We’re sure you agree that dogs are not just Christmas gifts. They get older and stick around for life. Dogs are our family members and our best friends – you’d be surprised by how many people don’t think that way. Many people gift puppies or dogs at Christmas to surprise their loved ones, and sadly many of them end up in shelters. 

‘’Dogs are for life not just for Christmas’’ is a popular phrase you’ve probably heard before. In this article, we’ll cover where it came from, and what it means. We’ll also give you our opinion on why we don’t think puppies or dogs should be given as Christmas gifts. If you are sure that a puppy is something you want to offer someone as a gift, we’ll tell you about the right way to gift a puppy and what you need to know before you bring a dog home. 

If you’re bringing a new puppy home or you’re thinking of giving someone a puppy as a gift, we have a whole section in the Zigzag app on what to do before you get your puppy home. Look in our pre-puppy chapter – you’ll find everything you need there. Perhaps you haven’t decided what breed to get, or you’ve got questions about your new puppy. All these questions and more, you can ask our team of professional dog trainers. They’re there for you 7 days a week. 

puppy at christmas
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Who said ‘a dog is for life not just for Christmas’?

‘’A dog is for life not just for Christmas’’ was coined in 1978 by Clarissa Baldwin, then Chief Executive of The National Canine Defence League, which later became The Dogs Trust. At the time, thousands of people were giving puppies as gifts at Christmas, and rescues were overrun with unwanted dogs once the novelty had worn off and the reality set in. 

Do you have a rescue puppy? Read our article on settling a rescue puppy into their new home. You already know it will be of good use. 

Why a dog is not just for Christmas?

Let’s be honest. Getting a puppy at one of the busiest times in our social calendars is usually a recipe for disaster. Puppies take up a lot of our time and energy and are a big responsibility. Think about it: Some dogs live up to 20 years. Are you ready to take on that commitment?

You’re too busy to get a dog at Christmas

Young puppies need almost constant supervision when they’re little. If you bring a puppy home at Christmas time, you need to be there for them constantly. You’ll probably have to reschedule your holiday plans and gatherings until much later. Puppy comes first!

Puppies need a calm environment 

Christmas isn’t the quietest of times. It’s understandable – otherwise, it would be quite boring, wouldn’t it? But adding a new puppy to the mix can just be chaotic. Your puppy will likely become overwhelmed by the many noisy visitors you’ll have coming over. It’s worth remembering your puppy is probably entering a fear period after bringing them home and will be sensitive to all of the changes. 

Puppies need routines

Puppies do best when they have a routine. Getting them used to their new home and into a toilet training routine, a nighttime routine (so that they learn how to sleep through the night) will become rather difficult when you’re not on your usual schedule. It’s hard enough already – you don’t want to make it harder. 

Christmas foods can carry a lot of risk for puppies

The usual Christmas treats like chocolate decorations, cakes and puddings contain dried fruit and nuts that can be potentially lethal to puppies. Because of their charming personality and glittery eyes, your puppy can end up being given a lot of titbits by well-meaning friends – which can be quite dangerous. These include cooked bones – they’re too rich for a young puppy’s digestion at this point. Puppies need a balanced diet and the correct nutrition to grow into the beautiful beings they’re meant to be.

Think about it. It’s Christmas – you want to avoid traumas or sad stories. 

Puppies and Christmas decorations don’t mix well! 

We don’t want to sound like the Grinch, but tinsel, electric cables and pine needles are all potential hazards to a new puppy. Puppies are inquisitive and like to explore by putting everything in their mouths and chewing away on anything in front of them. We don’t want any Christmas disasters, so it’s best to keep decorations out of their way.

When you bring your puppy home, you should settle them into a puppy-proofed area, possibly with a playpen and crate to provide them with a safe environment.

Many Christmas puppies come from puppy farms

Sadly, unscrupulous breeders and puppy farmers know how desperate people are to get a puppy for Christmas. Puppies from these kinds of places often come with diseases, and possible suffering and have been inappropriately raised with a lack of proper socialisation. It’s very sad to know that these dogs often end up with emotional and behavioural problems later on in life.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but buying from an unscrupulous breeder – otherwise known as puppy mills – means you are funding the abuse and neglect of the mothers’ who are bred time after time after time, with little thought or care. Good breeders have waiting lists. If a puppy is too readily available, just walk away.

labrador puppy under tree
Photo by Rhaúl V. Alva on Unsplash

Reasons why you shouldn’t give puppies as gifts for Christmas

We’re going to say it again: A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. Dogs are a life-long commitment as they live up to 20 years, they cost money, and they need to receive lots of love and affection. It might just be that your ‘giftee’ isn’t ready for that kind of responsibility right now. 

