Getting a Dog for Christmas: Don’t Unless You’re Certain!

Christmas present puppy

Many people want to get a puppy for Christmas. They are wonderful companions, but they are NOT, repeat, NOT a good toy for Christmas!

You have all seen the photos and videos every year of the (usually) young child getting a wiggling bundle of puppy for Christmas. It’s adorable and everyone gets a tear in their eye. They just know that there’s going to be a happy ending for everyone.

Never a Surprise

Dog with Christmas TreeThe reality is quite different. Shelters are overwhelmed in the spring because of people surrendering their puppies because they cannot handle the puppies’ habits of urinating and defecating in the house, chewing on everything in sight, and needing to be fed and walked all the time! Oh my! Who would have thought that it would be like this?!

Because a puppy is going to need a lot of time and training to be a good canine citizen, a gift of a puppy at the holidays should never ever be a surprise. Everyone in the family should agree that adding a puppy member to the family is something that everyone wants. Then they should plan, and plan some more for the arrival of the new member.

The first thing you should do with your new puppy is to find a good veterinarian and have your new friend examined from head to tail, and ensure that your pup has received all her shots. If your puppy is old enough, you should then schedule when you will have your puppy spayed or neutered.

Pure Bred or Rescue

This is a decision that is up to each person, but there are people who will only get a purebred dog. Still there are many, many wonderful dogs available in a shelter. You can go in the spring when others are surrendering their Christmas present puppies and find a pup in need of a furrever home. You can be a hero to that dog!


Before you even get your new puppy home, you should schedule him for a new puppy class. Your local shelter is an excellent place to start. This class is more for the human handling the puppy than for the puppy.

Dog with ornamentsIf there are other family members who will be sharing the care, you may consider engaging the services of a private trainer, or see if the class can be attended by others in the family.

It is important that the primary caregiver maintains the lessons at home and spends time each day refreshing the training commands for the new puppy. The most important commands are SIT, STAY, DOWN, and RECALL.

The SIT command is obvious. It requires the dog to sit when you command. This helps your dog refrain from jumping on you or other people.

The STAY command is used when you want your dog to remain in a location and not enter another location. This can be used to keep your dog out of the dining room, for example.

The DOWN command is helpful for calming your dog down when she is excited. It is usually executed after a SIT command to calm down a dog who is in a highly excited state and allows the dog to get herself under control.

The RECALL command is necessary when you are outside with your dog and you need your dog to return to you. One use of this command is to keep your dog from running into a busy street with a lot of traffic.

Training allows you to establish boundaries for your dog within your home. You may allow your dog to have the run of your house, or you may block of parts of your house. Training allows you to do this in a positive way with your new dog.


Some basic accessories that your new dog will need are:

  • Feeding dish and water bowl. These need to be sized for your dog. If your dog has a tendency to wolf down his food, you may want to get a slow feeder bowl to keep your dog from experiencing the problems associated with eating too quickly. These can include choking, vomiting, and bloat. Bloat is when your dog’s stomach fills with gas and air; and gastric dilatation volvulus is where the bloated stomach twists pinching off the blood supply. This condition requires immediate treatment by a veterinarian.
  • Harness and leash. I use a harness instead of a collar so that my dog does not experience choking when we go for a walk. A harness is good if your dog pulls on her leash, but if your dog is a strong puller, you can find special harnesses that help to check this condition. As for the leash, there are regular leashes and leashes that are retractable. Rely on Sweater Dogyour trainer to let you know what the best on is for your situation.
  • Coat or sweater. If you live in a cold weather area, your dog may require a coat or sweater. Yes, dogs have fur coats, but they can get cold, also. I have chihuahuas who wear nice sweatshirts in the winter when they go for walks.
  • Toys. If you have a puppy, he will be teething! This means that he will need something to chew on and on and on. Start with a couple of good chew toys. Your dog may or may not like squeakers. My chihuahuas love squeakers in toys. My daughter’s huskies destroy squeaky toys in a day. Try out different toys for your dog. I recommend avoiding toys with stuffing. One of my chihuahuas loves his toys and is very careful with them, but will still eventually de-stuff a toy. Dogs WalkingCheck out some good toys here.

Care Schedule

Besides following the veterinary care schedule provided by your veterinarian, you will need to establish a daily care schedule within your family to establish who is responsible for feeding and watering the puppy. Who is responsible for walking the dog and when? If you are house-training your puppy, you need to have a good schedule for walking the dog to teach potty habits as well as who is going to clean up the used puppy pads, and who will clean up after the puppy.

