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

Here's what to know before you bring home a puppy for Christmas

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. 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 that accompany them aren’t as cute. Many families aren’t prepared for the effort and expense that raising a dog requires, 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 getting a dog can be a rewarding and joyful experience, it also requires work, patience, and responsibility. Is your family ready to take this on?

According to the shelter staff at the Marion County Humane Society in West Virginia, the end of January tends to see a rise in shelter admissions. 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 large 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, there are people who 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 may 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.

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

What to consider before getting a puppy for Christmas

It’s important to identify your expectations before bringing a furry friend home for the holidays. 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 need to make sure your family can provide all of 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 need to be prepped with patience and an open mind. No two dogs are the same, even within one 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, too!

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

Remember, pets are family

Although some Christmas puppies end up being 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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