It’s that special time of year where the challenge of coming up with that one ‘special’ gift for the whole family (or a family member) presents itself. And all too often, the “best gift ever” is to buy or adopt a new puppy. If that idea enters your mind, take a minute to read this, and I hope you’ll reconsider your plan.
First of all, puppies make lousy gifts. There are so many factors that go into choosing the right dog for yourself (size, breed, temperament, gender, energy level, dominance, etc) that it’s darn near impossible to choose the right dog for someone else. All too often, I’ll try to train a dog for a family member only to discover that the personality of the dog overwhelms the family member it was gifted to. It’s really frustrating to learn that a puppy was given to a child who is not going to be in a position of leadership over the puppy, creating another training challenge. Unfortunately, unlike an ugly tie or ill-fitting skinny jeans, you can’t simply return a puppy to the store. You are stuck with it.
Another reason to rethink the puppy as a Christmas gift is because of the holiday itself. The weeks leading up to, and following, Christmas are some of the most chaotic weeks of the year. With family members coming and going, decorations going up and down all around the house, and a host of endless Christmas events the family tries to attend, bringing a puppy into the home during all of this hustle and bustle is a recipe for disaster! Not only is the puppy NOT going to receive the disciplined-attention and structure it needs to create a well-mannered dog, it will likely resort to crazy, chaotic behaviors triggered from all of the inconsistent actions of it’s new owners. This is far from the ideal way to start a relationship with your new family member.
Along with the emotional chaos that comes from surviving the holidays is also the physical aspects of it. I’m talking about the tree, the ornaments, the hundreds of little twinkle lights, the nicely-wrapped gifts stashed under the tree, the cookies and confectioneries, and so on. A typical home during the Christmas holiday is a proverbial Candyland for a young puppy, with more temptation than can be imagined. Trying to spend quality time with a puppy amid the myriad of temptations is comical at best, and deadly at worst. Again, just trying to manage an adventurous puppy in this environment is a big enough challenge, let alone trying to juggle all of the other demands that come with the season.
Ideally, you’ll want to bring your new puppy home to a quiet, structured environment, where you can focus on giving your new family member all of the right information in a consistent manner, WITHOUT a ton crazy distractions. Remember that your puppy is learning every single second of the day, and you can’t expect it to understand that the chaotic, stressful holiday environment is short term. It will mimic the nature of it’s environment, and it’s behavior will suffer because of it!
So do yourself a favor this holiday season by holding off on buying that new puppy. Wait until all of the chaos is over, where you can decide as a family if adding a 4-legged buddy is a smart idea, then deciding which dog will suit your family’s lifestyle. Once you’ve answered those questions, you can take your time to look around at all of the dogs up for adoption to see if your ideal pup is already out there. Once you find it, you can then take your time to get to know it before jumping into something permanent.
And the last thing you would ever want to do is bring home TWO puppies for Christmas!!! But that’s an entirely other topic…
Merry Christmas, Everyone!