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Is getting a puppy for Christmas a good idea? You can’t return them like an ugly sweater

Here's what to know before you bring a puppy home this holiday

Woman snuggling Samoyed puppy in front of the Christmas tree
Alena Gan / Shutterstock

Of all the viral holiday videos to make their way around the internet, there’s nothing quite as heartwarming (and adorable) as seeing a new puppy jump out of a box on Christmas morning. It’s easy to see why many families feel inspired to get this surprise present for their loved ones and show up with a new furry friend during the holidays!

Getting a puppy for Christmas can seem like a special, even life-changing gift, but the cleaning and work accompanying them aren’t as cute. Many families — especially kids — aren’t prepared for the effort and expense of raising a dog, which unfortunately leads to pets being dropped off at shelters not long after the holidays.

If you’re considering gifting a puppy to your family this Christmas, make sure you do the research and consider the obligations that pet parenthood entails. Here’s what to know.

A chocolate lab puppy sits patiently in front of a Christmas tree
Alina / Adobe Stock

Why getting a puppy for Christmas isn’t always smart

Although raising a dog can be a rewarding and joyful experience, it also requires work, patience, and responsibility. Is your family ready to take this on? Are you willing to pick up the slack if they prove that they’re not?

According to the shelter staff at the Marion County Humane Society in West Virginia, shelter admissions tend to increase every year at the end of January. Unfortunately, many of these pets are Christmas gifts that families weren’t ready to care for.

“People that got a new puppy or a new kitten, and they expect their young child to take care of them,” one shelter tech told WDTV. “Of course, if the kid doesn’t do it, the parent doesn’t want to take care of them, either.”

A lack of research is also a huge factor in unsuccessful pet adoptions. Not all dog breeds will do well in all homes, so consulting an expert or doing some reading is vital before taking action. And remember — a cute, tiny puppy can still grow into a huge, rambunctious dog (depending on their breed), so you’ll need to be prepared.

It’s also important to consider where you’re adopting your new pup from because not all breeders are reliable. As awful as it is to acknowledge, some people sell sick and injured dogs for a quick buck. Needless to say, a dog with health concerns can be as loving of a companion as any other — after treatment, of course — but you have a right to be informed about the condition of your new friend, including information about the puppy’s parents.

Shelters can help you get to know your pup a bit before bringing him home, but rescued dogs will still need some extra time to adjust to their surroundings. The honeymoon phase may not be as happy-go-lucky as you expect, especially if there has been any past trauma for your pup. If this is the case, don’t be upset if your new dog isn’t matching the holly jolly spirit!

A Jack Russell Terrier wearing a Santa hat sits in a Christmas present in front of a tree
Evgenia Tiplyashina / Adobe Stock

What to consider before getting a puppy for Christmas

Identifying your expectations before bringing a furry friend home for the holidays is important. Who will feed the dog, and when? Who will walk them and clean up accidents? Can your partner, parents, or children take on these responsibilities? Just as importantly — can you?

Every pet deserves access to reliable healthcare, food, water, shelter, exercise, and love, so you must ensure your family can provide all these resources. This may include multiple mealtimes and walks per day, frequent restocking of food and supplies, and lots of training. It can be difficult to keep up if there’s no one at home all day or if the pet’s primary caregiver is a younger child, so this is certainly something to think through.

Do your research into the average price of vet visits, dog food, and any other costs of dog ownership to ensure your pet never has to go without care. It’s also important to budget for a pet sitter, kennel service, groomer, and any other extra pet necessities. They can add up to more than you think!

Most importantly, you and your family must be prepared with patience and an open mind. No two dogs are the same, even within the same breed, so it’s impossible to predict exactly what your new fur baby will behave like. It will take some time to get to know one another, no matter what age your pup is!

A dog and cat cuddle under a blanket together in front of a Christmas tree and presents
New Africa / Shutterstock

There are many alternatives to a puppy Christmas present, and they require way less work

Instead of purchasing or adopting a new four-legged friend as a Yuletide surprise, you can use the holiday season to help get your family used to the idea of having a pet around. To keep the element of surprise, you can announce to your family that you’re ready to get a puppy on Christmas morning. This way, they can have the excitement while still being involved with the entire process.

For kids who still need some practice before taking care of a dog, gifting a stuffed animal can be a great way to go. The plushie will symbolize the responsibilities and love to come while still providing the comfort and joy that animals give. Older kids may even be ready to take care of a pet with fewer needs, such as a pair of goldfish, though please do your research to ensure you can give any animal a happy life.

If you’ve concluded that you’re not ready to add four more paws to the family, animal lovers might appreciate a donation to a local animal shelter. You can even go shopping for dog toys, treats, blankets, and anything else shelter pets could use. A shelter dog’s Christmas gift could change so much for them!

Although some Christmas puppies end up surrendered to the shelter, many also end up as loving (and loved) lifelong companions. These success stories are often filled with patient and knowledgeable dog owners, though even the best of pet parents encounter a few bumps in the road — that’s normal! Once you think through all these necessities, you’ll likely have a pretty good sense of whether getting a puppy for Christmas will be a smart idea for your home.

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Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
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