Christmas Pets

Puppies and Christmas just don’t mix.

In my search for family Christmas presents, I recently turned to a Toronto magazine’s annual list of great gifts and was horrified to see a puppy as the number one pick. Please don’t give a puppy for Christmas.

For that matter, good luck finding a reputable breeder who would sell a puppy for Christmas. Since the article in Toronto Life magazine was about a specific type of pup called Ganaraskans, I imagine there are phones ringing off the hook in Port Hope where the dogs are bred. Hopefully, callers are being told to wait until after New Year’s day.

Yes, the puppy in TL looks adorable and maybe the Ganaraskan – a $1,200 cross of four different breeds – is the wonderdog of the century, but he doesn’t belong under a Christmas tree.

Here’s a shortlist of why to avoid buying pets at Christmas.

The most heartbreaking problem is that these live presents are often unwanted, soon end up at the local shelter, and are later euthanized.

In most households at Christmas, it is impossible to provide properly for the care and training needs of a puppy, kitten or insert here whatever type of pet you wish. Most young animals will be traumatized by the noisy activity generally associated with the holidays, especially if they have just arrived in the house. Following schedules, maintaining calm environments, and avoiding access to inedible edibles is hard enough with the adult pets we already have. Imagine a poor Christmas puppy having to deal with all that. It’s just a bad idea unless you are a truly accomplished planner, have support from the whole family and intend to have an exceedingly quiet Christmas.

Families that really want a pet after carefully discussing the responsibilities can give children a photo of their future pup’s mother or an “IOU” for a dog in the spring. Put that under the tree with a book about the breed – you won’t find one on Ganaraskans, by the way. The timeless James Herriot books about an English veterinarian’s escapades, starting with All Creatures Great and Small, also make wonderful presents for animal lovers to help fill the time until a puppy arrives.

Spring is an appropriate time to bring a new dog into the house, but if school-aged children are involved, think summer-break. That leaves lots of time for planning, researching, and visiting breeders or the local shelter. Then you’ll be off to a great start, rather than adding mess and mayhem to Christmas.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital – Trenton/Quinte West
November 2012