By Dr. Justine Lee
Not to be a Scrooge, but a Christmas canine can be a holiday hazard. A puppy waiting under the tree may be the ultimate Hallmark moment, but don't let your emotions allow you to gloss over the realities -- and expense -- of ten-plus years of dog ownership. There are lots of reasons to avoid the holiday puppy present.
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Christmas litters may not be healthy. Pet stores typically make about sixty percent of their annual revenue in the five weeks leading up to Christmas, most of which comes directly from puppy sales. Sadly, though, six to eight million cats and dogs end up in shelters each year.
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Most reputable breeders won't introduce a new litter in December, meaning puppies advertised as gifts tend to come from "puppy mills" that hoard profits and may not have the best breeding ethics, resulting in health problems and birth defects.
It's a stressful season. Because most households are a flurry of activity and visitors at this time of year, it's not an ideal moment for a puppy to adjust to its new surroundings. Plus, most people simply don't have the time to properly train and care for a young dog right now. All puppies need routine--which means consistent, calm, and immediate discipline and training--in addition to round-the-clock care, three or four daily feedings, and regular walks.
Developmentally speaking, this is the best time to start teaching obedience--if you let the opportunity pass, you'll be dealing with hard-to-break bad habits, including a poor comprehension of commands. Forget heading out to Christmas parties without a dog sitter: Young puppies can only "hold it" for about two hours.
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Holiday hazards abound. Puppies are naturally curious, making tinsel, ribbon, wreaths, chocolate, mistletoe, lights, and ornaments impossible to resist.
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These trimmings (which are hard to keep out of puppy reach) can cause serious illness, injury, or even death if they are chewed or swallowed. If you want to welcome a dog to the family on Christmas Day, give a gift certificate instead. Local shelters, for example, often offer these. This way, the whole family can pick out a puppy when the time is right but still bask in the joy on Christmas day.
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