Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Don't Get Your Kids a Puppy for Christmas.

Lots of well meaning parents and families think it's a great idea to get a new puppy at Christmas. For some, the idea of a sweet warm cuddly bundle of fur under the Christmas tree is often just too big of a temptation to turn down. We see evidence of just this type of marketing by many back yard breeders and puppy mills--they intentionally breed to have puppies available at Christmas and advertise them as Christmas gifts.

First of all--never buy any puppy as a "surprise" gift for someone. How can you be sure that the recipient is ready and willing to care for a pet? How do you know they want a pet--and how do you what kind of pet is right for them?

As a breeder--I would NEVER sell a puppy that is to be given as gift. What happens to the puppy if the new owner doesn't want it--or can't provide for it? Giving a puppy as a "gift" is not a reason to buy a puppy. No ethical breeder would ever sell a puppy to be given to a second party-esp. someone they have never met or interviewed.

Secondly--the holidays can be stressful and confusing for us humans--how do you think a new puppy would feel? The confusing and ever changing environment can be overwhelming for a 8-10 week old puppy. Most children would quickly forget and ignore a puppy for the other more entertaining presents. Who is responsible for it's care? In most cases the puppy get shuffled off to a crate somewhere out of the way. Visitors coming into your home can present a management problem, too--esp. children who do not know proper pet etiquette. Too many changes and too many stressors.

Anytime you bring a new puppy into your home, the first few weeks should be kept as stress-free as possible with no changes in your home routine. Your puppy will adapt and fit in much quicker and easier if your home routine is stable. The holidays are not the time for "routine".

Some new owners think nothing about placing their "brand" new puppy in a boarding Kennel for a few days up to a couple of weeks while they leave and go out of town. This places the puppy is a very dangerous position to be exposed to illness and to suffer emotional trauma due to the separation and isolation from it's family. Talk about Stressors!

Those of us who work with rescue also see an influx of 6-7 month old (and older) puppies a few months after Christmas. The "cute" is gone; the puppy is not housebroke; the puppy is untrained; the puppy has behavior problems; They are just too "busy" for the dog, the puppy was a "gift" and now they don't want it.

At about this same time, We also begin to see the unsold Older Christmas puppies show up in animal shelters--once the cute is gone, they can't be sold--so they are dumped to make room for the next litter of "cute" puppies. Christmas gift puppies just are not a good idea.

So for all of you potential puppy buyers who are looking for a "Christmas puppy"--don't call me. I do not and never will sell or place puppies during the holidays.

It is my humble opinion that the holidays is not the best possible time for a puppy to enter your home. Boarding any puppy before it has completed it's puppy shot series is just asking to have your puppy get sick--or die. I always offer a "come to Grand-Ma's house" for my puppy owners--if they need to leave and go on Vacation--their dog can come back to saty with me. I don't like to see my puppies boarded until they are at least 2 years old.

The stress and turmoil of the holidays could also set up behavior issues that could take you months to correct and possible alter your dog's temperament for the rest of it's life. Often what we as humans view as insignificant can be life-altering to a puppy and lead to the development of a behavioral problem. I.E.: Visiting relative's children who are too rough with a puppy could alter it's attitude toward children leading to a lifetime distrust of children.

So as a parent, grand-parent, breeder, and dog owner; my advice is don't get your kids a puppy for Christmas. Wait until after the first of the year--put up your holiday decorations, settle back into your home routine, and then bring your new baby home.

A puppy is not a "fad" gift or a holiday whim. A dog is forever. Before getting your new canine family member, Please wait until you and your family are prepared and ready. Make it a homecoming you will always remember.

Catie C. Arney, Kiokee Mastiffs, Hickory, NC