Thanksgiving is over and December is officially here. Last week I was giving advice on sharing Thanksgiving dinner with your dog, and now it's time to talk about the gift giving season. No matter what holiday you celebrate, it's never a good idea to give pets as a gift. It seems like a sweet gesture, but it can actually be a stressful experience for both the pet and the person.
In most cases, though not all, giving a pet as a gift is an impulse idea. Gifting someone with a 10+ year commitment is not a very good thing to do on an impulse. In fact, I bet if you visit your local animal shelter in February or March you'll find a slew of pets that have worn out their welcome as Christmas presents.
Unfortunately, the fact that these “gift pets” end up at shelters isn't the fault of the animal or the owner – it's your fault for giving the person the pet in the first place. The holidays are a very busy time of year, and most families don't have the extra time needed to adjust to and create a routine for caring for a new pet.
If you're buying a pet for a child, it's an even worse idea. Your grandchild, niece, nephew, or other lovable little one may tell you that all they really want for Christmas is a new furry friend. But who's actually going to be the one taking care of that furry friend? Chances are it probably won't be the kid. The parents may not be as excited to have a new family member as their child is, and eventually they'll get tired of caring for an animal they never wanted in the first place.
If that's not enough incentive for you, here are a few more reasons why you should never give pets as gifts.
Pets should never be surprises
No matter what type of pet you're planning to surprise someone with, it's not a good idea. All pets, especially dogs, are a large time commitment, a long-term responsibility and it takes preparation to be ready for the new bundle of joy. In this case, a surprise is a bad idea.
If someone has mentioned the idea of getting a dog to you, they may not have completely thought it through. The idea of a pet may be enticing, but once they've actually given it some thought they may realize that a pet won't fit in with their lifestyle.
Maybe they are ready for the commitment and the financial responsibility, but they definitely won't be ready to bring the dog into their home just yet. If you surprise someone with a dog they won't have the necessary supplies to care for the pet. Think of all the things that a dog will need right away:
- food and water bowls
- a collar
- a leash
- dog food
- a dog bed
- training supplies
…and those are just the immediate needs. It's safe to say that giving someone a dog as a surprise would certainly be a much bigger surprise than either of you bargained for.
Winter is not the best time of year to adopt a dog
Have you thought about what it would be like to adopt a new dog in the winter? I live in Maine, and I speak from experience when I say that winter in a cold climate is the absolute worst time to adopt a dog. It is no fun at all to bring a puppy outside at 2 a.m., but bringing him outside at 2 a.m. when the temperature is below zero, snow is flying, and the wind is whipping is completely miserable.
It's also hard to train a dog to obey the boundaries of your yard when everything is covered in snow. Not to mention, some dogs don't like to go out in the snow and that may make potty training a new puppy much harder than it needs to be. In the winter your utilities are higher and you need to pay to heat your home. It's not the best time to gift someone with another mouth to feed.
Dogs are a financial commitment
As I mentioned earlier, gifting someone with a dog also means that you're gifting them with a long-term financial commitment. Aside from the immediate needs that I discussed above, the dog is going to need veterinary care, dog food, toys, and other supplies for the rest of his life.
On top of that, your friend or family member will also have the financial commitment of having the dog groomed, boarding him if they go out of town, paying for dog walkers or any other canine-related services they may need.
According to the ASPCA, having a dog will cost owners over $1,000 per year for basic essentials. If the dog has health related issues that cost more, is on a special diet, takes supplements or any thing else that may cost extra money the expense could be closer to $2,000 per year.
It's not just a pet – it's a relationship and a forever home
Think about the responsibility that comes along with that. If you buy someone a pet that doesn't fit in with their lifestyle, that dog will probably end up surrendered to a shelter in no time.
You'll be responsible for adding another pet into the already overcrowded shelters in our country. If the dog ends up at a shelter that euthanizes pets, you may be responsible for that animals untimely demise.
Are you prepared to take on that responsibility?
You'll also be saddling your friend or family member with the burden of caring for a pet that they aren't prepared for. How do you think it will make them feel to surrender the animal to a shelter? Not very good.
Instead of surprising them with a great gift, you've actually sentenced them to making a very tough decision. Should they keep a pet that they don't enjoy or should they give the pet a chance to be adopted into a family that has the time for them? Don't force your loved ones to make that decision.
What can I do?
Save yourself and your loved ones the headache, and do not buy pets as presents. This doesn't just go for the holiday season. You need to understand the reasons why you should never give pets as gifts, no matter what the occasion.
If someone you care about really wants a pet, they'll adopt one on their own. It will give them the opportunity to find the pet that fits their lifestyle. If you feel the need to help them adopt their new companion, give them some money to go toward the adoption of the pet or a gift card to buy supplies for their new family member.