if that adorable ten-pound puppy you selected for your family member or friend grows up to weight 110 lbs and eats his weight in food every week? Since it is nearly impossible to determine which breeds make up what some would affectionately call an “SPCA Special”, you may find the small puppy the shelter assured you would only be a medium sized dog when fully grown turns into Scooby Doo with the appetite of King Kong.

When you choose to purchase a dog from a shelter or rescue, you help save a life which is a wonderful thing. Some of the most incredible dogs come from these types of organizations. However, when you purchase a dog of unknown heritage, you really don’t know what you are getting. You could end up with a dog who goes an entire lifetime without a single problem or one that develops cancer and dies at age two. It’s a genetic crap shoot and a risk for sure. Though there are no guarantees when purchasing a purebred from a reputable breeder, you at least have the assurance that both parents have been health-tested to ensure they are not carriers or affected by any known hereditary disease. You also have access to many generations within a bloodline to assess the health and temperament of the dogs behind the one you purchase.

Wouldn’t it be a terrible shame to buy a puppy for your friend only to discover you have purchased a breed that hates children and your friend has a baby? This is yet another problem that could befall your well-intended, kind-hearted purchase.

  • Many breeders have lengthy waiting lists.

If a family member or friend has a well-known “crush” on a specific breed, it is very tempting to contact a breeder to see if they have anything available for sale. Typically, breeders with established reputations have lengthy waiting lists. While they might be willing to add your friend to that list, it is unlikely that they will have a litter on the ground at the time you contact them, and if they do; in most cases, the puppies were spoken for long before they were born. 

  • Many breeders have thorough screening processes.

Conscientious breeders breed infrequently and take very seriously where their puppies end up. Their puppies are sold only to the most carefully scrutinized and approved homes. They are typically not “bargain priced” and with many breeders you have to jump through many hoops to even be considered as a potential home for one of their babies. These types of breeders will not allow a third party to purchase a dog for someone else. They will want to meet and/or speak to the prospective owner to get to know them and to ascertain if the person is knowledgeable enough about their breed to be a suitable home. Since many breeds such as certain types of terriers, herding dogs, or bully breeds are not a good fit for just any home, it is important for breeders to get a “feel” for whether or not a person is prepared to handle their breed of choice or is best left to enjoy them from afar.

  • Many breeders and rescues close puppy sales/adoptions over the holiday season.

Breeders, rescues, and shelters have a common goal for the dogs in their care. They want them to find loving forever homes. With this in mind, many of these groups close puppy sales and adoptions prior to the Christmas holidays to prevent impulse purchases which result in unwanted dogs in the cold light of the New Year.

Many organizations encourage people who are truly interested in getting a dog to consider adopting a few weeks before Christmas or a few weeks afterwards. Why is that? Christmas is a very busy time of year, and as such, it is not a great time for a puppy to bond with his new family. Each home is filled with unfamiliar people, noises, and activities that are unsettling to a puppy who has just left all that he has ever known to join his new world. A puppy needs consistency and routine in order to adjust and thrive. A period of upheaval is not beneficial for a puppy’s social and emotional development and can even be extremely detrimental. Not only is it not necessarily a good idea for someone to receive a puppy as a gift for Christmas, it is not ideal for the puppy in question. 

Should you get a puppy as a Christmas gift for someone you love?

Unless you know the person and their personal circumstances well enough to be 100 percent certain the dog will land in a home that is prepared to love a dog for a lifetime, the answer is likely no. A dog is a very personal decision that is best left to the dog-seeking individual to choose on their own. If you know someone who loves dogs and who you think might purchase one in the near future, maybe choose to “gift” them some dog-themed items instead this Christmas. After all, who can resist a framed print of Dog Playing Poker? It’s a classic!

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