Every year, parents buy their children puppies for Christmas. Who wouldn’t want a puppy? Puppies are adorable! There is probably nothing more adorable on earth, except kittens, which some parents also buy for their children. What usually happens with Christmas puppies is that they become Easter shelter dogs, after the novelty has worn off and people realize that dogs need to be walked, fed, trained, and taken to the veterinarian for regular checkups. Puppies are super cute, but they also require a super not-cute amount of care. The holidays are a very busy, stressful time for people, and Christmas morning is no time to bring an animal into your home, with all the noise and excitement and the fact that if you do get your kids a puppy, it probably came from a puppy mill where it was housed in a cage only 6 inches wider than the dog in each direction.

Most reputable dog breeders won’t sell a dog during the holiday season. They will require an in-home visit to make sure the dog will be going to a good home. They will want to know the ages of your children and meet them to make sure the children understand the amount of care a puppy requires and how to be gentle with a puppy. I’m not trying to piss off responsible dog breeders out there, and most of these people would agree with me on this subject.There are some good dog breeders out there, who breed their dogs rarely and who don’t keep them in tiny cages, but no one needs to spend a few thousand dollars on a purebred for a Christmas present for a child. And even purebred puppies and dogs can end up in animal shelters and rescue groups, which is the only place you should ever get a dog from.

Bringing a new pet into the home for Christmas morning is a bad idea. If you are hell-bent on adding a pet to your family, and you feel your kids are ready for a pet, Christmas is not the time to do it. Even if your kids are the most responsible kids on earth, the majority of the pet care is going to end up on you, the adults in the family. Your child may promise to always walk the dog or change the litter box, but I can promise you, you will be the one doing it most of the time. Getting a puppy for Christmas may seem like a good idea and a totally great photo op, how many times have we seen a television commercial or a Christmas card with an adorable puppy sitting patiently under a tree with a ribbon around its neck? But the reality is, if you purchase a dog from a pet store, it will have most likely come from a puppy mill where it survived in deplorable conditions before making its way under your tree. The same goes for puppies advertised in the newspaper or for sale on the Internet. This video will simultaneously break your heart and fill it with joy:

If you do want to adopt a dog for the family for Christmas, I suggest waiting until after the holiday. You can purchase some dog supplies and wrap them and put them under the tree. You can present your kids with a gift certificate to a local animal shelter. You can plan on researching dogs and spending the winter break visiting shelters and speaking with the people who work there about finding a perfect match for your family. Any shelter would be happy to see you the day after Christmas, with donations of quality dog food and a case of paper towels in your car, and will be more than happy to let you spend time meeting all sorts of dogs and puppies who need a good forever home.

The best part about adopting a dog from a shelter is not only are you giving an animal a second chance at a happy, healthy, life, you are also showing your kids how they can make a positive change in the world by not supporting puppy stores. Depending on their ages, you can explain why it’s always better to give an unwanted animal a new home rather than paying for one. There is nothing better than a family dog, just not on Christmas morning.

(photo: gorillaimages /shutterstock)