The image is one placed in our minds through books, TV shows, and movie scenes. The lid is lifted from a gaily wrapped Christmas package, and an adorable puppy pops her head out of the box. Every Christmas, many folks set out to copy this scenario, but the truth is, puppies do not make good “under the tree” presents. Great care should be taken before giving a pup as a gift.

The first thing to ensure is that the person really wants a dog. The fact that they once said, “Someday I want to get a Fluglehound” doesn’t mean that “someday” is now. Unless you are purchasing a dog for your spouse or child who still lives at home, do not try to surprise someone with a puppy. Talk to the person you’d like to buy the puppy for, or an adult member of the household, to ensure that the gift would be welcome. Also realize that most quality breeders will not sell you a dog to give to someone outside of your home; they will want to speak with the dog’s ultimate owner before the puppy leaves their care, to verify their baby is going to a good home. Be sure the person has really thought through the addition of a dog to the family. Talk to any shelter or rescue group and they can tell you that a few months after Christmas, older pups start pouring in, as the “cute” wears off and people begin to regret their Christmas puppies.

Once you have determined that the person really does want a dog, be sure you know the type of dog they want, and that they have thought through the positives and negatives of the breed. If after doing your research you don’t see a specific breed as being appropriate for the person, talk to them before proceeding with the purchase. Realize that puppies aren’t the right choice for every family, and consider whether an adult dog might be a better fit. A housebroken, crate-trained dog might be welcomed. Again, talk with the person about your concerns.

If you do buy someone a gift pup, the box under the tree is not the way to present him. Christmas day is usually not a good time to add a puppy to the family, especially in a house with young children. The noise, packages, extra guests and general hubbub can really increase the stress level for a baby. The extra things laying around, distractions that make it difficult to supervise a puppy, and added dangers of the holidays can result in a rush visit to the animal emergency clinic or a dead puppy, either of which would bring the holiday celebrating to an unpleasant end.

Realizing that puppies need time to fit into their new environment, if you’re giving the pup to a school-aged child, it might be better to present the puppy early, at the start of the holiday break. This gives the puppy time to adjust to his new family before the excitement of Christmas morning. If you really want the surprise under the tree element, a better way to do it is to wrap up all the equipment needed with a new puppy. Purchase a crate, toys, supplies and a gift certificate for a Puppy Kindergarten class, and put them under the tree. Create a coupon good for a puppy from the local shelter or a rescue group, or include a picture of the pup coming from the breeder. The anticipation of getting a puppy and the fun of bringing him home are wonderful parts of the new dog experience. By using this method of gifting, you make the pup’s homecoming less stressful and you preserve the joy of the experience for the receiver.

Another temptation to avoid is bringing home a very young puppy so he’s there on the 25th. Puppies can be weaned as early as four weeks old, but they don’t have all their puppy teeth yet and they still have important lessons to learn from their mom and siblings. For his well-being, he should stay with his family until he is eight weeks old.

If you’re planning to give a puppy as a pet this Christmas, please consider your decision carefully. If you decide it’s the right thing to do, do it in a way that makes the day a pleasant one for both the gift and the “giftee.”


Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.comfor possible inclusion in future columns. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.