“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.”™
In 2018, this well known and trademarked phrase of The Dogs’ Trust, the UK re-homing and adoption charity, will have been in use for forty years.
Four decades on, however, The Dogs’ Trust still expects to receive hundreds of calls in the weeks following Christmas from owners who want to give up their dog.
My blog celebrates the joy of dog ownership and I have been writing a Christmas gift guide. I hope that I have given you some great ideas, however I feel that it is only responsible for me to stress that as lovely and cuddly as they may be, puppies (or pets of any kind) do NOT make good gifts.
(Note that The Dogs’ Trust also has a comprehensive range of doggie and doggie-themed gifts, whose proceeds help The Trust’s work. Click here for details.)
Cute puppies are available at the click of a button online and unfortunately, this means that dogs are sometimes bought as last minute gifts, with little or no research.
Fashionable breeds may not make suitable house pets – Pets4Homes has an excellent and comprehensive Dog Breed Selector which details important things like exercise and grooming requirements, temperament, costs to keep and whether the breed will tolerate being left alone. You can even search by these qualities to ensure that you find a breed that suits your lifestyle. If you want to travel abroad, note that some breeds such as Staffies, Rotties, Dobermanns and Mastiffs are banned from travelling to many countries.
There are also many websites which offer questionnaires to match breeds with your lifestyle. But you could consider adopting a dog. The dog will then be matched to you.
By removing the market, this will also help to put an end to the cruel practice of puppy trafficking and puppy farming, where bitches are often over-bred in appalling conditions to produce puppies which are frequently very sick indeed. At the end of their breeding life, or if the breeder can’t be bothered to wait for her next season, the bitches are usually dumped. Why feed when you can replace?
Backyard breeders are interested in money, not the pedigrees or genetic health of their breeding stock. Many pure breeds have congenital conditions. To ensure that these are not passed on, a responsible breeder will carry out genetic tests and choose carefully which dogs they breed from to produce healthy puppies that are true to the breed type. A puppy farmer just sees £1000+ per pup. (Note that even well-meaning home-breeders might also make these mistakes – or interbreed pedigree lines that are too closely related.)
Farmed puppies have very little contact with the world, so they are often not socialised in those critical early days. They can also have severe health problems; these may be inherited, due to lack of consideration for the genetic health of the parents, or diseases such as kennel cough or parvovirus, which are a consequence of the terrible conditions in which they are kept. This is a recipe for heartache and high vet’s bills. It sounds cruel, but buying a farmed puppy to save it simply perpetuates the practice.
Aside from the cost and long-term responsibility involved in owning a dog, the fact that Christmas is already a busy and stressful time is often not considered. It is really not the best time to introduce a dog or puppy, away from its mum for the first time, to a new owner and settle it into a new home.
5 Reasons NOT to Get a Dog!
- Destructive Doggies – Puppies are really cute, fun and loving. But if you are horrified at the thought of cleaning up calls of nature – on the carpet, on the bed – or if you are likely to mind having your favourite shoes and furniture chewed, don’t get a puppy! Our little Ruby has never grown out of her love of chewing zips and has seen off a number of fleeces as well as an expensive down gilet. It is not her fault – it was ours. We have never trained her not to chew fleeces – and we left them there, forgetting that she is The Mystery Muncher. In the main, dogs want to please their owners. Bad behaviour is ALWAYS the owner’s fault through lack of training, exercise, mental stimulation or discipline!
- Mucky Pups – If you mind muddy footprints and dog hair all over your clothes and furniture, don’t get a dog! There are non-shedding breeds, such as the poodle crosses, but remember that a poodle cross is a mixed bag of genes and there is no guarantee that the dog will not moult! And my, poodles do love mud and water!
- Mutt Manners – If you do not have time to train your dog so that he knows how to fit in with polite, human society, don’t get a dog! The first few months of a pup’s life are critical in determining whether he will be a pleasure or a liability when he grows up. By the age of 7 months, you could have created a monster. We spent hours with our pups, training them with basic commands and taking them all over the place so that they got used to people, dogs, other animals and all kinds of situations. As such, we are now confident that we can take them absolutely anywhere without any problems, but that took work. (The Dogs’ Trust offers ‘Dog School‘ classes around the country for puppies, adult and re-homed dogs. At the time of writing, the 5 session course, with no more than 6 dogs per session, plus a free introductory session costs £50. There is also lots of dog behaviour and training advice available on the website, plus free workshops for parents and children to help kids and canines live safely together.)
- Exercise Needs – Bad behaviour is ALWAYS THE FAULT OF THE OWNER! Exercise: Discipline: Affection – in that order – is the recipe for success cited by Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan. Behavioral problems frequently stem from boredom and too little exercise. Running around the garden is not enough exercise or stimulation. So if you are not prepared to take your dog out for a walk every day for the next 15 years or so, don’t get a dog! And remember that you will still need to take them out;
- When it is cold
- When it’s raining
- When you’re too busy
- When you’re too tired
- When you don’t feel well
- When you just don’t feel like it
- Canine Costs – People often underestimate the costs of owning a dog. If you can’t afford these costs, don’t get a dog! Besides the cost of good quality, healthy food, you need to factor in the cost of;
- Microchip – a legal requirement in the UK since April 2016
- Regular Flea & Worm Treatments
- Annual Vaccinations
- Unexpected vet bills when your pet is ill
- Leads, collars, tags, car harness, crates, beds, treats, chews & toys
- Poo bags for life & puppy pads in the early days
- Holiday costs;
- Boarding kennels or
- Passport / Extra vaccinations / Dog transport & Accommodation charges
- Doggy day care if you work
- Insurance – both medical & public liability, in case your dog injures someone or causes an accident
I could not be without our dogs; we love them dearly. They bring us oodles of joy and are part of our family, but for all these positives, they have had a major impact on our lives. We did not get dogs until we retired because we could not give them the attention that they deserve when we were working long hours and commuting. Now, they limit our ability to go windsurfing or cycling as much or as easily as we used to – and one of the reasons that we tour in a caravan and not with a backpack is because it is more convenient with the dogs!
