Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why Giving a Dog as a Christmas Present is a Bad Idea

Dogs are not a gift.

Dogs are a responsibility.

Dogs require commitment, consistent training, a heck of a lot of love and attention, a sense of routine and predictability when it comes to behavioural expectations and consequences, and their own line in the household schedule and grocery list. We do a monthly budget report and Juno has her own line in there as well.

Dogs are costly. They can get sick or injured and medications or surgeries are very expensive.

Dogs need healthy food.

Dogs need plenty of regular exercise.

As puppies, dogs need constant supervision and good training. We felt like we brought home an instant 2-year-old with Juno - she was into everything the night we brought her home. We literally followed her around to start teaching her what was ok for her to play with and what wasn't. The learning curve was a straight line - UP!

We learned on-the-job. When she wasn't crying or whining those first nights, she was making a mess...of the bathroom kind. And there was no diaper, so we became intimately acquainted with fluids and solids wicked fast. We stood out in 3am rainstorms under umbrellas in our pyjamas to teach her to go to the bathroom.

It wasn't a cake walk. It wasn't romantic. It was dirty and it was difficult.

Four and a half years later, it still isn't a cake walk. Juno gets taken into account when we do anything from making weekend plans to travelling to planning for a day outside to planning for a day inside to having furniture delivered or something installed or repaired. Word of advice: try to take care of the dog's feeding and exercise needs and then do what you've got planned. We've learned (especially with a bigger, more active dog) that it's easier to have a calm, needs-met dog underfoot than an overexcited, raring-to-go one while you're trying to get stuff done or have extra people in the house. A tired dog is a happy dog which makes for happy, productive owners and more time for relaxing as a family together later.

So, while a dog is not a good present to give to someone as a surprise when they're not prepared or involved in the decision, Christmas can be a wonderful time of year to add a dog to your family when everyone in your house is on board with the decision and plans to fully commit to raising a healthy, happy dog for, potentially, the next 8-15 years. And everyone may be at home a bit more than usual over the holidays, which can be really helpful too.


  1. I am glad you write about this. I usually say to people that the first year with a puppy is almost like having a baby.

    1. Thanks Helen. Although we don't have kids yet, we do joke about this often too! Glad you enjoyed.