Yesterday was the birthday of a long time friend of mine. In response to my birthday wishes, he excitedly replied that another long time friend was gifting him a puppy! And I was thrilled for him!
Wait? I thought giving a dog as a gift was a big no-no?
Well, it all depends.
Research done in the past few years, indicates that pets given as gifts are no more likely than other pets to be surrendered to an animal shelter.(1) And in my experience both personally and professionally, dogs given as gifts can be a great thing. As long as a couple of criteria are met.
- The person being gifted the dog is an adult. and
- The person being gifted the dog has the choice to say, “No thanks.”
That’s not to say if those criteria aren’t met, it can’t work out, but if points 1 and 2 are met in my experience the gift of a dog tends to work out better for both the dog and the new owner.
Our own Zora was a gift to us. A long time friend who bred my 1st cardigan years ago gave her to us as a wedding present. Now my husband and I are both clearly adults, and in reference to point #2 my friend didn’t just show up at our wedding reception with puppy in tow and say, “Surprise! Happy wedding, here is our gift to you!” No, she called us up months before our wedding date, and said, “We want to give you a puppy for your gift.” We then had time to think and talk it over, decide if getting Zora would be right for our life at this time, and then tell my friend a happy resounding, “Yes! We’d love that gift!” Needless to say, Zora is hands down (sorry everyone else who came to our wedding, who we appreciate and are so glad you were there too) one of our top 2 presents. (2) And I’m so glad both that we said yes to her and that my friend was so generous to give her to us.
The friend that I mentioned above who just got his new birthday gift puppy, again similar. He is an adult and he could have said no to the pup had he and his wife decide the time or this particular dog wasn’t right for them.
If the dog is being gifted to someone who doesn’t meet the point 1 criteria (ie is not an adult), then it is crucial that the primary adults in the situation (parents or other caregivers of the child) are fully on board and willing to step in to meet the dog’s needs. As in my professional experience, the likelihood of a child (meaning any person under the age of 18, or sometimes age 21) being capable and willing to take full responsibility for 10-15 years for a living, intelligent being that is a dog is a rarity. I know it is possible, heck I was one of those rare kids myself who at age 12 took full 100% responsibility for the lifetime care of my dog with everything from selection, finding a good breeder, purchase price, vet care, feeding, training, competition fees, etc, etc to I negotiating with my college to allow me off campus living as a freshman so I could rent a dog-friendly apartment as my dog was my responsibility and I wasn’t leaving him at my parent’s home 600 miles away. But parents should definitely not assume their child will be that kid, as it doesn’t happen as often as many parents seem to anticipate it will. (3)
And again point #2, in case where point 1 is not an adult, the adults in the situation need to have the option to say, “No thanks” before the gift is presented as even an idea to the child.
These two criteria are, in my experience, key because unlike the gift of a TV or book or pair of socks, a dog is a living, breathing being with needs and wants. And unlike that TV or book or pair of socks, dogs require large amount of commitment both time, emotion and finance wise to raise and keep happy, healthy and safe throughout their lifespan. When giving any pet as a gift, the giver needs to keep the well-being of the gift in top priority. If the receiver is not able to provide for the needs of that gift for the life of that gift, then that dog is not the right gift.
But if those points are met, and the recipient gives a resounding, “Yes! The time is right and I’d love a pup,” then you may well be giving one amazing present.
- And she is just as much my husband’s dog as mine. Unlike Tom who is very much my dog (as I remembered last night at midnight when he had an upset stomach yet refused to go outside with my night-owl so very much awake husband and instead insisted I had to wake up, get out of bed and take him out. I love you Tom, and I love your bond with me, but sometimes I wish you would be willing to go outside to potty with someone other than me. Especially at midnight. When I am exhausted and sound asleep. Just saying.)
- I’ve lost count the number of families who have come to me for professional help over the years who the parent’s start with, “This was supposed to be my son/daughter’s dog. Instead I’m now doing everything. I didn’t want a dog!”