Puppies are a popular Christmas gift — but they can be a lot of hard work. Know the facts to avoid problems after the puppy is home.

“The holidays are always big money-making opportunities for puppy mills, pet stores and backyard breeders who aren’t interested in the welfare of the animals or the humans.”

The iconic image of a puppy with a red bow under the Christmas tree is expected to be more prevalent than ever this year, thanks to the pandemic. But with the increased demand also comes more opportunity for ill-repute breeders and pet stores to take advantage of consumers.

“The holidays are always big money-making opportunities for puppy mills, pet stores and backyard breeders who aren’t interested in the welfare of the animals or the humans,” said Laura Henderson, executive director of Pasado’s Safe Haven, the Pacific Northwest’s leading animal sanctuary and rescue organization. “This year, they have more opportunity than ever to target vulnerable people who just want to feel some sense of normalcy during a really difficult time – people who have the best intentions but may end up in a bad situation. We are urging consumers to beware of these tactics and avoid falling prey to an impulse buy on a puppy.”

Approximately 25% of dogs are purchased from a pet store or breeder, according to Animal Sheltering, which provides national statistics on pet ownership in the United States. The rest are obtained through animal shelters. More than half of the dogs procured this year will be surrendered before their first “gotcha” birthday. Often, the reason is because the puppy-buyer didn’t think through how much responsibility dog-ownership can be, and how much attention a puppy needs.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Henderson. “The dogs don’t know what’s happening. They do not understand why their families are gone and why they are in a new place. They show signs of depression and anxiety. Some of them become ill from the stress. And the surrender likely could have been prevented.”

Henderson offered these tips for anyone considering a puppy for the holidays:


  • Do not buy a puppy from a pet store or classified ad. These puppies come from puppy mills and often have a host of medical as well as behavioral problems. Adopt a puppy from a local shelter, or, if you are set on certain type of purebred puppy, be sure to go through a reputable breeder. A reputable breeder will gladly bring you into their home and show you not only where the puppy was born and raised, but also let you meet his parents. They will also provide verification of the puppy’s medical care.
  • Be prepared for the expense. Puppies need vaccinations and should be spayed or neutered. Most shelters will do this for you at no cost. If you purchase a puppy from a breeder, you will need to spay/neuter the puppy with your vet. You will also need to buy food, toys, and other supplies for the puppy.
  • Be prepared for some chaos. Puppies are tiny, adorable, playful – and destructive. They explore everything with their teeth, and they do not discriminate. They do not know it is an expensive shoe or piece of furniture they are chewing on.
  • Be prepared for a lot of feedings (and walks). Much like human babies, puppies must be fed many times throughout the day. They also must be taken outside immediately after eating or drinking so that they can learn to eliminate in appropriate areas.
  • Brace yourself for some sleepless nights. Puppies are needy. They can only hold their bladders for 3-4 hours at a time and will whine in the middle of the night because they are lonely or need to go to the bathroom.

“Any pet is a serious commitment, but a puppy is next level,” said Henderson. “It’s not for everyone. Adoption of an adult dog can often be a better option. But if someone has their heart set on getting a puppy, they should! It’s just important to be informed and prepared for all that is to come.”

Pasado’s Safe Haven, the Pacific Northwest’s leading animal sanctuary and rescue organization, is leading the fight against animal cruelty and works to create a world where every animal is protected. Our uniquely comprehensive approach to ending animal cruelty holds abusers accountable, provides sanctuary and rehabilitation to animals who have suffered from abuse/neglect, advocates for better laws to keep animals safe, and works to inspire people to grow their circle of compassion to include all animals. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for daily updates on rescues as well as animals in our care, or visit our website at http://www.pasadosafehaven.org.

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