Although the thought of a cute young puppy waiting under the Christmas tree for the children on Christmas might be appealing, there are many practical reasons for not giving a dog or other animal as a gift. A dog can easily live 15 or more years, making ownership a long-term commitment. Before giving a dog as a gift, there are a number of factors to consider.
1. Does the recipient really want to have a dog? Are they prepared to be fully responsible for and committed to care for the dog for its lifetime? Young children quickly lose interest in a pet -- who will be the caretaker then?
2. Puppies are not cheap. Does the recipient have the time and financial resources necessary to properly care for a pet, including food, grooming, training classes, regular vet care and vaccinations?
3. Is the breed you are considering the correct one for the person in terms of looks, temperament and personality, grooming requirements, amount of shedding, ease of training, sociability with strangers, energy levels, and exercise requirements? Is the breed good with children and good for novice owners? Is the size of the dog (as an adult) suitable? Is the individual you choose the “correct” one for the other person too? Individual puppies within a litter can vary somewhat in all these traits.
Educate yourself about the particular breed and any health problems that should be screened for. Be prepared to spend time finding a reputable breeder and perhaps getting on a waiting list for a puppy. Remember that AKC or other registration “papers” are not like the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” and are no indication of quality. Having AKC papers merely means that the pedigree (family tree) has been properly kept track of, a necessary first step in finding a quality puppy, but no guarantee of health or temperament.
It is often difficult to find a quality puppy that is ready for the holidays. Many reputable breeders will not place a puppy into a home until after the holidays. Each breed has hereditary diseases to which it is prone. Reputable breeders will screen their breeding stock for such diseases and have a contract that will protect both parties involved. Backyard breeders, “puppy mills”, and commercial sources don’t screen their breeding stock and typically offer only minimal health guarantees, if any at all.
If you aren’t necessarily looking for a purebred dog, many wonderful mixed breeds are looking for homes. You will have to rely on the sponsoring shelter for assistance in assessing individuals and can also learn about temperament tests that you can use to assess whether a dog might be right for you. There are also many rescue organizations that have dogs available for adoption, including those affiliated with the sponsoring national breed club for each breed, as well as private groups with both mixed breeds and purebred dogs.
A dog requires a lifetime daily commitment for providing shelter, food, water, exercise, training, and social interaction. Does the person’s lifestyle allow for adequate time with for the pet? The purchase price of a dog is very small compared to the amount of money that the person will need to spend over the lifetime of the dog. Food (and treats) cost money on a daily basis. The costs of basic vet care (spay or neuter, annual vaccinations and checkups, heartworm treatment, flea and tick control, and control of internal parasites) must be planned for, and financial allowances should also be made for emergency care in event of a disease or accident. If the person travels, who will care for the dog (or plan on boarding costs)? Is the person prepared to clean up after the dog, house-train the dog, groom the dog, and exercise the dog routinely? Does the person have the financial resources to provide an adequate crate or kennel, bed, collar and leash, and any local license fees? Does the person have the time, know-how, and desire to properly train the dog and sufficient financial resources to take training classes? Training a new puppy takes much time and patience. Is the person accepting of a bit (or a lot) of hair, tracked mud, and messes in the house?
If you are looking for a puppy for your own children, are you prepared to be the caretaker of the dog? Young children will quickly lose interest in a puppy. What will become of the puppy then? Are you or other adults in the household prepared to provide all the care and training? What happens if the dog is given to an older child who will be leaving home for college in a short period of time? Are you or the recipient prepared to show consideration for neighbors by preventing barking and picking up after your dog?
A young puppy just removed from its littermates will need a calm stable environment in order to adjust to its new home and bond to its new family. The chaos of the holidays can be frightening and overwhelming. Puppies need constant supervision, to help start house-training and to protect them from dangers, and this time may be difficult to come by during the busy holidays. There are also many holiday dangers for a young puppy, including eating tinsel, chocolate, and too much rich food, which can cause severe health problems and even death. Dogs are social animals and require time spent with their families. It is cruel to isolate them outdoors all the time.
Remember, you are not teaching your children responsibility if you, yourself, are not committed to properly caring for the dog, or if you give away the dog if “it just doesn’t work out”. Teach respect for life—consider carefully if a puppy is the right gift.
Instead of giving a puppy, you could make and give a decorative gift certificate and let the recipient participate in picking the breed, the breeder, and the individual puppy. Wrap and give all the items a new puppy will need—toys, leash, collar, bed, bowls, etc., and even a stuffed toy dog—so the recipient will have many gifts to open on the holiday and the fun of anticipating the arrival of the new family member.
Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer’s Guide, 2nd edition, by Michele Welton. Good general information on whether you are ready for a dog, breed characteristics, sources for purchasing dogs, or finding a mixed breed
American Kennel Club (AKC)
United Kennel Club (UKC)
Local shelters are a good source for pets (either purebred or mixed breeds):
1805 E. 19th St.
Lawrence, KS 66046
2625 NW Rochester Road
Topeka, KS 66617
Petfinder lists many dogs available for adoption