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Dublin: 15°C Tuesday 19 October 2021

'A dog is for life', so why do people continue to give them as presents?

That well-known phrase just hasn’t stuck.

Image: christmas puppy via tthu

THE PHRASE ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ has been throw around each year for decades.

It was first coined by the chairperson of charity Dogs Trust, Clarissa Baldwin, in 1978.

Despite the best efforts of the charity, and others with similar interests, it hasn’t stuck.

Any animal welfare group you speak to will report an increase after Christmas in the number of unwanted dogs.

Last year, Dogs Trust received 51 calls from members of the public requesting to surrender their dog or puppy just two weeks after Christmas.

A welfare group in Cork received so many animals that it ran out of foster places.

There has been some calls for action by Government to address the issue, which while it is more pronounced at Christmas, occurs throughout the year.


But how come the well-known phrase warning people not to buy dogs – or other pets – as presents at Christmas hasn’t stuck?

Dr Brendan Richardson, an expert in Consumer Behaviour from UCC, said that gift-giving is such an emotional charged task that often we will lose sight of the ramifications of the present, unable to see past the immediate gratification.

“We’re focusing on the other person, and the chance to the please the other person,” Richardson said. “It’s a means to the end.”

He added that once a person makes a decision, for example to buy a pet, they are more likely to look for and take onboard evidence that corroborates this decision and ignore the rest, meaning that we’re unlikely to heed warnings.

Of course, pester power is always going to come into the equation as well.

Parents will give in, and giving gifts can also become a substitute for the amount of time a parent gets to spend with a kid.

“All parents will know what it’s like, when you’re working long hours and want to communicate your love to your kid,” Richardson said.

Richardson also suggested that the issue needs to be addressed at the point of supply.

“If you want to adopt a rescue dog, your home needs to be vetted, but in other circumstances you can simply buy a dog without a background check. If they brought a bit of relationship marketing into it, and made sure the dog was going to be a positive experience for the customer, it would benefit both sides.”

‘The worst we’ve ever seen’: Dog rescue closes because it has too many unwanted animals >

Read: Dog welfare group say Christmas dumping of dogs had started by January last Christmas >

About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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