Please Don't Get Your Kid A Puppy for Christmas
with Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie of PathandPaw, Training Advocate

Christmas is just around the corner, which seems insane. That means that families all over are considering the ultimate gift - the gift that guarantees squeals of joy, tears, and social media worthy smiles... a puppy. This also means that a few months from now, shelters all over will be receiving under-socialized and untrained teenage dogs in hordes.


If your family has been planning on getting a puppy for some time and you, as an adult, are prepared for the work of raising a well-adjusted four legged family member - then by all means, head to the shelter, (or contact a reputable breeder) and pick out that floppy eared friend. But if you are getting this puppy on a whim, specifically for a child to care for, or even begrudgingly ("fine, we'll get a puppy, but you have to clean up after it!") then please, please, please reconsider.


Years ago, I had a client give me a $1500 AKC papered purebred White Shepherd. Why? Because he had bought the puppy for his 10 year old son. His son was to care for the pup entirely. By the time they got to me, the dog was already over 60 lbs at only 6 months old, was easily spooked, and had no leash manners. He became over-aroused easily, struggled with potty training, couldn't keep his cool around other dogs, and was mostly banished to the backyard because of his unruliness. The man expected his 10 year old son to provide sufficient exercise and training for a dog that was no longer safe for him to handle. Ultimately, he meant well. His intention was not to buy an animal and abandon it, but rather to give his son an experience he thought he wanted and was ready for. He was not interested in putting the time and energy into this dog's needs, and his son was not able to. So, he gave the pup to me (and I found him a home - another story for another day).


Living with animals can be a great lesson in responsibility, empathy, communication, and so much more for children. But children are simply not capable of fully caring for a small, fragile life. Did you know that a puppy's socialization window closes around 16 weeks? That gives most puppy-adopters a fleeting 8 week window to teach the pup that the world is a safe place. People are cool, other animals are safe, many ground textures are safe for walking, equipment like leashes and harnesses and seat belts aren't deathtraps. Crates are safe, cars are safe, things with wheels like bikes and skateboards aren't murder devices. Vacuuming is normal and okay, people sometimes move differently, have hair on their faces, cover their eyes... And on and on and on! It's a lot. It's too much!


So if YOU want a family dog, and you are ready to manage, train, and care for it - then by all means - bring home holiday hound. But please, do not get a living animal for your child as a holiday gift. Shelter workers around the world thank you for thinking twice, and bringing home a plush stuffy instead!