‘Tis the Season to be Merry! By Niki Elliott
It is that time of year again where we all get into the spirit of giving. There are adverts everywhere encouraging us to buy this or that. Often those adverts contain the cutest pictures of puppies popping out of parcels wrapped with colourful Christmas paper, with a great big red ribbon attached. Christmas cards with lovely pictures of puppies on them. These pictures capture the spirit of Christmas so well. However there is something very wrong with this picture. Christmas puppies are often impulse purchases, and little thought is given to the necessary commitment that having a puppy in the home requires.
A puppy should never be given as a present nor should it be a surprise. It is not a toy and should not be thought of in the same category. There is a lot of preparation required to bring a puppy into a family. This little bundle of fur will not stay a cute little pup for long. It will grow up and have needs, demanding attention, feeding, training, exercising and grooming. A puppy given as a present along with all the other presents will not teach a child the most valuable lesson there is to be learnt from a living puppy – respect for life and how to care for another living being.
Christmas morning with all the excitement of opening presents, taking photos, loud music and people coming and going during the day is no place for a puppy. This could all be really frightening for the new addition. Puppies like children go through developmental stages and between the ages of 7 – 12 weeks of age pups hit the first fear impact period. This is always the time that breeders give out their pups to their new families. It is really important not to frighten or stress the puppy during this time as fears learnt during this time can have a permanent impact on the puppy’s personality in the future. If there is too much going on, the puppy will be quickly forgotten in the excitement and this could affect the puppy’s ability to bond with and to trust the humans in its new family.
Another concern is that reliable breeders will not have puppies ready to be homed at Christmas time. They know and understand the problems that go along with sending puppies into their new homes at this time of the year. So that leaves us with the puppy mill pups, the pet shop pups or the pups from disreputable breeders who actually churn out puppies to meet the holiday demand. These pups are really cute but are most often inbred and poorly socialized, with very compromised immune systems, which make them more prone to disease, skeletal problems and a whole host of behaviour problems. The Christmas Day that started off as a whole lot of fun with all the family can easily end up at the Emergency Vet costing a fortune because the new puppy needs a drip after hours!
If you really want to give a puppy at Christmas time, rather buy a lead and harness, a nice dog bed, a good book on raising a behaviourally healthy puppy, a gift certificate for puppy classes or even a subscription to Animal Talk. Wrap these up and put them under the Christmas tree. Then when life has settled down in January all the family can make an informed decision as to what breed they would like, which breeder to get the pup from and then actually selecting the right puppy from the litter for your home environment. It will be something that all the family can do together and it will be a far better start for the puppy. A good start for a puppy in it’s new home creates a better bond with the family and is more likely to prevent problems later on.
Rather give the kids a virtual pet or some video games or action figure warrior sets. They will love these and use them and when they get bored with them they can forget about them. You won’t have the responsibility of picking up the messes, taking it out in the middle of the night and walking it in the rain once the kids loose interest. A puppy arriving at your home when everyone is prepared will be just as adorable and you can always wrap it up in a big red bow!Niki Elliott is a Tellington TTouch Practitioner II. She is the founder of Thinking Pets School, runs puppy classes, gives Behaviour lectures and consultations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org