Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Read this before getting that Christmas puppy.

What could be more quintessentially Christmas-y than giving little Billy and Sally an adorable fluffy puppy on Christmas morning? It's a Hallmark moment waiting to happen. The excitement on their little faces when you hand over a box (with holes punched into it, of course, because no holes would really result in a gift that kept on giving... In therapy bills.) and out pops the sweetest little puppy face and two Frito-scented puppy paws that rest on the edge of the box. The image is almost Rockwellian, to the point where the cuteness quotient kicks your gag reflex into overtime.

The children, now so overjoyed with the Best. Christmas. Present. EVER throw themselves into your arms, declaring you the best parent a kid could ever have and then immediately set about procuring water, kibble and special treats for the puppy. They banter good naturedly about what to name their new friend. They spend hours rolling a ball through the house for the pup to retrieve (because he is a natural retriever, isn't he? Even if he's an 8 week old Yorkie who is smaller than your average tennis ball.), and take turns stroking his soft fur until all three of them, Billy, Sally, and little Elmo (Hey, don't look at me. You let the kids name him.), fall fast asleep in front of the Christmas tree.

It's such a special image. It's enough to make you throw up in your mouth a little, isn't it?

Now let me tell you what will probably happen if you buy your kids a puppy for Christmas.

First, no reputable and ethical breeder in their right mind would sell you a Christmas puppy. Ditto for reputable and ethical shelters. As a friend who used to work in an animal shelter told me when we were discussing animals as presents, the shelter she worked for had this rule:

"No black cats adopted near halloween, no puppies near Christmas, no rabbits near Easter".

The people who breed and/or care for dogs know what a bad idea puppies as presents are, so where would you get a dog that close to a holiday? A pet store. And where do pet stores get their animals? Puppy mills. So not only would you be supporting these establishments and their inhumane ways, but that pup you brought home probably has Kennel Cough or some intestinal parasite. So that box you put little Rover into before giving him to your kids? You might want to check it before taking the puppy out because he probably left you a gift in there. A nice, runny, smelly one. Hope you get some cash for Christmas because you'll need it for the veteranarian bills.

But let's keep the fairy tale alive, shall we? Let's say the puppy is the picture of health. Were you planning on staying home for Christmas or were you planning on running off to Grandma's house? I hope you're staying home because something tells me Granny is going to be none too happy to have a pup peeing on her berber carpets or chewing on her credenza. Oh, you think you're going to leave little Louie the Lab in a crate all day? Sorry, puppies need to be put on a strict eating/drinking/potty break schedule and should not spend any more than four hours in a crate at a time. And for a puppy so young, four hours is really pushing it. Try every two hours. And something tells me Grandma doesn't live next door. I'm sure you'd much rather be enjoying the Christmas festivities from inside a warm house versus outside in the cold looking through the windows while you beg the puppy to hurry up and poop already.

And I mentioned the vet bills if you get a puppy from a pet store but I didn't mention the other vet bills you'll be paying for when Willie the Weimeraner swallows his fourth gift bow complete with six feet of ribbon. That'll be fun to extract. You weren't planning on the kids going to college anyway.

Puppies are cute, puppies are fun, but puppies can also be gigantic pains in the ass when all they want to do is jump on Great Aunt Edna and gnaw on every ankle that walks by. As another blogger said to me, "
Christmas puppies are like spur of the moment Vegas weddings. Seems like a great idea at the time, but works out for very few." When the kids realize just how much work is involved in raising this dog they'll be whining about how they also begged you for a Wii but didn't find one of those under the tree. The blush will be off the rose by lunchtime. I hope you like dogs, because that dog is your responsibility. Don't come to me when your kids refuse to take the dog out for a walk. They're kids, you're the adult. You're in charge, they're not. Puppies need training, feeding, watering, grooming and exercise. Daily. You can't expect a seven year old to be responsible enough to care for a dog when the last five goldfish and two hamsters were sent to live on a farm. And is that a puddle of urine over there? Merry Christmas!

Getting a dog is a serious decision that everyone in the family should have a say in. Careful research should be done to find just the right breed or rescue dog to fit your family. Take your time, talk it over and when you do find your forever pet it will be that much more enjoyable. Believe me when I say that your Christmas will be just as special if you give your kids Guitar Hero. And you won't have to worry about a puppy swallowing the new earrings you got from Santa.


MrsDesperate said...

Such a great post and I totally agree. I desperately want a dog, as does the kids, and we would quite happily adopt an adult as opposed to a puppy. But we are not in a situation at the moment where it would be fair to the dog for us to have it. I'm an animal lover and it hurts. But it would hurt more to invite a dog to join our family and then not be able to give it the environment it deserves. People really do need to think, because animals should be family members for life.

