The festive season is a time of joy, celebration and giving.  It’s a time when families come together and create lasting memories.  However, amidst the cheer and excitement there is a darker side to the holiday season that often goes unnoticed until it’s too late – the impulse purchase of pets as Christmas gifts.

The phrase “Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas” serves as a powerful reminder of the responsibility that comes with pet ownership.  The popular phrase was coined in 1978 by Clarissa Baldwin, then Chief Executive of The National Canine Defence League (which later became The Dogs Trust).

At the time, thousands of people were giving puppies as gifts at Christmas. But, before long, rescue centres found themselves overrun with unwanted dogs once the novelty had worn off and reality of actual pet ownership had set in.

The campaign aimed to discourage people from giving dogs as surprise Christmas presents without considering the long-term commitment and responsibility that comes with pet ownership.  Decades later, the message remains relevant worldwide as a stark reminder that dogs are sentient beings with complex needs, emotions and a lifespan far beyond the holiday season.

While ‘’Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas’’ is a phrase many of us acknowledge, sadly not everyone is of the same mindset.  If you are considering gifting a puppy to a loved one this Christmas, we urge you to read this article.  We have highlighted just some of the many non-negotiable elements pet owners need to know about when welcoming a four-legged friend into their home, no matter the time of year.

Are you really ready for a puppy?
Puppies may be irresistible, but they are also extremely time-consuming. In fact, many new dog owners underestimate how much time a new puppy demands.

Young puppies need to be fed three to four times a day and they need to be taken outside immediately after eating or drinking and encouraged to go to the toilet.  While the house training starts early, puppies will still have accidents inside the home as they learn, so owners must be patient and prepared to tackle the mess.

Puppies shouldn’t be separated from their mothers before turning 8 weeks old.  Once they are ready to be taken home to their new loving family, new puppy owners must be prepared for some nights of interrupted sleep, particularly within the first few weeks.  Puppies may pine, bark or cry throughout the night – this could be because of boredom, loneliness or needing to go to the toilet.  Keep in mind just how young these dogs are, and it’s only natural for them to feel lost and vulnerable, particularly in a new home.

Leaving a young puppy alone for more than a few hours at a time is not recommended.  For one thing, a puppy’s bladder control is limited!  Dogs are also social animals and crave regular human attention.  In fact, dogs thrive on companionship and require social interaction as mental stimulation, and neglecting these aspects can lead to longer-term behavioural issues.

Puppies are driven by curiosity and they love to explore their surroundings by chewing and licking.  Their lack of manners and understanding can result in unruly or hyperactive behaviour, so #RookesRecommends consistent training, socialising and exercise – all of which demand a considerable time investment from their owner… you!

Are you really prepared for a puppy?  Are you ready to change your daily routine?  Not just in the mornings or early evenings, but 24/7, 7 days a week?  From the midnight disruptions to dedicated training and playtime sessions, prospective pet owners need to consider the immense lifestyle changes a new puppy can bring to the family.

Which breed is right for you?
There are over 200 breeds of dog recognised in the UK and each breed has a different characteristic, temperament and exercise requirements.  It’s important for prospective dog owners to research as many different breeds as possible by way of helping them decide which breed of dog is right for them.

For example, Labradors are active and intelligent dogs who generally need at least 2 hours of exercise every day.  If you know you can’t commit to this, then a Labrador (or any large dog for that matter) isn’t for you.

There are a number of other considerations to help you decide which breed of dog is right for you, including:

  • Where you live (a city, semi-rural town or the countryside)?
  • Do you have enough garden space?
  • Do you already have pets at home that a new puppy would need to get on with?
  • Would you be open to owning a dog from a breed that has known potential health issues? For example, Rottweilers are at risk of a variety of joint problems including hip dysplasia and arthritis.
  • How much time do you want to spend grooming? Some dogs moult more than others and require regular brushing.  But dachshunds, poodles and border terriers are almost shed-free.
  • Do you want your dog to be vocal and alert you to visitors?
  • Will you need a family-friendly dog who will enjoy living with children?

Preparing for a puppy
Before getting a new puppy, you’ll need to prepare your home.  For starters, this will include creating a designated dog zone – a place for a puppy crate, bed and toys where they can feel safe as they adjust to their new family and home.

You’ll also want to establish some house rules.  For example, are pets allowed on the sofa?  Or on the bed?  Are any rooms off-limits?  And who’s in charge of walking and feeding the dog?

Puppy-proofing is also important.  You’ll want to keep electrical cables out of sight, and don’t leave rubbish lying around either.  It’s also a good idea to hide your shoes (destructive behaviour is common in young dogs).

Prospective puppy owners will also need to stock up on puppy supplies.  #RookesRecommends starting with the basics such as a bed, lead, collar/harness, ID tag, food and water bowls, puppy-specific food, a few simple toys and a brush or comb.

Finding a reputable, local vet is also vital.  A new puppy should visit a vet within a few days of coming home with you for a physical examination (even if no vaccines are due). This is an opportunity to ensure there are no health problems that went undetected by the breeder.

And of course, a new pet of any kind is a big financial commitment.  Dogs in particular come with various expenses including food, veterinary care, grooming, insurance and supplies.  Can you commit to an additional monthly expense of caring for a new dog for the next decade?

Dogs need a calm and stable environment to adjust and thrive which can be difficult to achieve with a lack of routine.  So with the hustle and bustle of Christmas, maybe this is not the ideal time of year to bring home a new puppy.


Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas
As the holiday season approaches, we encourage everyone to be mindful of the message that “Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas” conveys.  While the idea of surprising a loved one with a fluffy companion may be heartwarming, the decision to bring a dog into your home should be based on thoughtful consideration, research and a genuine commitment to providing a loving and lifelong home.  Afterall, when we choose to bring a dog into our home, we are committing to a relationship that can last a decade or longer.  This commitment encompasses the dog’s entire life, from the playful days of puppyhood to the slower pace of their senior years.

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