Should You Give a Puppy as a Present?

Should You Give a Puppy as a Present?

5 Considerations When Buying a Puppy as a Gift

We’ve all seen the movie. The music swells, the hero’s eyes spring open and there it is, the perfect present: an adorable little puppy with a big red bow. This iconic image is romantic, but in the real world it may lead to tragedy: an unprepared, overwhelmed pet parent relinquishing the dog to a shelter.

Does that mean a puppy can never be a good present? Not necessarily, but it is essential to do it the right way. Owning a dog is a lifetime commitment, and however well-intentioned you are, you cannot make that commitment for another person. Here are some things to consider before buying a puppy as a present for a loved one.

1. Prepare and Plan

Talk to the potential puppy parent about what kind of dog will fit in with their lifestyle. “This is the most critical piece of the equation on whether a dog finds a lifetime home, or is surrendered,” says certified professional dog trainer Catherine Zehner. How big the dog will grow, how active the dog will be, and how it will get along with family members, including children or any other pets, are all important considerations.

People also need to be prepared for the immediate changes that a puppy will bring to their household. “Schedules should be arranged so that initial crate training and potty training can be done consistently in the first few weeks,” says Zehner. Finances must be evaluated, too, since puppies need veterinary care like vaccinations and neutering. And puppies get into everything, so there could be unexpected expenses for accidents or illnesses.

A parent considering getting a puppy for a young child must be willing to provide most or all of the pet’s care. Older children can take on more responsibility, but even then, parents should realize that when the child goes away to college, the dog will likely remain at home. Parents should evaluate their own willingness to commit to a dog before giving one to their child.

2. No Surprises!

Allowing someone to properly prepare for a puppy means never giving a puppy as a surprise. “Being surprised by the gift of a puppy is probably one of the worst things that could happen for both the puppy and the family,” says Cheryl Orletsky, founder of Holiday Pet Care.

Kimberly Gauthier, editor in chief of the online magazine Keep the Tail Wagging, agrees. “Adding a dog to a home is a huge change… unless everyone is 110 percent on board with getting a dog, they shouldn’t be surprised with one,” she says.

The only case where a surprise might be warranted, says Orletsky, is when the recipient has been planning for some time to have a dog. In this case, the “surprise” would be the arrival of the puppy sooner than anticipated. “Anyone who had been diligently planning and dreaming of having a puppy of their own would be thrilled with a surprise of this sort,” she says. “Ideally, the gift would also include all the supplies that had been researched and decided upon by the recipient.” This kind of surprise sets everyone up for success; any other kind is a recipe for failure.

3. Don’t Be Trendy

Well-meaning parents rushed to pet stores after the release of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, to get their kids the perfect present: one of those cute spotted puppies. Unfortunately, they weren’t all prepared for the active, energetic, headstrong nature of these dogs, and too many of the puppies were relinquished to animal shelters. The same fate has befallen “Taco Bell” Chihuahuas, “Frasier” Jack Russell terriers, and other dogs that were purchased solely because they looked like television or movie dogs.

Product placement in movies and television is commonplace. But while you can trade in a car or throw out a knickknack, you cannot simply give back a dog. A commitment to a living creature should never be based on the hot movie or TV show of the moment.

4. Take your Time

Impulsively buying a puppy often leads to the neighborhood pet store, which may not be the best place to get a dog. “The majority of pet stores obtain their puppies from breeders who could be categorized as puppy mills,” says Orletsky. “Impulse buying of a puppy from these stores simply perpetuates the problems of ill-bred dogs, who often come with physical and emotional issues, some of which don’t show up until much later in life.”

Instead, take the time to research reputable breeders, or consider adopting from an animal shelter or rescue organization. This way, you will not enable the unethical, often cruel treatment of animals at puppy mills; and, you’ll end up with a healthier dog to boot.

Taking your time also means you can help the new pet parent prepare for their companion. Help them puppy proof their home; find the local dog-friendly parks, trails or beaches; and go shopping for supplies like bowls, crates, and leashes.

5. Do it Right, or Don’t Do it at All

Giving a puppy as a present seems simple, but in fact there are a lot of things to think about. Rushing into it can be a disaster. But if you do it the right way, you can set your loved one and their new best friend up for a lifetime of love.