With Christmas now behind us, how many pets bought as Christmas presents will stay with their new owners? Sadly, as Helen Edwards discovers, rescues and breeders are still seeing the same problems time and time again with pet owners not understanding how much work is required when owning a pet, particularly a young exuberant puppy.
By Helen Edwards
Despite dog charities doing their best to educate people that Christmas isn’t the best time of year to get a puppy (and certainly not to give one as a surprise present), each year there are still people who think it’s a great idea. Little thought seems to have gone into what happens after Christmas.
When everything’s calmed down, when the tree’s been packed away, what of life with a puppy then? Did the recipient really want one? Were they ready for one? Can they afford the upkeep? Parents who bought a puppy for their kids will likely discover that they’ll be the ones cleaning up after it, not the kids.
Dog breeder Emma Gibbons had a litter of Shih Tzu puppies available last December. A female puppy which was picked up on 15th December was returned to her twelve days later due to the pressure of Christmas. ‘The woman’s children were fighting over the puppy,’ says Emma, ‘and trying to train the puppy at the same time proved too much – the woman couldn’t cope.’ Thankfully she did the responsible thing by contacting Emma, and the puppy has since found her forever home.
Unlike novelty jumpers or that strange looking vase your aunt bought you for Christmas, dogs have feelings. Puppies will begin to get used to their new home and to bond with their family, yet all of a sudden will be uprooted, not having a clue what’s going on; is that fair?
In December 2017, a family who had been on Emma’s waiting list for well over a year finally took home their puppy, Ava. They kept Ava over the festive period – they kept her until well in the New Year, but the woman found the toilet training hard going and eventually decided to rehome Ava. She didn’t get back in touch with Emma, who only found out after the event.
The new owner discovered that her dog didn’t get on with Ava and so took her back to the original owner. Despite Emma begging for the puppy to be returned to her, Ava was rehomed for a second time. Emma wasn’t given any contact details and can only hope that Ava is loved and happy wherever she is.
Puppies are hard work whatever time of year you get one, but Christmas is generally a stressful period of time, so the odds are that a new puppy in the house will be the tipping point.
If you’ve never had a puppy before and you’re thinking of getting one around Christmas, have you thought it through? Your routine is likely to be different. Although puppies will need socialising, they do need a bit of time to settle down. If you’re having people round did you know that you’ll need to provide a quiet spot for your puppy to have some time out? Young children will need to be watched so that they don’t pester the puppy too much – puppies need lots of sleep. And if you have plans to go out, are you taking your puppy with you or are you leaving him behind? Does he travel well? Will he be welcome at your friend’s house? He can’t be left on his own for long, so who’s going to stay at home with him?
If you work, have you factored in enough time to get your puppy used to his new home before you return to work after Christmas? Who will look after pup then? Have you begun getting him used to being alone for short periods of time?
Maybe you tend to have a quiet Christmas, and your routine doesn’t change all that much, so you think you can cope with a puppy. A word of caution; my husband and I got our puppy in late January 2016 and after an overwhelming couple of weeks with our new puppy, we both said we were glad we didn’t get him just before Christmas. If we had, Christmas would have been cancelled! So think about it from that perspective too.
Over the years Emma has had other puppies returned to her, one after just 24 hours because the puppy did a wee on the owner’s rug in the living room, and another because he cried during the night.
If you’ve never had a puppy before you need to know this: Puppies will wee and poo around your house until they get toilet trained. The chances are they will also be sick and have diarrhoea (as will an adult dog from time to time). And yes, puppies are going to cry at night after being separated from their mother and siblings. The crying will stop – eventually, but you’ve got to be prepared for some sleepless nights during the early days.
Puppies are exhausting. They’re gorgeous, there’s no disputing that, but they will have you standing out in the cold and damp for hours on end; they will chew everything they can get hold of; bite; want to play when all you want to do is sleep. Are you prepared to deal with all of that over Christmas, and not only for Christmas, but for all those weeks until your puppy is toilet-trained, when his adult teeth come through, and he learns not to bite? Even an adult dog needs a lot of attention. It’s not like having a hamster – a dog needs exercise and mental stimulation every single day (oh, and lots and lots of love).
You’ve got to be 100% certain of your decision to get a puppy, because it’s a lifetime commitment. Do your research. Look at all the different breeds; which breed would suit your lifestyle? Look at the costs involved. Talk to other dog owners. If you can, borrow a dog from a friend for the day in order to get a taste of what life with a dog is really like. Know that getting a puppy can trigger anxiety or make you feel depressed. Many people, myself included, have suffered from what I call the puppy blues. The more prepared you are the better, and then no matter what time of year you get your puppy, he won’t end up another statistic.
About the author
Helen Edwards, Author of All About Archie: Bringing Up A Puppy
A version of this article originally appeared on the Spoiled Hounds website: www.spoiledhounds.com/puppy-for-christmas-present/