Although shelters and breeders are hoping their resident animals find a warm, loving home for the holidays, they also don't want these animals to be returned months later.

Every year, children wake up on Christmas morning to find a puppy with a big red bow underneath the tree. Unfortunately for too many of those sweet puppies, they find themselves brought to a shelter for various reasons beyond their control.

Reasons Not to Get a Dog for Christmas

As a dog owner of a gorgeous collie named Harvey, let me be first to say that dogs are a tremendous responsibility - no matter their breed or "chill" factor. Harvey is, by far, the easiest dog I've ever had.

He doesn't mind being groomed, will politely let me know he needs to go outside,isn't a picky eater, and has a high tolerance level for my feral need to smother him in kisses and sing made-up-songs about his heroic deeds the second I think he looks extra adorable. Which is all the time.

Regardless, he requires time and attention - and money. Oh, lots and lots of money. Vet bills and dog food aren't that cheap anymore.

When Harvey came into my life in 2018, I had been planning on getting a dog of my own for several years - but the time was never right. I either worked too much, didn't make enough, or didn't live in the right place for a dog.

While I grew up with collies and missed having one around, I waited until I knew I wouldn't be over my head.

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Harvey was, by all means, a very easy puppy and yet he still had his moments. He rode in cars like a champ, remembered commands, and loved everyone he met. The last part got him in some trouble though, as he had recall issues that required professional intervention from a dog trainer.

If he was off leash and saw a dog or a person who looked friend-shaped, which was everyone, he would take off without a second thought.

Thankfully, that friendliness never put him in a dangerous situation, but I also knew that it could if I let this bad habit continue. Working with Chelsea of Canine Curiosity on Harvey's recall was worth every penny - and that was a lot of pennies.

Harvey, like all dogs, also went through a destructive phase when he was teething and got his mouth on several things I really wish he hadn't - like my first edition cover of "Sabriel," or my favorite bra.

Thankfully, he grew out of that phase, but some dogs do not and will continue to chew on things they shouldn't.

All that said, here's five reasons why you should reconsider getting a dog for Christmas.

1. Dogs Are Expensive

Dog food has skyrocketed in price in recent years. Harvey's food went from $36 a bag to $85 because of inflation.  He goes through it within 6 weeks, so I have to budget buying a brand new bag of food every month-and-a-half. 

Rabies Clinic in Clark Mills, NY
Roah Seelam, AFP, Getty Images

Additionally, vet care is also costly. Your dog will need to undergo annual exams and require shots to protect them from rabies, distemper and other terrible illnesses.

Plus, dogs require regular brushing and should be professionally groomed on the regular. Long-haired and double-coated breeds should go to the groomers every 4 to 6 weeks while dogs with short or fine hair should head in every 8 to 12 weeks. 

Hey, those anal glands ain't gonna express themselves. That's a real thing.

Read More: Shelter Dogs Becoming the Preferred Pet in New York State

For Harvey, grooming appointments cost between $60 to $120 depending on how much work he needs.

You also will also need to regularly purchase other items for your dog like toys, leashes, bowls, brushes and monthly medicines that prevent heartworm and fleas.

While these are all regular expenses, dog owners are all too aware of all the unexpected costs their pet can rack up. 

2. Dogs Test Your Patience

While puppies are cute, they need your help to be successful. There will be days you will come home to find total carnage and a happy dog sitting in the middle of it. To them, they just had a rip roarin' good time while, to you, they just destroyed your favorite shoes.

Lonely dog puppy looking behind a fence

However, nothing destroys a perfectly good dog faster than improper punishment because they don't understand human-like punishments like spanking and yelling.

Canines need a different approach to discipline and they will thrive when you help them understand the things that are and are not acceptable.

Read More: Why Is It So Hard to Find Pet-Friendly Rentals in Central New York?

Harvey had a penchant for eating walls. You hear me? WALLS. His puppy teeth sawed through trim, corners and uneven surfaces... even though his favorite chew toys were literally right next to him.

Teaching him to stop was a blast, sarcasm intended - but he eventually stopped. Dogs need a lot of patience - and they will test you in many surprising ways.

3. Dogs Need a Lot of Attention

If you're getting a dog just because you like the idea of having one in the house, or your kids have been begging you for a puppy because their best friend's cousin's neighbor got one - then you're likely to be among the many families who will be dumping that poor dog at a shelter by Easter.

Dogs Grover and Sawyer Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino
Dogs Grover and Sawyer Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino

Dogs aren't plants that can be left alone and watered whenever you remember - they need plenty of exercise, socialization, regular feedings, fresh water, and lots of love... and sometimes training. In short, they need you.

Adding a dog to your home permanently changes your schedule. You will need to make time to walk the dog, feed it, brush it, clean up after it, play with it, and - most importantly - love it. I have had to pause many gaming nights with friends because Harvey gave me the sign he needed to "do his business" or... just began projectile vomiting everywhere.

Dogs don't magically turn out perfect, they need a lot of time and attention to get to that level and you must be willing to put in the work.

While the benefits are well worth it, you sacrifice a lot of time to get to that level.

4. Dogs' Needs Change As They Get Older

A puppy doesn't stay a puppy forever and their routine will change the second you get used to it. You will need to adapt with your pet because they are relying on you.


That said, if your child is begging for a puppy, you need to make sure they're not thinking they'll be taking care of a small and cute fluffy thing forever.

Puppies grow into dogs and they can get large. Unfortunately, that is one of the main reasons why people dump dogs at the vet - they grew out of the cute puppy stage and are now "too big."

Read More: Has This Mysterious Illness in Dogs Spread to New York?

Some dogs grow up to be extremely strong while others become very vocal. Others develop boundless energy and will require lots of physical activity to burn through it. It's your job to research the breed of dog you want before buying it so you are prepared to handle their "quirks" as they grow - especially as they enter senior age.

Prime example: if you love your peace and quiet, a husky is definitely not for you.

Another issue at the shelters is that many senior dogs are surrendered because the owners don't want to take care of them anymore. Elderly dogs may require certain medicines to continue living comfortably, and some pet owners find it to be too much to handle.

Once a dog enters your home, they will be your ride or die. The least you can do is return the sentiment.

5. A Dog Is a Commitment, Not a Present

To sum it all up, a dog or puppy is not a present that you put under the tree and wash your hands of it. Dogs are a 10-year commitment, at least!

John Howard

They aren't the latest iPhone or gaming console that becomes obsolete the second a newer model is released.

Dogs take a lot of time to train, housebreak, socialize, and become the dog you want them to be. You also will be thinking questions you never had before, like, "Who will watch my dog when I go on this week-long vacation?"

If your child is hellbent on getting a dog, you need to make sure they are ready for the responsibility. You need to trust that you won't be bringing that dog to the shelter because your child got bored of it. So, instead of springing for a Christmas puppy, wait to see if your child's nagging subsides after the holidays. If it does, then you know they were just following the trend.

You will know if they're serious of they keep pestering you and do everything you ask of them to "prove" they mean it.

To Wrap This Up...

In all, dogs are not Christmas presents. They're a big responsibility that need you to be 100 percent committed. I wouldn't be writing this long-winded, semi-proselytizing article if it wasn't coming from a place of caring.

Adding a dog to my family was the best choice I ever made and we're about to celebrate six wonderful years together.

I hope you get to experience that special kind of love and loyalty only a dog can give. But, I also hope you are in a place where your dog always feels loved, safe and wanted.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. I'll show myself out.

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