Is there anything cuter than a puppy under the Christmas tree? It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And chewing. And barking and shedding and pooping and needing to go out exactly when nobody feels like walking it.
Dont’ get me wrong. I love dogs. I have one who I consider my third child.But there are a zillion reasons buying a dog as a Christmas gift is a terrible idea.
A dog is not a gift. A dog is not a toy or an impulse purchase. It’s a lifelong commitment. Unlike last year’s must-have Furby, which ended up in the bottom of a bin by Valentine’s Day, animals aren’t easily discarded when the novelty wears off.
Christmas time is crazy. It’s precisely the worst time to introduce a new pet into the family. And do you really want to be potty training in the dead of winter?
But if it’s something you’ve carefully considered and you’re ready to go against the advice of every animal welfare organization on the planet by putting a doggy under the tree, at least follow this advice from the experts.
Realize this will be YOUR dog. Despite promises to the contrary, you will be the one taking care of it.
Get the right breed for your family. There are lots of fun quizzes online that can help you get an idea of what dogs to start looking into, such as the Iams Dog Breed Selector (www.iams.com/dog-breed-selector). But the American Kennel Club suggests looking at a breed’s size, grooming needs, energy level and temperament to figure out which kinds work best with your family’s style. This will take a lot of homework and is probably the most important part of the process.
Stay away from pet store puppies that come from puppy mills.
“You just cannot imagine what these poor animals go through,” said Lorry Schlick, director of New York State Citizens Against Puppy Mills.
Pet stores may say their animals come from responsible breeders, but responsible breeders don’t sell to pet shops, which sell to anyone who walks through the door with cash in hand, Schlick said.
Not only do mills keep dogs in ghastly conditions, they inbreed and ill breed dogs, which leads to serious health conditions. That means you’ll likely have enormous veterinary bills in your future, or a child weeping over a puppy who went to heaven too soon, or both.
Consider adoption. Nearly 3 million pets are euthanized every year, according to the Humane Society. Dogs don’t end up in shelters because they’re bad or inferior, they’re usually there because of “people reasons” like divorce, a move, finances or a lack of training.
As a bonus, shelter dogs are a great value – they’re inexpensive and are already vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
If you buy from a breeder, make sure it’s a good one. Visit the home where the puppies are kept, inspect both parents and ask about their health history. Ask to speak to other families they have placed dogs with. Beware someone who wants you to use only their veterinarian.
AKC papers guarantee nothing. All they prove is that the puppy’s parents are registered with the American Kennel Club. They say nothing about an animal’s health or quality.
Plan for veterinary expenses. Even barring disaster, there will be vet bills. Plan for them, whether that means getting insurance or setting aside money.
Training is serious business. Get ready for hours upon hours of training, for you, your family and your pet. Whether you’re studying up on your own or taking classes, obedience training is a must.