You can set up a calendar to establish the basic housekeeping tasks of feeding and walking, but the most important thing that everyone in the family needs to establish is the time to interact and work with your puppy, or even just to snuggle. Puppies and dogs need to interact with everyone in the family. Puppies need to be socialized with people outside the family as well.

Life-long Commitment

Puppies are a wonderful Christmas gift if you take the time to prepare everyone in the family for it. Puppies are not toys, they have a life span of 10 – 13 years. My chihuahuas have the longest life span at 20 years. This is how long that Christmas gift will last. That puppy will treat you as her family and is expecting you to treat her the same way. Please don’t disappoint your puppy this Christmas!

Dog and Christmas lights


I am crazy about dogs and want to make them happy and healthy.


  1. Animals in general are a huge commitment and I applaud this article and the thinking behind it. I volunteer at a Chicago shelter on a weekly basis and we’ve instituted rules that the entire family must be present in order for an adoption to take place. This helps stop people from simply adopting cats and dogs they haven’t truly thought through or adopting cats and dogs as a present for someone that has no interest in the pet at all!

    I’m still always surprised when I hear about someone getting their boyfriend or girlfriend a pet for a birthday or holiday without first discussing it with them. Happy Birthday, here’s a 10+ year commitment! Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking!

    • Craig,

      I have heard the same thing, that’s why I wrote the article.  I just hate hearing about dogs and cats being adopted, ignored, and surrendered because someone didn’t think the whole thing through.  Thank you for your volunteer work.  Merry Christmas!


  2. Hello Ellen,

    Your article is very timely and I hope a lot of people listen to your message.

    Having a puppy in the family, is like having a new born baby…

    They are as tiring and demanding…

    And as loving!

    Having had dogs most of my life they do indeed take up an incredible amount of time.

    And in the same way a new born baby can be expensive, so can a dog.

    I think the concept of buying a dog for a gift and then taking it to a shelter because it’s too much is an appalling idea(try doing that with a baby!)

    It is good that you post this article now, just as the gifting begins and I hope that people stop and take a moment to think before getting a dog.

    This is an article that needs to be shared a lot right now.

    Excellent job!


    • Tim,

      I wanted to get this out before Christmas to perhaps protect some dogs or cats from this.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Merry Christmas!


  3. Thanks Ellen,

    Taking care of your dogs goes way more than keeping them at home, it entails adequate care , readiness and ability to spend on them when the need arises like taking them for proper medical attenton, buying them feeding trays and water fountain to ensure they have access to clean water regularly.

    Vacuum cleaners comes in handy to ensure your house is always clean of their droppings.

    As you have rightly said show them love and get them toys.

    • Kabirat,

      Thank you for your comments.  If properly trained, dogs won’t leave droppings around the house unless they’re sick.

      Merry Christmas!


  4. Hi Ellen,

    Very good point that you brought up. I hope this post reaches to many people as we can. I remembered being a child and watched all those Christmas movies and the family got a dog and they are so happy. Think about that Disney Animation Lady and the Tramp! It brings joy to your heart when you see that but the reality is always different. It breaks my heart that eventually these puppies get to put down if the shelter cannot find home for them. One of my good friend just adopted a pup with poodle and Maltese mixed, her name is Bambi and she is adorable. One day if I have space, I live in a tiny apartment in NYC, I would love to adopt a dog. We all can just save those poor souls in this Christmas if we are ready as well! 

    Good read, Happy Holidays

    • Nuttanee,

      I love Lady and the Tramp!  It’s one of my favorite Disney flicks.  There are small dogs such as chihuahuas or yorkies who would work in a small apartment.  If that is not an option, you can volunteer at your local shelter.

      Merry Christmas!


  5. I couldn’t agree with you more! In my opinion, having a pet is akin to having another child and it is certainly not a responsibility to be taken lightly. I have a soft spot in my heart for animals. I love dogs. I love children too…but I don’t want anymore. Lol, the plain truth is that I recognize that, at this point in my life, my priorities just don’t allow for a pet in my life. I made the commitment that I would never own another pet until I had the time freedom and resources to give it the love and attention that it deserves. I still like to love on other people’s pets, lol, I just know it would be irresponsible to try to take one on full time.

    • Sherman,

      You sound like a very responsible pet owner.  I hope you get the time soon to take on a pet of your own.

      Merry Christmas!


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