While many of us may have asked for one as a child, it was rarely the case that our parents would gift us with a puppy for Christmas. There are several reasons why giving somebody a pet may be a bad idea. Before getting a dog, there are many things to consider, which don’t change depending on the season. Before a dog is introduced to a household, many measures must be taken to prepare. A dog will change your life, and it is not a decision to be made lightly. Getting a puppy should be a well-thought-out decision, from deciding on the breed to ensuring you have all the right stuff to look after them properly.
Depending on the circumstances and whether or not the person who is gifted the puppy is ready for the commitment, a puppy has the potential to be a positively life-changing present. However, this is dependent on certain factors. We will dive into why dogs may not be the most responsible Christmas gifts. We will also discuss circumstances where a dog could be given as a gift.
‘A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas’
Over forty years ago, the Dog’s Trust released a campaign coining the now famous phrase, ‘A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas’. They initially launched the campaign to tackle the increasing number of dogs they received in their shelters. Dog’s Trust could link the influx of dogs to the recent festive season and the number of people who’d received them as gifts and found they could not properly take care of them. Unfortunately, the issue is still prevalent today. The Dog’s Trust still urges people to consider just what a life-changing responsibility owning a dog is and how it must be well considered.
The Surge In Dog Relinquishment Post-Christmas
In 2019 alone, Dog’s trust reported over 1,900 inquiries from people wishing to relinquish their dogs. They listed the most common reason for giving them up as not having the time to look after them. There are also reports of worse cases in which dogs are merely abandoned on the roadside and left to fend for themselves. They shared CCTV footage of a Jack Russel Terrier tied to a tree outside their Finglas Rehoming Centre by his owner. Unfortunately, the number of cases of animal relinquishment doesn’t seem to be reducing despite yearly campaigns.
Chief executive of the Dog’s Trust, Clarissa Baldwin OBE, first coined the famous phrase, now seen on posters, adverts, and car bumper stickers. She has also expressed how saddened she is by the slogan being still needed today, stating, “how disappointing it is that the message is still needed, but [...] you’ve got to educate the future generations of dog owners”. She further shares how the worst time of year for the Dog’s Trust is the first half term school holiday of the year, as people begin to realise how much of a responsibility owning a dog truly is. Those looking to go on holiday are shocked to learn the expensive costs of boarding kennels, causing them to regret their decision to get a dog.
The Issue With Gifting a Dog to a Child
Giving a child a dog for Christmas may seem like the ultimate present, especially if they have been asking for one. But there’s more to making your decision than simply making them happy. Not only are dogs a huge responsibility to take on, as we’ve already mentioned, but they’re a responsibility that cannot be expected to be taken on by a child. If you gift a dog to a child, you must be prepared to take on the responsibility and added cost. Taking them for multiple walks a day and paying for food, vet bills, and insurance is not something you can ask of your children. You must ensure you have the time and resources to do this yourself.
Another potential issue with giving dogs as gifts to children is their behaviour around children. You may want the gift to be a surprise, in which case, the dog and your child won’t have been properly introduced in a controlled environment. Depending on the dog's breed or temperament, they may get defensive, angry, or distressed when around small children. This is something that you should figure out before you decide to buy the dog to avoid you having to have them rehomed further down the line.
So, Should Dogs be Given as Christmas Gifts?
A puppy can be the most fantastic gift money can buy for dog lovers. They have the potential to be a best friend for the next ten to fifteen years when given appropriately. If you don’t already own a dog, it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing only the best side of them. The fun, love, warm cuddles, and affection that dogs show can soon draw people in and make them want a puppy of their own. However, if you're giving a puppy as a gift or have asked for one, you must make sure you’ve done your research.
Tips for Knowing If You’re Ready For a Dog:
According to data from The Kennel Club, 10% of dog owners bought their puppies on impulse, and 40% said they chose their puppy based solely on what it looked like and not how well they fit into their lifestyle. One of the best things you can do to establish whether or not you and your family are ready to take on the responsibility of a dog is to follow these steps:
- Work out how much spare time you have available each day that can be used for walks.
- Add up all the costs of owning a dog, including the purchase price, and see if you can realistically afford it.
- Look at how much space your home has available, whether it has a garden, etc., and what size dog would be appropriate.
- Do you have any existing pets? Will they be accepting of a new puppy in their home?
- Borrow a friend or family member’s dog for a week or so to get a feel of the good and bad sides of owning a dog and whether you can take it on.
Make Sure You Have Everything You Need
A new puppy comes not only with added responsibility but additional gear. Ensuring you have all the essential supplies to hand will make walks easy and enjoyable. Everything from collars, leads, and poop bags will be needed on every dog walk, and trust us… you will be doing a lot of walking if you decide to own your own dog.