You may want to think twice before giving your friend or family a puppy over the holidays. While holiday cards are filled with images of irresistible puppies peeking their heads out of stockings, the reality of introducing a puppy to your household over the holidays can be quite different.

A puppy is not a stuffed toy. It will not take kindly to being ignored once a newer, brighter toy is discovered. Puppies need attention, training and a lifetime supply of love and care. Overexcited children may scare a puppy or neglect it, especially after it chews up their holiday toys or has an accident on the rug.

Cute puppies soon become full-size dogs. Remember, an impulse gift over the holidays can last for 10 years or more. A dog will need training, food, shelter, medical care and exercise.

A dog is a treasure. If you want to give someone a puppy, don’t have it be a surprise. Consider a gift that signifies the puppy to come or will help someone choose the right dog for his or her lifestyle. Visit the American Kennel Club website and online store. You’ll find complete descriptions and photos of more than 150 breeds as well as sound advice for finding a responsible breeder who will become an invaluable resource throughout the life of your dog. The AKC publishes The Complete Dog Book and The Complete Dog Book for Kids. They make great gifts (and are easier to wrap than a wiggly puppy!)

It’s always best to allow the actual owners to pick out their own puppies. The person taking care of the dog for years to come needs to carefully consider adult dog size, disposition, appetite and grooming.

Attending local dog shows and finding and talking with reputable breeders will help decide what breed is best for you. The AKC publishes several free brochures on being a responsible dog owner. The AKC has a Breeder Referral contact for each recognized breed. These individuals can put you in contact with breeders or rescue organizations in your area.

Finally, please keep in mind: A dog is for life — not just for Christmas!

Excerpts from: Letter to the AKC Editor: A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas


  • Daily routines change during the winter holidays, but try to maintain a feeding and walking schedule as close to your dog’s normal routine as possible.
  • Avoid feeding your dog table-scraps and sweets. Chocolate contains harmful, and sometimes fatal, chemicals to dogs. Poultry bones can splinter and cause intestinal blockages.
  • Pets are attracted to the taste of anti-freeze, which can be lethal. Check driveways and wipe up leaks immediately.
  • Ice-melting chemicals and salt on sidewalks can irritate a dog’s footpads. Wash off your dog’s feet as soon as you return home.
  • Avoid decorating with popcorn or cranberry strands, tinsel, and glass ornaments. Dispose of all wrapping paper, bows and ribbons after presents are opened. Keep small decorations out of your dog’s reach.
  • When decorating with holiday lights, remember that exposed indoor or outdoor wiring could electrocute a curious canine animal that chews on it. Tape wires to the wall or sides of the house.
  • Consider an artificial tree. Real Christmas trees may be toxic to dogs. Dogs find tree water tempting, so be sure to use pet-friendly preservatives in the water. Dogs also swallow pine needles which can be harmful. Plants such as poinsettias, holly and mistletoe can be poisonous to pets and should be kept out of reach.
  • Resist the urge to give your favorite dog lover a cute, cuddly puppy during gift-giving season. Puppies are a lifetime responsibility requiring exercise, training, veterinary care and — most importantly — love and attention. Instead, consider gift wrapping dog toys or supplies such as a leash, or food bowl to symbolize the gift of a dog to come.

Excerpts from: AKC Facts and Stats