No puppy for Christmas gift!

December 20, 2012

Many people love a picture of a puppy coming out of a box wrapped in red and green with a big bow on it for their kids for Christmas.

Don’t do it.

Puppies are not toys, by March, unless you have properly trained the pup, you will end up with an unruly adolescent “dog.” By then, the puppy is no longer a novelty for your kids, and you are stuck with taking care of the Dawg,

Dawg is chewing up your shoes and marking on your furniture because nobody had the time to potty-train and socialize him, and you might end up leaving him outside in the yard — alone — where he’ll be forgotten by everyone in your family. He’ll no longer live a proper life, but merely exist in your backyard. He can become sick by being treated in this way, and then what? You are not going to spend a penny on Dawg while you have two precious kids who need every penny you earn.

Rescue groups often receive calls from parents wanting to relinquish their dogs because their kids are not keeping their end of the bargain; i.e., walking, feeding, and taking proper care of their family pet. Although, no matter what agreement they make with their children, it is always the ultimate responsibility of the parents in the home to care for any family pet. You can hear the dog baking and kids screaming in the background while the mother cries on the phone, “Do you hear this? This is what I have to deal with! I can’t handle a dog and three kids! I’m losing my mind. I’ll have to take him to the pound if you won’t help me!”

If you are seriously thinking about adopting a dog, then wait until your youngest is at least 5 years old. As I wrote in one of my previous articles, “Dog and Toddlers,” some rescue organizations require that the youngest child in the family is 7 years of age to approve adoptions. Your child should be old enough to understand that the dog is not a stuffed animal and have a sense of responsibility for a living being. If you get a puppy, or a small breed dog, like a little Maltese, your 2-year old can break the dog by sitting on him or squeezing him too tightly. Training your children regarding proper care, consideration and respect for animals is every bit as important as training your dog.

It’s a myth that you have to buy a puppy if you have children. Many dog experts recommend adopting an older dog who is already accustomed to interacting with children. Older dogs are easier for you, too, especially if you adopt one who already has some basic training. Most rescue organization will work with you to determine the best match, and often assist you with a dog trainer who works with the group.

Why would you not like to have a loyal dog at your side, enjoying the holidays as your family member, instead of a puppy popping out of a box? When you sip your eggnog, you’ll see his face lit by the fireplace, and his soft smile will melt your heart. Can you imagine a better Christmas (or Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate) than being with such a dog who’s grateful to you because you gave him a second chance at life?

Marie Atake is Founder & President of Forte Animal Rescue and a former Commissioner on the Board of L.A. Animal Services.