This is such a problem that one of the major dog rescue organizations in London is not allowing any new adoptions between December 20 and January 2. The Dog Trust hopes that this policy will minimize the number of pups showing up at their shelters after the holidays. During this time, you can go to the shelter and pick out a puppy, but will have to wait until after January 2 to take your new family member home.
This is part of the 30+ year effort to reduce the dog-as-gift problem in England. In 1978, one fifth of all dogs in the country were gifted. Now that is down under two percent--but that is still over 100,000 puppies every year going into homes that did not think through this major life decision.
Not sure if your ready for the full commitment of dog ownership, but want to try it over the holidays? Shelters all across the United States are participating in a program called "Foster a Lonely Pet for the Holidays." Shelters are joining together on Petfinder.com to get lonely shelter dogs a warm place to rest their heads during Christmas time.
If you haven't even started the conversation in your home, you might want to stick with the Zhu Zhu robotic hamster, which if you have not heard, is one of the hottest gifts for the 2009 holiday season.