Guest Guru: Maura Furie, Pet Expert

Christmas Treasure – An Adorable Puppy Under The Tree

We all have the picture of the opening scene in Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp where Sweetheart opens the box on Christmas morning to be greeted by a precious puppy. Many of us remember the Kodak commercial of the children on Christmas morning opening a box with another darling puppy. It all appears to be so sweet and wonderful. Are you thinking of getting a puppy as a Christmas present? Think again.

Why Christmas is one of the worst times to bring home a puppy.

Christmas is a high stress time for most families. There could be family politics causing strain; there is the shopping and trying to make a “great” Christmas on less money; there is the tension of making sure the children get what they asked for, and the pressure of trying to explain why they didn’t get what they asked for. There is too much excitement in the house, and too many other presents. Bringing a puppy or kitten into the party is unkind to the puppy and difficult for the family.

Get Organized to Get Your Puppy

You don’t have to forego buying a puppy for the family as a gift; you simply need to get organized about it. A puppy or dog is not an impulse buy, it is a living creature. Your child will be a much better dog owner if he or she can be part of laying the ground work for the new family member. A toddler needs to learn how to pet a dog without grabbing it. A child that is kindergarten ready or older can be part of the decision making process. I recommend that you and your child start focusing on dogs that you see.

Talk It Out

You can talk about the dogs that your child comes in contact with, perhaps the neighbor’s dog or a relative’s dog. What do we like about each dog, what do we dislike? When you visit the park or walk down the street take a moment to study each dog. Take a second look at the dogs you see on TV or in the movies. These discussions can take place throughout the summer right up to Christmas. In this manner, your child is learning how to discover what he really wants and what he doesn’t really want. He is learning that he needs to take into consideration the opinions of others.

Perhaps your family does not want a large slobbering dog (or a tiny yappy one). He is learning to take into consideration what would make the dog happy. If he wants a large high energy hound, he will have to wait until he has his own place in the country. For now, he needs to look at dogs that do well in his present environment of small apartment, suburban neighborhood, or condo.

Research, Research, Research

Once you and your child have narrowed down the type of dog that you want, do additional research in your local library. Even a child who can’t read, or is having trouble reading, will enjoy looking at dog books full of pictures. As the adult, you can read books that offer in depth descriptions of most breeds. Don’t forget to call the organizations that register purebred dogs, such as the AKC. Most breed clubs post a website for their chosen breed. These websites will offer insight as to what type of owner will do well with the breed. You can also call or write to the organization to get more information such as the cost of buying a purebred puppy or going through a rescue organization.

Thus far you and your child have loosely set a goal (finding the perfect dog) and logically researched types and breeds of dogs through observation, the library, the internet, and interviews. By the time you are ready to buy a puppy or dog, your child may have decided that he doesn’t want one. If he still wants a dog he will be more appreciative of the dog. Continue your education by looking at dog training books, focusing on those that use positive reinforcement. There are many “clicker” books on the market with pictures and step by step instructions.

Promises to Keep

Now that you are ready, don’t buy a puppy for Christmas. Most reputable breeders (those that really care about the puppies and breed for good health and temperament) will not sell puppies for the Christmas market. So, inside that beautifully wrapped box your child will find what? How about a leash? A tag with your phone number? A photo of a young puppy too young to leave his mom? Will your child’s Christmas be ruined because he didn’t open a box with a little Lassie puppy? No way. You have given him a promise. The parents can receive an organizational chart from Buttoned Up, which the child or children can help fill out.

A child who is too young to wait another month or two should not be given the “promise”. Such a child should not be encouraged or promised unless you actually have a puppy or a dog already chosen, one that you will bring home a few days after Christmas when the family can focus on training the puppy or dog. If the child is old enough to wait, give the promise. Every couple of days or weeks (depending on how long you will be waiting) you can go shopping for dog things. Your new puppy or dog will need a crate, a few chew toys, dog food, and other things. If you can wait until February or March your local animal shelter will be taking in many puppies that were Christmas gifts and you may find the perfect friend in the form of a recycled young dog. Do not tell your child that you can’t afford the dog right now. This puts the focus on money and possibly on being poor. You are waiting because that is what is best for the puppy or dog. An older child will understand if you need to save up money for buying the dog. In this case, purchasing dog equipment in the interim will help to teach the child budgeting and preparedness.

Don’t worry about your child being disappointed.

It is far better to wait for something you want and be in a situation of caring for it, than it is to have a big splash Christmas morning and end up with nipped noses and puppy poop on the carpet, or a puppy lost somewhere within the torn wrapping paper. Your child will be very happy with the promise. In fact, the puppy promise helps to extend the Christmas joy past the season.

Read an excerpt from Maura Furie’s book, My Forever Home, on Wednesday! Win a copy of the book by visiting Buttoned Up this Wednesday to enter we will be giving away 3 copies – so hurry to comment! To purchase the book or to get more information, go to or Maura lives with her husband Walt in Deford, Michigan (along with dog Hamish, ducks, hens, a mule, and usually one or two rescue dogs!). Check with your local shelter or Humane Society for dog rescue information in your area.