Pets For Life - Not For Christmas!
My Tri-colour Rough Collie, Megan with Benji at 6 months old.
Benji came to us at just 6 months old. He was a beautiful, coal-black, cross labrador retriever/setter. We were lucky enough to be the chosen owners for him from our local rescue centre - Second Chance Kennels in Fife. His story is a heartbreaking but all too common one. He was given as a present at Christmas. Two weeks after boxing day, he was booted out to fend for himself - he was only 4 months old.
To animal lovers this is the haunting but preventable reality every year at Christmas time. People, stupid people, continue to give pets to unprepared family and friends - as a suprise present!
Think About This Carefully
If you still think that your cute puppy is the best present to give your unsuspecting family or friend, have a look at the following inventory - this is an essential but very basic list of what a puppy requires when it is introduced into any home. Have you bought any of the following items? No? Then you need to! Or else your surprise gift to your loved ones is going to cost them a hell of a lot of unexpected expense - at the time of year when they can probably least afford it.
- Puppy collar - you have to ensure that the collar is a good fit and good quality - it must also be adjustable to allow for very fast growth.
- Puppy lead/dog lead - this speaks for itself.
- Puppy ID tag.
- Dog bowl for food.
- Dog bowl for water.
- Puppy food - and not just any old cheap can out of the local shop. Puppies require very particular minerals and vitamins. Inappropriate foods will cause puppies diarrhoea and can make them very ill.
- Tick and Flea prevention for puppies.
- Dog crate/cage - to keep the puppy safe while the owners do other things. This has to be of good quality and safety checked to the British Standards - or the equivalent in other countries.
- Puppy/Dog Brush - should be suitable for either a long, medium or short coat.
- Puppy shampoo.
- Puppy/Dog bedding.
- Toys - this is not just a cute addition. Puppy chewing helps with teething and for dental health. Toys are also good training aids. In addition, puppy play is a way that dogs learn.
A good book/DVD that covers general dog care and health - this is an essential for any prospective dog owner. If you insist on buying a pedigree you will need to include a good book/DVD on the breed chosen.
Behaviour & Doing What Comes Naturally
In addition to all the above equipment that either you or the family/friend will need to buy, is the other implications of having a puppy. Think about the following. How would you cope if it was you who was landed with a puppy that you hadn't expected:
- Puppies take time to train - could you cope with pee and poo on your carpets? If the answer is 'no' then why do you expect your family or friend to accept it? Your wonderful sister might well adore animals. But often people adore them from a distance. They don't have their own pets because they genuinely cannot face cleaning up messes like poo and pee.
- Chewing and destructive behaviour. Puppies learn from their environment and experimenting. How would you cope if your puppy experimented with his sharp little teeth on your new furniture, your lovely afghan or your expensive shoes? Will your family/friend enjoy this?
- How would you cope when puppy vomits up on your carpet - this could even include dead worms after his worming treatment? Would the people you are giving this 'present' to cope?
- Will they be happy with the numerous feeds a young puppy needs daily?
- Can they cope with a disrupted nights sleep because puppy needs to go out to do his business?
- Will the puppy be left on its own every day for hours on end? This scenario is heading straight towards your loved ones having problems with puppy and the adult dog it will become. Separation anxiety can lead to destructive behaviour, attention seeking behaviour, constant barking and aggression. Not to mention physical illness.
If you have even the slightest doubt about one or more of the above - do not buy a puppy!
Most breeds require at the very least one hour's good quality exercise each day. Letting your dog run about your garden - IS NOT exercising your dog.
1. A cute German Shepherd puppy at 6 weeks old. 2. A German Shepherd at just two years old! Spot the difference?
In The Long Term?
The previous inventory is only the essentials to cover the first few weeks in a puppy's new home - how much does this add to the cost of your present? If your response is something along the lines of 'This is all rubbish, a puppy doesn't need half of this stuff' then stop right there - and learn an important life lesson! You obviously have no conception of the work involved - for years to come. More importantly you don't care - either about the people who will be on the receiving end of your surprise or the animal itself.
Try to at least have the decency to spare a poor innocent animal the grief of being booted out of the home or packed off to a shelter wondering what it has done wrong. The family/friend as well, will end up on a guilt trip not to mention the stress of having to try and re-home an animal they didn't want in the first place. Are you willing to accept responsibility that this is all your fault? If you think I'm over-reacting take a tip. Go onto any web site, anywhere on the planet, and look up abandoned animals at Christmas - the heartbreaking figures speak for themselves!
What of the future? Longer term the family/friend you are giving this 'present' to will also have to consider:
- Vet Bills - not just for emergencies, but for periodic check ups and the puppy's/dog's annual vaccinations against major diseases. Most responsible dog owners also have their dogs neutered or their bitches dressed to avoid any more unwanted puppies coming into the world.
- Longer term again is the conditions that a dog may suffer from. Not only will this cost in vet bills, but could mean drastic changes in their household when looking after a dog that is ill.
- Cute little puppies all too soon become adult dogs. Will your recipient of your present cope with the adult dog? Breeds can vary enormously in temperament. Some breeds need experienced owners to cope with them and train them properly. Do you have the knowledge and expertise to choose the proper breed? Does the recipients of your wonderful surprise have the knowledge and experience to cope with - high energy breeds, working breeds, socialisation, aggression, destructive behaviour, training, obedience, health, food, grooming, exercise etc?
- Did you know that even friendly breeds such as labradors that are not cared for properly can turn very aggressive/difficult/destructive? No? Then why are you buying a dog? I ask this because you obviously have no idea what it takes to care for an animal properly. Anyone with even a minimal amount of knowledge about animals would never consider giving them as a surprise present!
- Do you know your family and friends really well? You better make sure you do! Do you know for instance that their alleged love of animals and their 'gooing' over photos of a puppy, does actually,100%, mean they want one? Now? Without being asked? Without being prepared? You know for a fact that they really don't mind having their whole life changed and turned upside down for the next 8 to 16 years?
If you have any doubts about even one of the above points - don't buy a puppy!
Dog Bites - usually occur due to inexperienced dog owners and/or dogs that are not cared for or trained/supervised/controlled properly. Dogs as young as 1 year
Follow These Rules
If you still insist that buying a puppy is a good idea then do it properly - for everyone's sake follow this one simple rule:
Before you even consider buying a puppy please ask the family or friend if they would like to have a puppy as a present.
If you have the least doubts about them coping with anything I've said before, then please, please don't buy a live puppy - buy them a nice cute, stuffed one instead.
This simple question can save untold heartbreak and stress for people and animals. Animal shelters do a wonderful job. But please don't add to their workload and limited resources by creating situations of unwanted pets, when a simple question can avoid it.
I've also focused this hub on dogs basically because I'm a dog owner and have been for 36 years. But you should follow all this advice for any animal you may be planning to buy as a surprise gift - kittens, small animals, birds, reptiles etc. - all need specific care and owners need specific knowledge to be able to carry out this care properly.
Having the true Christmas Spirit does not just mean buying lovely presents. It means being responsible and sensitive to the real needs of the people you love. It also means opening your heart to the rest of the animal kingdom and doing what is best for them - not what gives your ego a feel good factor!