Sponsored Post: A puppy for the holidays?

Sandy Driscoll & Gunner

Some people may be considering giving a puppy to a loved one as a holiday gift. But Sandy Driscoll, owner of Academy of Dog Obedience and advertiser on The Eastsider, said it might be best to wait until after the holidays to select and give a loyal and furry companion to a loved one. Here is her advice:

It is almost always a bad idea to surprise a friend or loved one with a pet as a gift.

A dog/cat is something that we end up having for many years … 15 or more.  It’s not a purchase to be taken lightly.  A new pet needs to be selected with the prospective owner’s wants, needs and lifestyle in mind.  As tempting as it is to give a bow-wrapped puppy, it’s much better to wrap a gift certificate and let the recipient choose his or her own pet.  The holidays can be a particularly exciting and stressful time for people and pets, so choosing that perfect dog or puppy after the first of the year makes much more sense.  By that time, holiday spirits have quieted down, and there’s much more time to focus on the new puppy!

Breed choice is important

This encompasses size, energy level, temperament, appearance, etc.  Be aware that all breeds have specific traits.   Don’t be surprised if that cute Pit Bull grows up to have some dog aggression problems, Retrievers (Labs, Goldens, etc) are enthusiastic and high energy, toy breeds and terriers can be barkers, and certain breeds can be more difficult to housebreak or potty train than others.

Take into consideration family members

It’s generally not a good idea to have a very small dog (Chihuahua, Yorkie, etc.)  around very young children.  Children should be old enough to learn how to interact with a dog properly, not to tease or mistreat it, and children should NEVER  be left alone with a dog.

Dogs are available from a myriad of sources

Animal shelters, animal rescue groups (there are specific breed rescues for just about every breed), online (Craigslist, etc), breeders (good breeders and backyard breeders) and pet stores.   Do NOT buy a dog from a pet store!   No matter what they tell you, the puppies always come from puppy mills (mostly in the Midwest…..Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, etc), are very overpriced, generally unhealthy and have temperament problems resulting from being inbred.   If you are looking for a specific breed, and want a purebred dog, go to a local breed rescue (easily found online), or find a GOOD breeder.   This can be done by checking with the American Kennel Club website.

Start training early

The best time to start training is the moment your new puppy steps over the threshold!   Even a very young puppy can be taught manners, gently.  At this age, it’s mostly preventive training, which encompasses replacing bad habits with good ones, and redirecting unwanted behaviors.  Most important would be housebreaking/potty training, teaching a puppy not to jump (on adults, kids, tables, couches), not to nip/bite with those needle-sharp puppy teeth, how to walk properly on a leash, etc.   Obedience training (heel, sit, stay, come, down) can be integrated as the puppy matures.   It is easily possible to have a five month old puppy who is cheerfully responding to all those commands!

There are many wonderful dogs, purebred and mixes, available from animal shelters and from rescue groups.  The animal shelter that covers The Eastside area is the North Central Animal Shelter (3201 Lacy St., Los Angeles 90031 Phone: 888-452-7381)

Enjoy your puppy/dog!  They all add pleasure and immense happiness to our lives.  They never live long enough, so treasure the time you have with them now.


  1. For people who are excited to give a puppy as a gift, there are wonderful ways of giving the idea of a puppy, permission of a puppy, family commitment of a puppy. Buy a collapsible wire crate that will fit the puppy as an adult. Buy a handsome and comfortable leather leash that will last through the dog’s lifetime of training and companionship or a retractable leash that will make exercising the dog easier. Buy a handsome and durable gate that will confine your teething puppy to a protected area. Buy exceptional training books and DVD’s or gift certificates for training classes. Any one of these makes a wonderful hint of what lies ahead, like a baby shower gift for a baby that has not been born yet. You can have all of the excitement, anticipation, and family involvement in advance, with greater attention to everyone’s right to be involved in an important decision.

  2. Excellent suggestions, Mary! A crate is absolutely the BEST training tool any dog owner can have. It’s terrific for housebreaking, and for keeping the puppy in its own warm place so he/she can’t chew/destroy household items. Keeps the owner’s possessions intact too! There are crates that have dividers in them, enabling us to create the perfect size home for the puppy as it grows up!

  3. Sandy, you are so right. Allowing someone to choose their own pet is the only way to go. If you give them the pet that YOU wanted them to have, there is a risk that the pet will never be completely accepted and it could easily end up in a shelter on the way to euthanasia. What a sad end for a sweet animal that, through no fault of its own, ended up in the wrong household.

  4. Great advice Sandy and Mary.

    Puppies and kittens are delightful, but not everyone wants one and bringing a puppy or kitten into the Christmas excitement and “mess” is sure to put the animal in a position of getting into trouble immediately. Waiting until after the holiday and researching what you want, maybe going to a dog show and meeting the type of dog you are considering and talking to owners about the breeds’ traits and good and bad points can be a big help. This doesn’t mean you will need to buy from that breeder…as Sandy pointed out there are rescues for every breed. Learn what breed, or mix, you want, then worry about finding it.

    I also endorse puppy classes. They usually start after the puppy has had at least two shots. Don’t take puppies out until they have those first two shots…it is very important to make sure they don’t catch something when they are so little. Then look into puppy classes for socialization for the pup and to teach the handler what to do. The Southern California Obedience Council (SCDOC.org) website lists training clubs all over southern California to find the one closest to you with classes you are interested in. (I know Sandy and highly recommend her for one-on-one training.)

    One last recommendation: Skip dog parks. You want to know who your pup is visiting, their health and behavior. Don’t take a chance of your pup being with unsocialized dogs that might not have their shots.

