The image of a sweet and adorable puppy sitting under the tree on Christmas morning is a popular sight this time of year. Every time I see such an image, I literally cringe with fear that it will play out in real life in homes across the country come the morning of December 25.

Why cringe you may ask? I’m glad you did!

The Christmas puppy gets a ton of love and attention on Christmas morning but it often doesn’t last and the reality for many of these dogs is more like this picture:

The are more reasons NOT to give a puppy as a gift for Christmas than there are arguments for it despite the adorableness of the puppies in all the marketing images.

First, the holiday season is the most lucrative time of year for Puppy Mills and, although most people are now hip to pet store puppies being from puppy mills,  most still find it difficult to know if a breeder is responsible or a cleverly disguised “backyard” breeder or pass through for puppy mill dogs. In addition to the practices of puppy mills being cruel and abusive to their dogs, puppy mill puppies often have health and emotional problems.

Second, the holidays are a stressful time and more or less one of the worst times you can bring a small baby animal into your home. Puppies are a lot of work and at this time of year when there is already so much extra to do and other gifts to distract the kids, a puppy can get lost in the shuffle, overwhelmed and generally have a poor start in your family despite the best of intentions.

And, third, “gift” puppies (animals of any kind, really) are the most vulnerable to being rehomed. Small puppies are a ton of work (just like most babies), they grow fast and take time to potty train. Without proper care and guidance, your adorable Christmas puppy can turn into your worst nightmare because she’s now a year old and 50+ pounds. Because she lost her holiday shine when she chewed up junior’s other toys, she hasn’t been trained and socialized as she should have been and you are fed up. Think I’m overselling it? Read about real life Christmas puppies in this article.

So, yes, some families get puppies for the holidays and do all the right things and live happily ever after. Consider this though, in an average year in the United States, about 13 million families adopt a puppy or adult dog. One year later, about 50% of these dogs have been given up to shelters. When you consider that dogs given as gifts for any occasion have a higher than average surrender rate, how many of those dogs dropped off at shelters (or worse) started out as Christmas puppies under the tree? In my opinion, way too many to make it worth it.

Getting a dog should be a family decision that is seriously discussed before any action is taken. If you decide as a family to get a puppy or adult dog, the hectic holiday season isn’t your best choice of timing. You’ll want to bring your dog, especially if you are adopting, into your home during a quiet week when he will have time to decompress and adjust to his new home. If you get a puppy, the same is true as puppies, like babies of any species, require a lot of attention while growing up.

So, yes, absolutely get your family a dog! Just don’t give a dog to anyone as a surprise gift and choose a quiet time of year when you can give your new family member the attention he deserves while settling in to his new home.

Have a dog as gift story (good, bad or ugly)? Share it in the comments.