By Scott Hunt
The Dog Grumbler
THIS month I hope to address anyone out there who might be considering a puppy as a Christmas present for a child.
Please don’t do it.
As I keep reminding people, literally thousands of dogs are put down every week in Australia and perhaps a pup’s best chance to join their number is to start life as a child’s pet.
If you think your child will learn responsibility from feeding and exercising a dog regularly, you are dreaming.
If you think a child can understand and accept responsibility for a dog’s education, you are equally wrong.
This is not to say that kids can’t benefit from exposure to a dog, but even adults usually make mistakes.
Adults, even with the best intentions, frequently assume that raising a well-adjusted, well-behaved dog is easy. It’s not — it’s just simple.
It takes time, repetition, consistency, patience, faith and sacrifice — and that’s before you even start to learn to speak dog.
It’s great for a child to grow up with animals for all sorts of reasons and a dog is the best place to start.
As I said in the Black & White Dog Book all those years ago, the dog is the most willing of all the animals to interact with us.
The dog is the animal that seeks a human boss, a job on a team. The dog is the animal that trains itself by endless study of its boss and family’s routines, rules, likes and dislikes.
It deserves respect for the special creature that it is. It deserves understanding. And kids understand little about anything.
A dog is for life.
Your new pup can be expected to live for 10, 15, even 20-years — your child will be a teenager, even a working adult by then.
Will they still be interested in the gift from Christmas back in 2017?
A game, a bike, a book, a new piece of technology — all can be discarded, stored, handed down, traded in, donated or returned to in a moment of nostalgia years or decades later, but not the poor creature whose life revolves around one human or one family.
So get a dog by all means, but don’t lay the responsibility for its care on a child.
Rather, ask some questions, buy a book, watch a video, learn some simple rules and apply them as a family.
This way a child learns by example how to deal with animals and grows up with a friend, playmate, protector and teacher who will truly enrich their life.
Ignore this warning at your peril — and that of an innocent dog — and have a safe and happy Christmas.