  5. PS How about another article with Sandy?

    Like how to find a good vet?

  6. Dog parks! I live very close to the Silver Lake dog park, and think that they pose more problems than not. They are breeding grounds for fleas, ticks and airborne viruses. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear the yelping of a dog being harassed by another (or worse yet, a pack!) and sometimes there are resulting serious injuries. Even if your dog is quite social, you can’t count on other dogs to behave properly. You only have to witness one dog fight in your life to know that they are very scary and sometimes deadly experiences. People do crazy things……like taking their little dog into the big dog area. Not a good idea! It’s one of the best ways to see resulting high prey drive in action.

    As far as how to best locate a good vet, I think asking your friends and neighbors who are longtime pet owners is good. You should feel comfortable with a vet, much the same way you feel comfortable with your own doctor. A good vet is able to diagnose and treat basic health issues, and knows when to refer you to a specialist should you need one. A good vet saved my dog’s life several years ago, just by spotting a potential problem and referring me to the right specialist. Also, speaking of vets, you should always be aware of where the closest emergency vet is. TheEastsiderLA’s area vet is Eagle Rock Emergency Pet Clinic 4254 Eagle Rock Blvd Los Angeles 90065. Phone 323-254-7382.

  7. Sandy, thank you, thank you for your candor about dog parks, which are often a terrifying and overly stressful experience for dogs. I’d love to throw in my personal observations just for the sake of feedback and to learn from some obvious experts. It seems to me that many owners feels pressured to take their dogs to dog parks to be “socialized,” but the only person who socializes is the owner, while the dog struggles to be safe from aggressive or just pushy dogs who threaten it. It is painful to watch a dog trying desperately to get attention because it feels endangered, and the owner is blissfully chatting away and disregarding its pleas. (Try taking a video of a busy dog park and watch the dogs’ body language. You will be shocked at how many of the dogs are signaling, “please, mom/dad, take me home!)

    No wonder the dog is exhausted when it leaves. It may not be from enjoyment but from the stress of worrying about its own safety and possibly being attacked by one or a number of dogs (we know that even cordial dogs will often join in if one dog starts an attack or a fight.)

    It is wonderful for a dog to have a companion or playmate it enjoys, but let’s take a look at natural instincts. In the wild, dogs spend their entire life in their own “pack/family” with a heirarchy that is established and followed. Strange dogs are not welcome because resources (females and food) are carefully guarded. Today, it seems we have humanized dogs to the extent that we believe they want to bond with every dog they meet and I think we forget who they are and that they have distinct preferences, just as we do. (Imagine yourself in a group of bullies–temperament–not necessarily breed).

    I’d recommend, if you go to a dog park, don’t let a lot of dogs gang up, even if it seems like innocent play. That can change quickly! Watch for any slight signs of aggression or conflict and remove your dog immediately. Pick your dog up (if it is small) or attach its leash and leave the area quickly if your dog seems frightened or is becoming agitated.

    Personally, I think long, relaxed walks are much better for both the owner and the dog–unless it is playtime with a beloved doggie friend. If you take your dog to a dog park, be sure it is happy and safe and don’t for an instant take your attention away from it.

    Would love to read some other thoughts on this.

  8. Denise, I agree with absolutely everything you have said! In recent years, dog parks have become de rigueur for most people. I know owners who will take a brand new adopted dog to a park without first letting it settle in and be comfortable with the family at home. I get calls from people complaining that their dog is not ‘social’ or does not want to play with other dogs. I explain that it’s important to realize that dogs, like people, are each individuals. Every dog isn’t a social butterfly any more than every person is outgoing.

    I had a client many years ago who lived on the Westside (far far away from TheEastsiderLA area!!) and would dress to the nines and take her 2 dogs to the Laurel Canyon dog park. She wore literally thousands of dollars worth of expensive designer clothes, and went there to meet the man of her dreams. All she got was mud splatters from dogs as they ran past her.

    I know others who persist in taking their dogs to the park, even though they get in fights about half the time. As a dog trainer, I tell people right from the get go that I am not a fan of dog parks and do not recommend them. I realize I’m in the minority, but I think we end up with a much more special bond with our dog if we focus on the dog and a one-to-one relationship.

    I do often train dogs outside a dog park, using the dogs in the park as a distraction, just as I will train in front of a supermarket or in a multi-use park to get the dog used to distractions such as children, runners, skateboarders, etc. These things are helpful in getting the dog to focus happily on you!

  9. We took in two large (100 lb) strays ten years ago and hired Sandy to help us train the dogs. We bought six sessions and she did such an amazing job that we stopped at four. She told us she’d come back for the other two anytime, but we never needed to take her up on her offer.

    Sandy has an amazing presence and our dogs immediately responded to her. She taught us some great commands and tricks that we still use. People tell us all the time that we have the best-behaved dogs they’ve ever seen.

    Thanks, Sandy!

    -Mike and Rich (and Terrance & Phillip)

  10. Great article and comments, Sandy. We must not forget the wonderful contribution you have made to Los Angeles City shelters as the head of VISA (Volunteers in Service to Animals), which provided the only volunteers at North Central shelter for years. You have definitely made a terrific contribution to the entire community and to everyone (human or canine) who knows you. Hope we see more articles by you. I wish you could share your great collection of photos on travel with Gunner–lucky dog!!

  11. Outstanding advice, Sandy…and wonderful photo of you and Gunner. I echo the previous comments. Your travelogues and photos should be a regular feature on The Eastsider. We missed you in the Land of Enchantment this year.

  12. Great advice, especially on the difference between breeds. Perusing breed books helps.
    Another thing about Labs – they love to dig! But they are the best!!

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *