Why you shouldn't get one.
By Jon Katz
Christmas morning. Jimmy and Susie rush
down the stairs in their pj's and shriek with delight.
Santa has finally yielded to their incessant requests:
A sweet, wriggling puppy is waiting for them beneath
the tree, adorable in his big red bow. It's love at
first sight. The puppy slurps the kids' faces then curls
up on their laps. The children beam. The camcorder rolls.
could be a mess.
if your kids don't pester you all year for a dog, which
they probably did, TV ad campaigns and treacly movies
will make sure you can picture how lovely it would be
to bring a puppy home for the holidays. Don't succumb.
is a Christmas dog a mistake?
because no animal should be a surprise. The arrival
of a dog changes a household considerably—for
years. Someone has to take responsibility for their
daily needs—feeding, exercise, health care, grooming.
The decision should be thought about, talked about,
negotiated. A new dog, not necessarily a puppy, either,
should be the result of a process, not an impulse.
can be unreliable; kids change. The puppy melts their
hearts for a few days or weeks. But then it needs to
be walked every day (in the rain). It needs careful
attention to its feeding and eliminating if it's going
to be housebroken effectively. It needs to be taught
not to jump on Grandma. The kids oohing and aahing under
the tree will soon move on to IMing and texting their
friends. Few children outside of 4-H programs and Future
Farmers of America want to be tied down to conscientious
animal care, and their parents are often no more enthusiastic.
Reality will soon supersede the Christmas morning fantasy.
bigger problem with the Christmas pup is that good dogs
are usually unavailable for holiday giving. Hardly any
ethical dog provider will support the idea of a dog
as a surprise present. Good breeders have carefully
constructed breeding programs that are rarely tied to
the idea of seasonal gifts, unless arrangements have
been made with people they know well far in advance.
Breeders don't want their dogs to end up in households
where nobody understands the work involved in raising
them. Experienced rescue group volunteers and shelter
workers hate the whole idea of the Christmas dog because
they know many of those dogs will be coming back to
dogs that are readily available at Christmas are the
kind you probably don't want. Puppy mills grind out
thousands of puppies to meet holiday demand. They're
the dogs you find in pet stores and malls—cute
as puppies but often inbred, poorly socialized, and
more prone to genetic health problems like allergies
or bad hips or to behavioral difficulties like compulsive
barking or chewing.
Christmas, get the kid an Xbox 360, or an iPod. They'll
love it and use it. You don't have to clean up after
it, and if they lose interest, you won't have to walk
it in the middle of a snowstorm.
you and your family really want a dog, choose it carefully,
and take your time. Get one from a reputable breeder,
an experienced rescue group, or an established animal
shelter. Ask lots of questions about the dog; expect
the breeder or staff to ask you a lot, too. If they
don't, be wary. A store clerk or amateur breeder who
simply hands you a dog in exchange for your credit card
is not your friend. Experienced dog people know the
dogs they sell and the people they are selling them
to. And don't worry if the dog comes to you in April
instead of on Christmas morning. It will be just as
adorable without the tree and the bow.
Katz is the author of Katz
on Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Choosing, Training,
and Living with Dogs. He can be reached at email@example.com.
has been reprinted on norcalbeagles.com by permission