Anonymous said...

Well put.

We just learned that our neighbors (as in, on the other side of our living room wall in our side by side townhouse) are getting their tweens (who no doubt will be ready to shirk puppy duty by Dec. 26) a puppy for Christmas. A really yappy one.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry so I did both.

Whirlwind said...

And here I was the one asking for a puppy for Christmas. But I also told my husband that we should wait a bit until after Christmas. We've talked about getting a puppy for while now and I think it's finally the right time. We got our current dog eight years ago Valentine's Day.

We've been checking out the pound for adoptions, but are willing to wait for just the right dog.

Great post!

And, actually, we had to tell the kids that Santa does not bring pets for Christmas (they asked for turtles, frogs and a hamster).

Ali said...

my kids are getting a puppy for chrismukah...they just don't know it.

...but to be fair, we've been plotting this for months. he was born in september, my stepmom got him from the breeder 3 weeks ago and we are getting him when we get to atlanta next week.

Arwen said...

We still don't know who gave us the puppy last year. He has grown to be a wonderful dog but I would love to know how did this to us.

This Little Light said...

As a volunteer for a greyhound rescue, I say amen to this post! Our group does not adopt out at Christmas for precisely the reasons you outlined and generally does not adopt to families with young children because of the risks of having the greys get loose. Thanks for posting this!

Liz Jimenez said...

Well said! A dog is about the worst impulse buy EVER. Just ask my neighbor across the street and her big, rambunctious, under-trained, under-exercised Golden-Doodle. Poor dog.

If only the people who needed this message would ever actually heed it...

Anonymous said...


--The ex-vet-tech.

SciFi Dad said...

Well said, Chicky. Well said.

Ericka said...


i'm working my way through the adoption process for a rescue, but it's a decision two years in the making - and NO puppies.

and... golden doodle?

Pgoodness said...


Forget Christmas, my born in spring pup is still a bunch of crazy - just this evening she forgot to let us know she needed to go out; those piles aren't so small anymore and they don't smell Rockwellian!!! I couldn't imagine starting with her so little next week! Eeek!

Avalon said...


As you know, I volunteer in rescue and have 3 rescues of my is a holiday puppy that was dumped 3 weeks after they got her.January and February are hell for rescues when all of the impulse puppy buyers figure out that their sweet little gift is an actual responsibility that cannot be returned for cash.

If your kid realllllllly wants a pet for Christmas, make them a deal. You will all volunteer EVERY afternoon for only 1 hour at a local rescue or shelter. For one week.

If ANYONE wants to quit.....then it's not the right time for a puppy in your family. If a family cannot devote 1 hour a day to caring for an animal, they probably shouldn't be getting one.

Barbara said...

OK, in the minority here (sort of). I do agree that any animal should NOT be a spur of the moment decision. They are a lot of responsibility.

I also have to 'fess up that 4 years ago Santa brought my 2 girls a dog. We planned it for months (like another poster here). We knew we were going to be home for the week after to care for her, as were the girls so they could learn what she needed.

It was the BEST. GIFT. EVER. They still talk about how Santa brought them a dog. (She was in a dog crate that we put her in about 10 minutes before the girls realized that the "box" (half covered, plenty of room to breathe) was moving and GASP! making noise too. I think one of the last things I see before I die, if my life flashes before my eyes, will be the looks on their faces when they saw Daisy (she came with a name), their special gift from Santa.

We had animals before and had missed not having a dog. We were responsible, and it was a good excuse to keep everything picked up that Christmas! She was actually a bit older from a good breeder, and kept by a friend (who at the time worked for the Seeing Eye for the blind). You can do it the right way, is all I'm saying (so please don't be hatin' on me!)

Sometimes this dog drives me crazy, but she is part of our family.

jen @ negative lane said...

I couldn't agree more.

A few years ago at our old house, we had puppies dumped over the six foot privacy fence into our yard on three separate occasions over a period of a few short months coinciding with the holiday season. One was dumped into a foot of snow after dark on New Year's Day. As we already had three dogs -- and four cats -- they ended up at our local no-kill shelter.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Barbara - You are the exception to the rule and I'm THRILLED it worked out for you. And it did because you went into it realistically and responsibly. I'm happy to hear a success story from time to time. I only wish there were more.

furiousBall said...

dogs are a lot of work and I'm glad to hear your attitude. nothing sadder than an animal in a home that doesn't want them or can't manage

followthatdog said...

