How to Give a Dog as a Gift This Holiday Season

By Diane Levitan, VMD, veterinarian, and member of the Wag! Advisory Board 

Giving a dog as a gift brings to mind delightful images — a beautiful puppy, a smiling recipient, and a scene of joy and happiness. Alas, it doesn’t always turn out that way.

In fact, I’ve seen this scene turn downright sad after the holidays. That’s when many recipients, unprepared for their new family member, are forced to turn the dog over to a shelter. How sad is that?

Help! My friend gave me a dog!

As a veterinarian and dog lover, I’ve seen my fair share of “present puppies," and I’ve also dealt with the experience firsthand. While in college, a friend decided she would gift me a puppy. The lovable bundle was so sweet and tiny and adorable. 

Then reality set in, and these thoughts rushed through my head:

  • I can’t afford a dog!

  • He needs shots? How much does that cost?

  • What if he gets sick?

  • Wait, what about spring break?

  • Oh, and my landlord doesn’t even allow pets.  

Nice thought, big dilemma.

5 things to consider before giving a dog as a gift

If you’re thinking of giving someone a pet this season, here are five thoughts to consider:

  • What is the current state of the would-be recipient’s life? They may have small children, a new one on the way, or pets already in the house. Consider all these factors and then some before deciding whether or not now is the right time for a new puppy.

  • Can they afford it? This new family member needs to be housed, fed, walked, trained, and provided proper vet care. Your chosen recipient will need to be prepared to handle the future costs the new pet.

  • How much responsibility is your loved one ready for? The new pet parent's life will never be the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be considered. Their day will now have to revolve around the pet’s schedule too, ensuring they’re able to feed and exercise their new family member. Using services like Wag! can be helpful, but the recipient will still need to be prepared for everything that comes along with having a dog in the house.

  • Do they have any upcoming trips? Your loved ones will no longer be able to pick up and go on spur of the moment trips or vacations without arranging for a pet caretaker, even with Wag! sitting and boarding services available.

  • Are they allergic to animals? This is a tricky one, because they may not even know.

Lessons learned about dogs as gifts

In my case, I knew I had to find a new home for my college puppy — heartbreaking, yes, but also the best decision for us both. And both my well-meaning friend and I learned a lot through this process.

The moral of my story, and one to keep in mind this holiday season, is that getting a pet must be a well-thought-out decision. If you’ve considered all of the above and can gift with full confidence, a pet can truly make a cherished holiday present. And if you decide that the prospective pet parent is ready in all possible ways, I suggest going to a shelter and adopting a homeless pet.

In all, gifting thoughtfully and carefully will ensure the most wonderful time of the year for new pet parents and all the pups who find “fur-ever” homes this holiday season.

Happy Howl-idays!