Your idea of a surprise puppy might not be wanted

Many of us joke about wanting a particular breed of dog, or daydream about what being a puppy parent might be like. Truth is, we just might not be ready for one. Buying a puppy should definitely be a decision for the new owner to make, however well-meaning you feel the surprise is.

While initially thrilled the novelty of a puppy may wear off

The realities of owning a puppy are a whole lot different than what you imagine them to be. The cost of food, vaccinations, neutering, veterinary treatment, and puppy sitters can be staggering. You also have to go for walks in the rain, and clean up many many puddles of puppy pee. If you’re not fully on board with the idea, this gets boring and tiring very quickly – so many owners give up as it’s just too hard.

Christmas is not the right time to give a puppy as a gift

The person you’re giving the puppy to probably has a lot going on at Christmas, and getting a new puppy wasn’t on their list to Santa! If anything is going to stick from this article, let it be this: A surprise puppy as a Christmas gift is a bad idea.

The right way to give a puppy as a Christmas gift, if you really want to

So, you’re adamant that this person wants a gift of a puppy at Christmas. Are you 100% sure? Okay then, you’ll need to follow these tips to ensure the dog is indeed for life and not just for Christmas. 

Choose the right breed with the person involved

One person’s dream dog may be a Chihuahua, while another wants a Staffie. Do you know what breed will work best for the person you’re gifting the puppy to? Let’s be realistic here. It’s best not to get a Border Collie when you live in a small city apartment.

Be sure that the person is fully committed

We’ll say it again. A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. A puppy is a lifelong commitment and expensive! Be entirely sure that this is what the person wants for Christmas and that they’re ready for the trials and tribulations of puppy parenthood. 

Find a good breeder way ahead of time

Good breeders usually have long waiting lists and often don’t have pups available around Christmas to precisely prevent puppies from becoming gifts.

Avoid breeders who advertise around Christmas. This is a big red flag. Especially if they offer to deliver the puppy or meet you somewhere with the puppy. An example of a green flag is that you’re always able to see a puppy with its mother. If the breeder makes up a story about why you can’t, walk far, far away.

Rescue centres will often pause rehoming at this time too, so getting a rescue puppy at Christmas is often tricky too. 

Have your puppy supplies ready

Don’t buy a puppy and think that’s the end of it! You’ll need to buy all the supplies that the person needs, too. Giving a puppy at Christmas means you’ll need a crate and playpen, puppy food and bowls, chews, toys, blankets and beds

Read our articles on tips for new puppy owners and our getting a new puppy checklist for more information.

Things to consider when getting a dog

Taking on a puppy is a big commitment. A dog is not just for Christmas, after all! Sorry, I had to say it again if it hadn’t sunk in yet. It would be best if you considered a couple more things when you become a dog parent, changes you will need to make to your home and your lifestyle.


Dogs are expensive. Plain and simple. Here are a few costs you need to consider.

You’ll need to budget for Veterinary visits, vaccinations, neutering, regular worming and flea treatment. There are also monthly outgoings like pet insurance, food, treats and toys, puppy classes, and perhaps a pet sitter. Cha-ching! Are you totting it all up yet? Gulp.

Read our full article on how much do dogs really cost to understand the costs involved in getting a puppy.


Puppies are wonderful, and they also take a huge amount of time and patience. Take being alone as an example. They don’t come pre-programmed to want to be alone at all, and if you rush the separation training, you can end up with separation anxiety. For their first 6 months at least, you must be prepared to be at home a lot or employ a pet sitter.


Does your gift receiver have the room for a puppy? Even small dogs like French Bulldogs and Pugs take up a good amount of space. They need the room to roam and be dogs. Even slinky dogs like Whippets need to stretch out on a sofa.

Toilet training in an apartment can be tricky for many people, so consider how much space you have when buying a puppy. Of course, puppies grow pretty quickly too, and your Christmas puppy will grow into a dog in no time at all! 

We hope you’ve got the full story of why a dog is for life, not just for Christmas! Of course, we love dogs here at Zigzag. But buying a puppy for Christmas is a bad idea – it’s a hugely stressful time for everyone, and your puppy will require calm, a lot of time and attention. , 

Honestly, we wouldn’t recommend it! But if your mind’s made up, remember it’s not just a puppy you buy for Christmas. It’s all of their essential supplies too.

brown dog sitting under christmas tree
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

So glad you read through our article. Why not head over and learn about how to settle in a rescue puppy? Probably a good idea to read over that as well.

Of course, if you’re generally thinking of getting a puppy or buying a puppy, it’s well worth downloading a trial of the Zigzag app. Not only do we have a personalised training programme set out for you, we also have a team of puppy trainers on hand to give you support 7 days a week. Not bad is it?