Dogs at Christmas time may be putting Santa out of business, as searches for them continue to rise. Image: Canva.
  • Santa Claus is trending downward as a search term on Google
  • Dog Christmas present has been rising since 2004
  • Dog ownership is more involved than you think, with much research to be done by potential owners

It turns out Santa Claus is becoming less popular every year, and dog Christmas presents are on the rise.

Our in-house experts of digital wizardry found that Google searches in Australia for Santa Claus have dropped some 55% since 2004, and Australians searching for “dog Christmas presents” trended upward, spiking in 2008.

With the silly season just three sleeps away, it does beg the question: are you getting someone on the nice list a dog for Christmas?

Renters hide pets despite contracts becoming more lenient

While renters have typically been told to stay away from owning pets, a blanket ban on pets was lifted in New South Wales in 2021.

Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of pet ownership, with a cultural shift behind the change. Then minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, said at the time:

“A lot has changed since the Act commenced in 2015, including a huge shift to apartment living as more and more people in NSW are choosing to buy and rent in higher density areas,” Mr Anderson said.

“On top of that, research tells us that Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 61 per cent of households including a pet in their family, and 91 per cent of households owning a pet at some point in their lives.”

In WA, The Property Tribune contributor Ashleigh Goodchild wrote in August 2021 that landlords had the choice whether to accept pets or not in rental properties, but landlords were nonetheless worried about damage from pets. Goodchild noted most rental damage came from humans and not pets.

When Covid hit, thousands more Australians asked if they could keep pets in their rentals, with data from property management tool FLK IT OVER showing a dramatic spike in tenant requests for housing pets.

Founder of FLK IT OVER, Andrew Colagiuri said:

“Dogs are by far the most popular pet with over 35,000 leases signed through the FLK IT OVER platform including at least one dog followed by cats with 8,000 leases which often come in a pair.”

“Chickens are in third place followed by a variety of animals from guinea pigs, mice, snakes to horses and while a single pet is the most common there is a growing number of tenants having more than one pet.”

The data also showed that one in four tenancy leases now include a pet clause compared to a decade ago.

Mr Colagiuri also noted that despite landlords beginning to warm to tenants being pet owners, some are still choosing to hide pets from landlords.

Getting a dog for Christmas – what you need to know before buying

The best option is to try animal shelters, many of which are struggling to keep up with the number of dogs, puppies, and more, surrendered every year after Christmas.

It is also important to think about whether you will be able to keep up with the cost of raising a puppy and whether you can hold onto it for the long term.

Dr Anne Quain, Senior Lecturer for the Sydney School of Veterinary Science said: “Unfortunately, we do know that animals bought as surprise gifts may be surrendered because the recipient doesn’t have the space, time, money or resources to look after them.”

Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour, Welfare & Ethics for the University of Adelaide, Dr Susan Hazel, noted that animal surrenders aren’t always the fault of the owners: “If they lose their job or have to move rentals, or are looking for a rental, there might be reasons they have to give up their pet.”

Dr Hazel also reminded readers that:

“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. An average dog will live for 10 years and needs care for that time. Puppies can be a lot of work before they are toilet trained and go through teething and adolescence.”

Dr Susan Hazel, Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour, Welfare & Ethics for the University of Adelaide

“Make sure if you already have a pet that you can try them out first, or seek professional dog training advice to make the transition to life with an extra member in the family stress-free. Good trainers promote force free methods which builds resilience, enhances the human-animal bond and is much better long term,” added Dr Hazel.

Buyer beware! Dr Quain reminded readers to do their homework before buying: “Find out about the breed, the dog, and ensure that breeders are reputable. If unsure, ask if you can talk to the breeder’s vet. There are unfortunately puppy scams occurring – be wary! Check out the RSPCA’s Smart Puppy Buyer’s Guide.”

It is also worthwhile researching whether your dog is suited to where you live, with some more susceptible to issues that may be present in your area.

“Do your research: it helps to know what disease conditions the breed may be predisposed to. For example, brachycephalic or flat-faced dog breeds are prone to airway disease and are highly susceptible to heat stress. Long, low-riding dogs like dachshunds are prone to spinal problems. You probably shouldn’t adopt one if you live in a house with a lot of stairs, for example,” said Dr Quain.

“Veterinary bills can be costly. I strongly recommend insuring dogs immediately upon adoption so that they have no pre-existing conditions. Pet insurance allows dog owners to claim for veterinary expenses that are covered under the policy – this can save thousands of dollars, especially when it comes to accidents and illnesses.”

Can dogs live in apartments?

Absolutely! Both Dr Hazel and Dr Quain said the reality is that many people do. Dr Hazel said it is very commonplace in Europe, with generally smaller and lower energy dogs doing better. Ideally, dogs that naturally bark less will be ideal too.

“You can do a lot with mental enrichment (toys, feeding puzzles) to counteract not having a lot of space if the dog is still exercised adequately. Check with the requirements in your apartment block,” said Dr Hazel, who also noted if you want to find out more about raising dogs in apartments, consult a professional (dog trainer or veterinarian) before deciding to try owning a dog in an apartment.

Dogs will of course need to get outdoors, Dr Quain said “You need to make sure that these dogs have regular access to the outdoors (1-2 walks per day plus plenty of opportunities to toilet outside).

“Ensure dogs are well socialised, that they are trained well – investing in a trainer who uses positive re-enforcement methods is critical – and consider how you can enrich your dogs days. For example, some dogs love a regular outing to doggy daycare, or with a dog walker, when their owners are not around.”

As for how much space?

There’s no generic amount of space per size of dog, said Dr Hazel, “Energy levels vary – greyhounds are not as energetic as other breeds like Border Collies. It’s more the amount of time people play with them rather than just having the space.”

What do I need to watch out for when owning a dog?

Just like us, dogs need to be vaccinated.

“Dogs require annual vaccinations (for parvovirus, distemper virus, kennel cough and leptospirosis) as well as preventatives for heartworm, intestinal worms, fleas and ticks,” said Dr Quain.

Notably, Dr Hazel and Dr Quain said anti-tick serum/tick antivenom is in short supply – something to be aware of when heading out to areas where ticks are known to be, but also a reminder to keep up to date with tick prevention.

“Currently, I am seeing a lot of dogs with diarrhoea – some of this is likely viral/bacterial in origin, but a lot is due to dietary change or dietary indiscretion (i.e. eating something they should not, like an old kebab they find in the bushes at the park),” said Dr Quain.

“I’ve also seen a lot of kennel cough (an umbrella term for infectious diseases that leads to a cough in dogs, very common in younger dogs). While most dogs are vaccinated against it, the vaccine does not prevent 100% of infections.”

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