If you do want a dog, you will have a loyal and loving friend for life, so long as you think very carefully about the responsibility of ownership and which breeds are most suited to your lifestyle.
To finish, I will share this poem which was doing the rounds on social media. Sadly, it is all too common a tale. I aim to give you lots of inspiration for super Christmas presents; please share these – there really is never any need to panic-buy a puppy!
A Pup’s Tale
“My family brought me home, all cradled in their arms. They cuddled me and smiled at me and said I was full of charm. They played with me and laughed with me and showered me with toys. I sure did love my family, especially the little girls and boys.”
“The children loved to feed me; they gave me special treats. They even let me sleep with them – all snuggled in the sheets. I used to go for walks, often several times a day. They even fought to hold the leash, I’m very proud to say.”
“These are the things I’ll not forget – a cherished memory. Now that I’m in the shelter – without my family. They used to laugh and praise me when I played with that old shoe. But I didn’t know the difference between the old one and the new.”
“The kids and I would grab a rag, for hours we would tug. So I thought I did the right thing when I chewed the bedroom rug. They said that I was out of control, and would have to live outside. This I didn’t understand, although I tried and tried.”
“The walks stopped, one by one, they said they hadn’t time. I wish that I could change things; I wish I knew my crime. My life became so lonely in the backyard, on a chain. I barked and barked all day long to keep from going insane.”
“So they brought me to the shelter but were embarrassed to say why. They said I caused an allergy, and then they each kissed me goodbye. If I’d only had some training when I was a little pup, I wouldn’t have been so hard to handle when I was all grown up.”
“‘You only have one day left, I heard the worker say. Does that mean I have a second chance? Do I go home today?”
If you do think that you could offer a wonderful, forever home to a dog, why not consider homing one of last Christmas’ puppies?
What Happens to Britain’s Stray Dogs?
According to The Dogs’ Trust Stray Dogs Report , in 2017, 66,277 stray dogs were handled by the UK’s Local Authorities.
The good news is that;
- The number of strays is falling year on year.
- 60% of stray dogs are re-united with their owners.
- The number of strays being destroyed is falling, but that still means that more than 2000 stray dogs were put to sleep in 2017.
The bad news is that;
- 12 dogs per day face destruction because the details on their microchips are out of date meaning that the owner can’t be contacted.
- The number of stray dogs being re-homed is falling (6,143 in 2016 to 4,512 in 2017.)
If you do have a dog, please make sure that the contact details on their microchip are kept up to date. A collar and tag with your name, address & postcode is a legal requirement when your dog is in a public place – and this is often the quickest way for you and your lost dog to be re-united!
Where to Get a Dog
The PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) has published this excellent guide; Where to Get a Dog. It offers advice on how to choose the right breed, how to source a healthy puppy as well as listing details of the UK’s re-homing charities.
Want to Take Action Against Puppy Farming?
Puppy Love Campaigns – is a UK charity formed in 2007 to campaign against factory farming of puppies. Click here for a link to an article in K9 magazine about Puppy Love Campaigns. Click here for Puppy Love Campaigns list of sellers to avoid.
Note – I was utterly shocked to see Sylmyl Cockapoos on this list as a breeder against which there has been a complaint. After careful research, we bought Kai from Sylmyl and I can promise you that we were not even touching the puppy until owner Sylvia had thoroughly vetted us and our reasons for choosing a cavapoo. All her dogs were kept in beautiful, clean conditions and breeding bitches retired after three litters. She will take back and re-home any of her puppies if circumstances require it and as a founder member of the Cockapoo Society, Sylvia actually campaigns against irresponsible breeding!
A friend familiar with the pedigrees of cavaliers and poodles told us that her breeding stock was from the best possible pedigree lines and certification of genetic tests were supplied for the parents. The comprehensive care information and puppy pack that we were given when we took Kai home was praised by our vet as “the best I have ever seen.” Kai is a happy and healthy puppy.
I contacted both Puppy Love and Sylmyl. The complaint dates from ‘a long time ago’ – around 8 years – and having heard both sides, it is my belief that it resulted from a misunderstanding. Puppy Love did not ask Sylvia for her side of the story, yet will not remove the complaint.
Please make up your own mind, but know that personally, I remain more than happy to recommend Sylmyl as a breeder of excellence and Puppy Love as a very worthy organisation, whom I am proud to support!
World Wide Walkies
We have toured in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, The Czech Republic, Austria (briefly – we got kicked out!), Hungary and Romania. If you want to read about our Adventure Caravanning exploits, it is all in the Trips section of my blog.
For advice on caravanning and travelling with dogs, check out my Tips section.
More gift inspiration will be coming up in the next few weeks and will feature in the Gifts section.
If you would like to receive pupdates, click ‘Follow’ or enter your email address, and a caravan containing four cavapoos will drop into your inbox every week!