Thinking of giving a dog as a present to a loved one? There's more to the process than just buying a puppy, wrapping him in a lovely package with bows and a gift tag, and placing the gift beneath a tree (for obvious reasons, this isn't a good idea)...
In fact, there's more to this decision than just about any other gift you could give. Owning a dog is an enormous responsibility, and too often dogs are given as gifts without a high level of consideration. When you give a dog as a present without lots of deliberation, you risk causing a situation in which the dog is rapidly put up for adoption - a fairly common consequence of giving dogs as gifts. You should never feel justified in totally surprising a friend or loved one with a dog. Be sure that the person is willing to commit to a dog so that the dog will undoubtedly be a welcome and happy member of the family.
- Has this person ever expressed desire for the companionship of a pet dog? If so, how recently has she made that clear, and how serious would you say she was? If the answer is "no, she never really said she wanted a dog," or "yes, but that was a while ago," or "yes, but I'm not sure what breed she wants," then don't give a dog as a present. To give someone a dog, you really owe it to the dog and the person to appreciate the gravity of the decision and make all proper considerations.
If the answer to the above question is "yes, repeatedly and very recently," then you should ask yourself why your friend or loved one hasn't picked out a dog herself. People can talk about wanting to buy a dog while honestly recognizing that it won't happen because they know their current situation isn't conducive to pet ownership.
Consider the person's lifestyle and living environment. Examine his life with the same precision that you would examine your own. Don't think about buying him a dog as a gift unless you know him well enough to examine closely and comfortably, and conclude that he is ready to have a pet dog. Does his job require him to travel a lot? Does he spend a lot of time away from home? Does he have enough money to provide veterinary care and pay for food and toys?
Who is the person wanting a dog? Is it your best friend who lost her beloved pet dog a couple years ago, or your five-year-old nephew who's never had a pet? Obviously, every person has a different story and no two people are the same when it comes to their reasons for wanting a dog as a pet. But you, the potential gift-giver, must assess the level of responsibility and care that this person can commit in dog ownership. If you're thinking about giving a dog to a child, talk to the parents first. Failing to do so can cause unintended stress and tension among all involved, and is what often leads to these dogs being given up for adoption shortly afterward.
And even if you're giving the dog to a friend who has recently demonstrated her devotion to a deceased pet, you have to carefully assess her emotional readiness to accept another pet at this time. Quite often people feel that a certain friend or loved one is in need of a companion, or has been grieving long enough over a departed pet and needs to snap out of it by falling in love with a new puppy. Giving someone a dog under these pretenses is often unsuccessful and can easily result in pain and confusion for the potential dog owner and the dog.
Picking out a dog. If you've carefully examined the situation and can safely conclude that a dog would make an excellent, beloved gift, then you need to give your friend or loved one a dog who will fit nicely with his lifestyle and living conditions. If you already know what kind of dog he's had in mind, then much of your work has been done for you. If not, then consider the following before buying a dog as a gift.
- Are there young children or any other pets in the picture? The presence of young children or other pets - as well as their age, size and temperament - can significantly affect the breed of the dog you select as a gift.
What kind of living space does your friend or relative have? Does he intend for the dog to live indoors, or to be an outdoor dog eventually?
Did she want a big dog or a smaller dog? What kinds of activities was she hoping to share with her companion? If jogging and Frisbee are among them, then chances are she doesn't want a dachshund.
If you aren't entirely sure about all of the above basic questions, then you should not feel prepared to present a dog to your friend or relative.
Safer alternatives. What we suggest is what many pet experts recommend: whether your loved one is a young child or mature adult and regardless of how comfortable you feel about her desire to welcome a dog into her life, the safest way to give a dog as a present is to give the promise of a dog. In other words, you can buy some tell-tale dog-owner accessories - a leash or dog bowl, doggie bed, some doggie treats or all of the above - then wrap them nicely and present them instead of an actual dog. That way, your loved one can honestly decide whether to take you up on the offer. If so, then you can go together to pick out a dog, happy in the knowledge that dog and owner will form that precious bond and that this large step in life was treated in the kind of respectful manner that it deserves.