Merry Christmas! I got you a baby!

Puppy Cuba!

Photo courtesy Shadow Mountain St. Bernards

I am a confirmed Christmas maniac.  Like twelve-step program addicted, and would have set my Christmas tree up back in June if I thought I could get away with it.  I love Christmas music.  I love Christmas lights.  I love family gatherings, buying Christmas presents (which I am very good at) and wrapping presents (which I am admittedly not terribly good at).  It is the one day of the year snow does not make me grouchy.  I love Christmas.

This year for Christmas, I think I’ll get all my friends, family, and colleagues infants.  Yep, little two-leggers, swaddled in blankets and Christmas outfits with reindeer antlers attached to the hats.  Everyone likes babies, right?  And who better to decide whether you should have a baby, eighteen plus years of work, love, commitment, and dedication, than someone else, right?

OK, I’m really not getting everyone babies for Christmas, they’re not exactly in a dog trainer’s budget.  (I’m really just kidding here.  I think the world needs a sarcasm font.)  Even if all my friends wanted babies, ummmm…they probably want to make one for themselves.  (That is part of the fun of the process.)  Even if it were legal, feasible and culturally, ethically, and morally acceptable to purchase infants, buying one for someone else would be:

a)  absurd

b)  inconsiderate

c)  might not be in the best interests of the baby or the recipient/parent

The ridiculousness of such an activity is obvious to any person with even a smattering of common sense.  Yet all too frequently people think nothing of purchasing a puppy for a friend or family member as a Christmas gift.  Buying puppies “for children” is a particularly disastrous idea.  While children can and should certainly help with puppy rearing, ultimate responsibility lies with the parents.  It is ultimately the responsibility of the adults in the household to ensure that the puppy’s needs are met, which can be no small task for hardworking, frazzled parents.

Puppies rarely make good presents.  Many factors should be considered before adding a dog to any family, including but not limited to:  breed preferences, breeder vs. rescue, puppy vs. adult dogs, human work schedules, financial situations, lifestyle preferences and performance goals, housing restrictions, division of responsibility, commitment to training, etc.

Puppy parents will need to do lots of socialization, training, exercising and playing with a puppy, puppy proofing, cleaning up potty accidents, shopping for necessities which can easily run into hundreds of dollars within the first few months, etc.  Owning a dog is a significant financial investment, costing tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a dog’s life.  As with the expenses, the work of dog ownership continues for the dog’s lifetime, years, decades.  Training is a “use it or lose it” enterprise and must be maintained.  Medical maintenance costs generally increase with age.

I think puppy parents are often in for a serious culture shock when they bring the puppy home, many did not realize the amount of work that is required to raise a puppy well.  Who’s going to provide the dog with potty breaks during a ten hour workday?  Who will get up at 2:30 a.m. and stand in the snow in their pajamas waiting for their puppy to potty?  Many very young puppies can go no longer than three hours without eliminating.  If you have to teach your puppy to use potty pads in your absence, you will have to add the additional step of weaning off the mats if you don’t want your adult dog eliminating in the house for the rest of her life.

For these and many other reasons, getting someone a puppy or dog as a gift at any time (but particularly during the holiday season, often the busiest and most hectic time of the year) is not a good idea.  What if, a few months later, your friend has not done any training and no longer wants to live with the behavior problems she’s dealing with?  Are you prepared to take in the puppy?  Would it upset you to find that this young life was turned into a shelter, rehomed, or euthanized?

Finally, we must consider the fact that no responsible provider of puppies would allow a puppy to be obtained for such a reason.  Anyone that would allow a puppy to be purchased as a gift for a third party is by definition irresponsible.  Financially supporting those who look at a puppy and see dollar signs through giving them your business is also morally questionable.

Responsible breeders, shelter, and rescue organizations are very careful about matching dogs and families to set both up for a lifetime of success.  It is not a decision taken lightly, and potential puppy owners are generally put through an extensive application process involving intake questionnaires and interviews, lifestyle evaluations, the checking of personal and veterinary references, and sometimes, a home visit.  They will not allow just anyone with cash or a paypal account take a dog home sight unseen.  Finding the dog the right home is much more important than lining pockets, because the goal of all of these individuals is placing a dog in the home where he will spend his entire life.

While puppies do not make good gifts, there are a variety of great Christmas gifts you may want to consider for friends and family members who are purchasing their own puppies this holiday season.  These might include:

  • dog books – breed encyclopedias for those who are undecided, positive training, puppy rearing, etc.
  • gift certificates – for your favorite photography printing services, veterinary office, training school, grooming service, or pet supply retailer
  • a treat bag and clicker
  • toys and/or treats
  • home made dog cookies
  • coupon booklets with offers to help in the work of puppy raising – offers for help with dog walking, pet sitting, assistance when needed for training sessions, puppy slumber parties/overnight visits, etc., will be especially well-received.  Even the most committed puppy parent needs a little help now and then!  If you’re a photographer, consider offering a photo session with the new puppy as a gift.
  • A “puppy’s first Christmas,” photo-insert, or breed-specific ornament
  • Nature’s Miracle to clean those potty accidents!
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One comment on “Merry Christmas! I got you a baby!
  1. Laura says:

    YES YES YES YES. Brilliant metaphor. Well done.

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