Giving Pets as Christmas Gifts – Not a Good Idea!

I have been a dog lover for almost my whole life. It began for me at the age of eight. Walking to and from grade school I’d stop to visit Alfie, a full blood Alaskan Husky. Alfie was a very well cared for “outside” dog that lived at the corner house at the end of our street. He loved to play with all of the neighborhood kids.

There were a total of 7 dogs in my neighborhood including a little Sheltie named King. He was the coolest ‘lil guy alive, and his owner (my best friend) and I spent a lot of time with him.

They were all great fun, but the dog that got me hooked for life was a Dalmatian mix that I met one summer while our family was on vacation. His name was Timmy. I was eleven!

Timmy was the reason I wanted to have my very own dog. I must have pestered my parents every day, forever, to get me a dog. But I never got one. My parents didn’t want a dog because they knew that THEY, not me, would end up taking care of it. And if that were the case, it would have been at the pound in a short time. It wasn’t until later in my life that I realized they were right. I wasn’t a very responsible kid.

In the past several years I have become pretty active in the dog community. I’ve spoken to several shelters and rescue groups about the number of pets turned in after the holidays. Some of the numbers are frightening. Although shelters and rescues are in the business of finding homes for homeless pets, they say that they are much more careful around Christmas time to make sure that prospective adopters are not getting pets just as a Christmas gift.

The reason is, that when given as a Christmas gift, they can sometimes be neglected or ignored in the months afterward. Kids “like me when I was younger” often make promises to care and feed a new puppy or dog, so mom and dad give in. But, after just a few months, when the “new” has worn off, the promises fade just as quickly. The result: The new pet finds itself at a shelter hoping to get a new home.

In other cases, Christmas pets are often an impulse purchase. When purchased in the spirit the season, the complete picture of pet ownership is often overlooked or not even considered. When this happens it is the pet who suffers. For this reason, it is extremely important that all facets of pet adoption are considered first.

The questions that must be asked include:

–          How much time can I put into raising and training our new family member?

–          Will the dog fit into our family’s lifestyle?

–          Can we afford to provide all of the essentials including medical & emergency care?

–          Who will be in charge of feeding, walking and training?

–          Are you willing to make a 15 Year commitment to care for a dog?

To avoid an emotional or impulse purchase, I’d suggest that you hold off until after the Holiday season to adopt a family pet. It would be much better to get that new pet at a less emotionally charged time of the year. It will also allow you to make a more informed decision and it will allow the family more time to consider which pet will be the best fit.

If you’re absolutely set on getting your family a pet for a Christmas gift there are a few better options. Instead of bring a new pet home for Christmas Day:

–          Purchase the equipment you will need and give it as the Christmas gift. Things like a leash, collar, food and water bowls and maybe a good training book.

–          You can also get gift certificates from your veterinarian, a trainer or a doggie daycare center.

–          You can also purchase a good book or video on the topic of how to select the right dog for your family’s lifestyle.

Wrap these items up and put them under the Christmas tree. As the family unwraps these items they will piece the “puzzle” together. Then, after the holiday season is over your family will have taken the time to discuss and select the right breed, age, and energy level to fit your family. This will also increase the family’s mutual commitment to the well being of your newest family member. It will be a family project, not a family issue.

Taking an extra few weeks will not decrease the enjoyment of your new dog! It will actually increase it! It will be a better start for both you and the dog.

When introduced into the family correctly, a pet can be a very rewarding part of family life. A pet can teach children responsibility and teach them how to share their feelings. It has been proven that children with pets are overall much happier. People who own pets live longer, have less stress, and have fewer heart attacks. Most pet owners say their pets make them smile more too.

Remember: A dog is not just a gift. It’s a life. It’s not just for a season. It’s a companion for life. Pet ownership is a long-term commitment that must be made between you and the dog. It’s nothing to take lightly!

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