Perfect post. Dogs are lifetime commitments, family members and a giant responsibilities. And parents need to be realistic about getting a dog for their child. It will never be the kid's dog. If your child is young enough to be home for the dog's entire lifespan, they are too young to be responsible for the care of a dog, if they are old enough for the responsibility, they are likely to head off to college and leave the dog at home with you at some point. And honestly, the parents will be paying for the care and feeding of the dog.

LizP said...

Where was this post a year ago June when my husband bought my (at the time) 13 year old step son a black lab puppy?!? Argh! It's the chew-everything-in-the world dog!

Merrily Down the Stream said...

Much needed post.

Love the Frito comment - I noticed that several years ago and sometimes we call our dog Frito Feet!

Sarahviz said...

Uh, totally NOT on subject - I saw your hubby and J. tonite at S&S. Since he doesn't know me, I didn't go up to him, as I didn't want to appear (1) stalkerish or (2) pedophileish.

So I just smiled at J. and went on my merry way!

Anonymous said...

You are so so right. Rabbits at Easter is what pisses me off the most. Rabbits require a lot more work than I think most people realize.

Ugh. People.

If and when we ever get a dog, we're getting an adult dog from a pound.

petite gourmand said...

I completely agree.

even though Lulu begs me daily for a puppy for christmas...
as tempting as it is, all I have to do is remember a certain christmas present I got back in 1978.
When I was eight my Uncle got us a german short-haired pointer puppy for christmas.
We named her Holly- jeez that's embarrassing...anyhow, long story short...
She was a hunting dog.
Not really the best type of dog for a family of 4 living in the 'burbs with two working parents with not a lot of extra time to spare for daily doggy exercise- which Holly desperately needed.
Needless to say Holly ate all my barbies, my brothers hot wheels, all of my moms shoes, a sofa, and pretty much peed everywhere.
Why pee outside in minus 30 degree weather when you can pee under a nice warm bed?...No one will notice....

Eventually my uncle took Holly and reunited her with her sister (his dog). Um gee thank uncle. B.
I'm only partially scarred for life ;

But I think when the time comes for us to get a dog it will be in the spring and when Lulu is old enough to help out and we will make sure that the type of dog suits our family and our lifestyle.

sorry Lulu, looks like the only dog under the tree this year is going to be a Gund.

Anonymous said...

We actually got a dog for my mom for Christmas, but we got it from someone whose dogs had a bunch of puppies and not a puppy mill supporting place. The only thing I didn't like about getting a puppy during Christmas was potty training during the winter.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the lesson in this post shouldn't be: DO NOT get a holiday puppy. Maybe it should be: THINK CAREFULLY FIRST.

When I was 15, my parents bought me a holiday pup. And actually, they bought me a can of dog food and the idea was that after I researched how to take care of a dog (with them) and what breed would best suit our family, we would find a breeder who had an older puppy (because I was still in high school) and we would bounce between breeders until we found the right dog.

I ended up choosing a black lab who had been rejected as a show dog because he was too shy. I named him Jet and my baby was perfect, albeit A TON OF WORK. Much more than I'd realized he would be at the ripe old age of 15.

Looking back, Jet was the best holiday gift I ever received, but not because he was a dog. He taught me responsibility and how to make educated decisions about pets, training, etc. Picking a healthy dog and making choices that would keep him healthy and happy were more difficult than I'd anticipated. He was my baby, in every sense of the word, and I adored him. His death absolutely devastated me. So, I wouldn't say DON'T do it, but I would say: MAKE THE KIDS DO SOME THINKING FIRST.

Great post!! =)

Shash said...

If I ever thought to purchase a puppy for my boys for Christmas (I'd rather poke my eyes out with an ice pick), this post would have cured me quick. Well done!

moosh in indy. said...

My sister is so in love with you right now.
As am I.
Cody thinks a dog is a brilliant idea for the moosh and for him.
But guess who's only four and guess who's at work all day and guess who's left standing out in the cold?
Uh huh.
No thank you.

Anonymous said...


We're actually thinking of getting a second dog but have decided to wait till Jan/Feb because we should be able to rescue some poor thing that was supposed to be the greatest christmas gift ever. And he will be for us, just a bit late!

Mom101 said...

You're good people, T.

BOSSY said...

Amen, sister girlfriend. You tell it like it is. Fer christsake. Happy Merry!

mo-wo said...

Merry Holidays to the Chicky Family. And by the way do you know this book.

We actually have the scholastic video that has an excellent Neko Case sound track. If you have reviewed it before I don't remember. But generally I recommend the Scholastic Big Box of Story book Classics.. I believe I got mine the christmas after I acquired a second kid.

Lot of love to you guys from the 'wos.

Creative-Type Dad said...

If somebody wants a puppy under a tree, I think a stuffed animals is a much better choice.

Hope you had a great Christmas