Why A Christmas Present for a Dog Lover Should Not be a Dog – or Puppy

When I was looking at Pets listings on Craigslist, I saw this ad:  “Cane Corso puppies available for their new homes. They would make a great gift for the Holidays.”    You know that feeling you get when you see something that you know is going to end really, really badly? It’s a plummeting blood-pressure dizzy lightheaded feeling. All the reasons why it is wrong to give a dog as a present whipped though my brain like a flash slideshow. And not just any dog. Proposing that an aggressive, dominant breed like Cane Corso would in any way shape or form make a great Christmas present for a dog lover, is so “over the top.”

Cane Corso is a hard dog that affords his master great protection. If he senses danger, he will take matters into his own hands. Cane Corso is not a beginner dog owner’s dog, for sure!

We’ll get to the specifics of a Cane Corso or other experienced-dog-owners-only breeds in a bit. Let’s discuss the general reasons why great gift for the Holidays should not include dogs or puppies.

A dog is a 7-18 year commitment

Assuming the recipient is the responsible type, you are about to saddle him or her with a 7 to 18 year commitment.

Let me assure you: If you gift ME a dog, I will haunt your grave. Forever.

This is the face to make If someone gives you dog as an unsolicited present

Is the soon-to-be new dog owner ready to socialize and train a dog?

If the dog is a puppy, that friend or relative gets to spring into action to properly socialize and work to provide basic obedience training for that puppy—a commitment that will require daily energy for a period not less than one year.

… There’s potty training.

… … There’s basic obedience training.

… … … There’s etiquette training

  • Do not eat the cat…
  • Do not jump out of a car window…
  • Do not eat the USP delivery person…
  • Do not jump on the nice old lady wobbling behind that walker.

Dogs must be taught never to exit a car without a clear command to do so.

Is the new owner set up to receive a dog? … And how does the rest of the family feel about having a dog?

Before getting a dog, a proactive person has a chance to prepare his or her house for the new dog.

Does your recipient have a secure fence, or will the dog end up on a chain in the back yard?

Is the dog already housebroken? If not, does the new owner have a crate? Enzyme cleaners? A carpet cleaner?

Has the new owner ever had a dog or puppy? What will s/he need in order to create a successful relationship with the new dog?

If the dog is an adult, is he well behaved? Will he get along with the other pets, guests, and members of the family? Even if the new owner is equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to reform a dog, is s/he prepared and willing to do so?

Will this dog fit with the new owner’s plans? If s/he wanted to do agility training, a Borzoi may not prove to be competitive with an Australian Sheepdog. If Lure coursing was the sport of choice, then the Aussie will be outpaced by the Borzoi. And not all dogs are created equal anyway.

There was a fun episode of the Beverly Hillbillies that ran the gamut of dog enthusiasts vs those who view dogs as a giant nuisance.

Your enthusiasm for a dog or multiple dogs may not be shared with your intended recipient!

Does the new owner work? If so, how much time will the new dog have to be around people?

Whose fault is it when the dog trashes the house? (Hint: Not the dog’s)?

Are there other animals in the home? If so, will this dog get along with them? And will they get along with the dog?

Before anyone gets a dog, it is best to consider what other pets are in the home and what pets might be in the home in the future.

While there are exceptions to every rule, there are some breeds that get along marvelously with other pets. But then there are others — my favorite, the Bouvier, for one– that do NOT get along with some other species. Some rescue/ shelter websites address compatibility questions such as whether or not the dog:

  • Gets along with children
  • Gets along with cats
  • Gets along with other dogs

… From those notations, you will begin to recognize a pattern. I don’t know if anyone has ever conducted an official survey, but I am pretty sure the Bouvier would rate in singe-digit percentile as a dog that is marked as one that “Gets along with cats.”

And again, that does not mean that every dog in that breed will follow the norm. But it should raise red flags if you have or plan to have children or other pets.

Do you know enough about the breed and this dog to ask the right questions?

If it is a puppy, find out all you can with regard to these issues:

  • What is the breed and pedigree of the parents. (On Craigslist I found a listing that stated, “The complete bloodline breakdown is 75% German Shepherd and 25% Labrador.” This is NOT the lingo of a responsible, purposeful breeder.)
  • What do you know of the breeder’s reputation—What details do you have about his/her breeding program, attitude and action with regard to disease/ hips, etc. testing of the puppy’s dam and sire, vaccination schedule. (If you have not already done so, read my book, Canine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Prevention in which I discuss vaccinations, medications as well as breeds that have high rates of thyroid disease.) This book will give you a number of “heads up” warnings about things that can damage the endocrine system. Be proactive. Don’t damage the endocrine system.
  • How did the breeder structure the socialization program for the puppies, (or was there a program at all?) See the next post to read about the importance of proper socialization for puppies age 3 weeks to 12 weeks. 

Canine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Prevention

Do you have a list of questions you should ask when considering an older dog

– Why are the previous owners letting him go? What are this dog’s vices? Typical reasons include:

  • Fearful of children, of men, of women, of strangers, of other pets
  • Aggressive – toward dogs, or cats, or farm animals, or children, or men or women or the owner…
  • Destructive – chews up everything
  • Not housebroken
  • Behaviorally out of control
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Cannot be controlled
  • Cannot be contained
  • Is an “illegal” breed for that city

What does your friend / family member know about this breed?

Dog Breed Characteristics may not match the person you are giving the dog to

My first dog was a Shepherd-Husky mix that we found at a pet shop when I was ten. He was my inseparable partner as I grew up. He disappeared at 5:30 a.m. in Seattle on March 30, 1979. I was devastated. A three-month search failed to turn up any sign of him.

When I finally conceded failure, I adopted Buck, the 6 month old GSD/Lab mix. He was as committed to his previous owner as Baron was to me. For years, Buck dragged me across streets whenever he saw a tall, thin man in a business suit.

Buck was brilliant. He had a powerful vocabulary and sophisticated comprehension of English. However, we were ill-suited.

It is not that he was not a good dog. In fact, he was a great dog. But temperamentally, we were not a good match. He was too happy, too playful. He was a classically terrific Lab!

But I wanted a more serious, down-to-business type of dog.

Years later I would find Wayne Curry, who was then breeding exceptional German Shepherds of European lines. I would meet all the puppies at 5 weeks old, hold one of them for 20 minutes and return 3 weeks later to bring one home.

I am pretty sure that the puppy I held at 5 weeks old was the one who chose me. I threw my little change purse over and over and over again, and she raced her brothers and sisters to that purse, grabbed it, and returned it to me every time.

Echo was the ambassador of the German Shepherd breed – a dog with the finest temperament I have ever known. No one could have picked out that dog for me. We created that bond from the time we met and selected one another.

When the horses were turned out to graze in the high country, Echo could always find them.

Please do not deny your friend or relative that honor.

And to bring this all back to the Cane Corso. You, yourself, may not be knowledgeable about the dog’s breed in terms of typical hereditary illnesses, or breed temperament tendencies.

Cane Corso is not a breed for a novice dog owner.

Cane Corso is a breed I might consider once my Bouvier is no longer able to protect me. They are one-man (or one family) dogs who view outsiders as potential threats. They have fewer qualms of defending their people than even a Bouvier has.

They are absolutely not a “beginners” dog as they are not touchie-feelie, love-peace-tie-dye dogs. They will attack cats, small dogs, and uninvited intruders, and their large size and solid body means that if you have not gained full control of this dog when he was a little sprout, you will have your hands full and your shoulders dislocated if you wait until he is a year old.

And THIS is the dog advertised on Craigslist as a dog that would make “great gift for the Holidays.”