Re-think the gift of a Christmas puppy: Why giving a pet as a gift can be a mistake

It’s that time of year when everyone is frantically preparing for a busy, festive holiday season and pondering what Christmas gifts to give children and family members. What could be more exciting and original than a cute little puppy, wrapped up in a big red bow? It doesn’t help matters if your children have spent months begging for that cute little puppy.

Getting a Christmas puppy most often ends up being a mistake. Here are some reasons why you should re-think giving a puppy as a Christmas gift:

  1. Puppies are not toys. Puppies are living, breathing, thinking little beings that require diligent care and management to ensure they grow into happy, well-behaved good citizen adult dogs. Adopting or purchasing a dog is a 10 or more year commitment that should never be taken lightly or done as a short term ‘exciting gift’ experience.
  2. Children are unreliable. Children have short attention spans. The new puppy may be fun for a short while, but the fun will wear off and the burden of daily care, exercise and attention will get tiresome for many children, leaving the parents responsible for the dog.
  3. Reputable breeders won’t sell a puppy around the holidays. They are so concerned about impulsive purchases and the welfare of their puppies that they won’t make Christmas sales. They want to ensure that their puppies go into homes that are well prepared and ready for the commitment. Adoption centers are also very cautious about adopting dogs as Christmas gifts, as they know that most gift dogs will be returned after the holidays are over.
  4. Overwhelming chaos for the new puppy. Christmas time is busy, loud and festive. Family gatherings are chaotic and intense. This is not an optimal environment for a young, sensitive puppy. It is important to recognize the safety/mental health implications for the puppy in this festive, chaotic environment. A puppy should be gradually introduced and acclimated to his new home environment, not thrust into a loud, bright Christmas environment. If the puppy has a negative experience, it could affect his confidence and coping ability for the rest of his life.
  5. Dogs should never be a ‘surprise!’ My uncle gave my grandmother a poodle puppy for Christmas many years ago. He thought she was lonely and would like the poodle for companionship. My grandmother never liked dogs and promptly made him return it to the breeder. That little poodle was lucky,; he was returned and found another home. Many other puppies and dogs are not so lucky. They end up in shelters where they are euthanized.
  6. Don’t support puppy mills. Puppy mills across the country gear up for their most lucrative time of year–the holiday season–by grinding thousands and thousands of puppies into pet stores and other adoption outlets. Please don’t support puppy mills or get caught in their trap. Puppy mills cannot endure if they can’t get people to purchase puppies.
  7. Being caught without all the proper equipment. Puppies require a lot of ‘equipment:’ food, toys, crate, leash, collar, grooming supplies, bowls, etc. It may seem great to give a puppy as a gift, but many people forget that the puppy needs equipment as well and they end up caught on the holidays without the necessary supplies to care for the new puppy.

If you and your family are really committed to getting a new puppy/dog, then do your homework, research breeds and speak to reputable breeders. Purchase all equipment beforehand and make sure the family is focused and ready to take care of the puppy without all of the holiday distractions. If you want to make it a surprise, wrap up a collar, leash and pet tags and put the present under the tree… instead of the live puppy.

Emily Scott, MA, GDMI, ACDBC is the Central Valley’s premier Certified Dog Behavior Specialist.  She has been training dogs professionally for over 24 years and has been featured on national radio and news publications.  She resides with her family in Clovis. Learn more about Emily at

By Emily Scott, canine behavior specialist