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Top 3 Reasons Not to Get a Puppy for Xmas

One of the downsides of posting puppy spam on Facebook and Instagram at this time of year is that the “Christmas puppy” people are triggered and suddenly we are getting 3 enquiries a week from people who want to know if they can pick up a puppy late on Christmas Eve, so the kids think Santa brought them a puppy.

Because we’re basically nice people and try to be polite, we usually just say “sorry, the pups will only be 4 weeks old at Christmas, but if you’d like to go to our website and fill out our form you can apply to go on our waiting list, and we might have a pup for you in a year or two”.

We refrain from using rude words, suggesting their village called and wants their idiot back or giving them a lecture about responsibility and dog ownership. Why? Because it wouldn’t make a difference and we are busy - we have puppies to care for.

But if we thought they would listen, here is what we would really like to tell people who contact us asking for a puppy for Christmas.

Why is a Christmas puppy a bad idea?

First, because no pet should be a surprise to anyone. The arrival of a new pet into a family changes everything. For years to come. And those changes need to be thought about BEFORE the animal arrives. All new pets should be the result of a process, not an impulse, be they goldfish, Chihuahua or pony.

Who is going to be responsible for the puppy’s needs like feeding, exercise, health care and grooming, are decisions that need to be talked about, negotiated with the whole family and agreed upon long before the arrival of an innocent life totally reliant on you and your family for their very survival.

The cost of keeping the dog needs to be considered. Have you thought about health insurance? In a breed like Chihuahuas, where luxating patellas are common - and you bought the first dog you saw that was ready for a Christmas delivery so you didn’t even think to ask about health testing - can you afford the $4000 (per knee) surgery to fix it?

What if the pup has an accident? What if it jumps out of the arms of an excited child trying to smother their tiny new Chihuahua puppy with loving kisses and cuddles and breaks a leg? On a public holiday? Have you got the $5000 that’s going to cost at the After Hours Vet?

What if you’re buying the dog for your 13-year-old who’s always wanted a Chihuahua and you want nothing more than to give your princess everything she wants?

Fine. By all means. Indulge Princess and her every whim. She may even remember to feed the dog and keep the water bowl full. But this pup will live for 15-18 years. When Princess heads off to university in five years’ time, the dog – with two-thirds of its life left to live – can’t go with her. Who takes care of it then? What if Princess grows up and meets someone who doesn’t like dogs? What of the love of her life decides they’re moving to another country and she just has to follow them?

Don’t kid yourself. You’re not getting this dog for the kids. This will be your dog and you will be stuck with it for almost as long as a human child.

But we want to teach the kids about responsibility

Fine. Get them a house plant. And when it withers and dies because they forgot to water it, you can point out the error of their irresponsible ways and the consequences of their negligence and nobody needs to suffer.

Are you going to do the same with a puppy? A living, feeling creature that requires the same level of care and attention as a toddler?

Will you wait until the poor thing is emaciated and starving because the kids forgot to feed it so they can learn that important life lesson?

Will you wait until the puppy is dehydrated to the point of needing hospitalisation because the kids didn’t remember to fill the water bowl, just so you can point out what happens if they neglect their chores?

Of course not. You’re going to step in and feed the dog, fill up its water bowl and do all the other tasks the kids were meant to do because you’re not a psychopath.

You will, however, have taught your kids a valuable lesson. Trouble is, the lesson isn’t responsibility.

They lesson they will have learned is “if I drop the ball, someone else will pick up the slack”.

Unethical puppy farmers are the only ones who breed for “seasonal” holidays

We can pretty much guarantee no ethical breeder supports the idea of a dog as surprise for any reason.

Good breeders have carefully thought-out, generations-long breeding programs that are in no way tied to seasonal gift-giving. Ethical breeders don’t want their dogs with people who don’t understand the work involved in caring for them and they’ll not sell you a puppy - at all - if they think you’re going to be those people.

Oh, and don’t ever make the mistake of asking a Rescue organisation what they think of idea of Christmas puppy gifting because they know how many of those dogs will be coming back to them in the new year. You may get to hear those rude words we try so hard not to use. Also, your village really will be looking for their missing idiot.

The dogs available at Christmas on TradeMe and other online sites are either scams or the kind you probably don’t want, anyway. Puppy farmers are the only ones who breed puppies to meet holiday demand. They’re like the dogs you find in pet stores: cute as puppies but often inbred, poorly socialized, and more prone to genetic health problems like allergies, luxating patellas or behavioural difficulties like compulsive barking or chewing and/or fear aggression from not being socialised outside of the breeder’s – ahem - “loving home”.

So, get your kids an Xbox or a Playstation if you must. It costs less. They’ll not grow tired of it. You won’t have to clean up after it, and if they do lose interest, you won’t have to stand out in the rain in the dark, waiting for it to pee and poop so you can go to bed.

If you and your family really want a Chihuahua, choose carefully, and take your time. Get one from a reputable breeder or the NZCR. Ask lots of questions about the dog, its health, the health of the parents, the lines it comes from, its temperament and how it’s been socialised. Expect the breeder or the rescue to ask you a lot of questions, too, and to sign a contract. If they don’t offer that, run away. Fast.

A back-yard breeder who simply hands you a dog in exchange for cash is not your friend.

Experienced breeders know the dogs they breed and the people they are selling them to, and you will always be able to ask them for advice throughout the dog’s life. They will also have a rehoming guarantee so you know the dog will have a place to go, if circumstances change and you - or Princess - can no longer care for the dog.

So what if the dog comes to you in April instead of Christmas? It will be just as adorable without the bow and the wrapping paper.

Besides, why should Santa get all the credit, when you are the one who has ponied up thousands of $$$$ for something you’re going to end up looking after anyway?


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