Before anyone thinks I’m a Scrooge, let me explain why you should think through giving a pet as a gift.
All too often, the act of giving a puppy or kitten (or any animal) is driven by impulse. While surprising someone with a new pet on Christmas morning sounds like fun, we encourage you to consider the following points before giving pets as gifts this holiday season.
1. Pets are a Long-Term Commitment
While the recipient might be very excited and happy with the new addition, gifting a pet can be a very risky thing to do if the “gift” has not been researched and planned for. Considering that the animal (hopefully) will live 10 to 20 years, it is not a commitment that we should make for a family member or friend without consulting them and never as a surprise. The new “pet parent” must be completely committed to the idea of accepting a new “baby”, with all the potty training, chewed items, and everything else that comes with it.
2. The Holidays are a Hard Time to Bring Home a New Family Member
Most homes are even busier during the holiday season. Although we usually manage to juggle school, work, and other activities without a problem throughout the rest of the year, add in end-of-the-year parties and festivities and the holidays can quickly become overwhelming. When we factor in the possibility of out-of-town travel, or overnight guests, parties, and everything else that comes with the holiday season, the last thing most households need is a new puppy or kitten. Consider it from their point of view, too: The tree, the decorations, and noise are holiday hazards and stressors for any pet. Coming into a new environment can be quite scary, and full of chaos even without the holiday madness. Think about how much better it could be if you wait until after the holidays to welcome a new pet.
3. Potty & Obedience Training Require Immediate Time and Attention
Whether the new family member is young or old, house-training your pet needs to start the very first day. In many parts of the country, this season means that the days are shorter, darker, and wetter – not to mention colder! Spring is a much nicer time to start a house-training regimen.
4. Pets are Not Toys
If a child is to receive the gift of a pet, please keep in mind that living creatures shouldn’t be viewed as a new toy. A child is never too young to learn that caring for another living creature is a privilege and a responsibility. A pet is not a toy that can be played with, then put away and forgotten about. If your child is mature enough for the responsibility of caring for a pet, formulate a fun, exciting plan! Remember: Giving a pet doesn’t have to center around the holidays.
Alternatives to Giving Pets as Gifts
If someone you know wants a pet, consider giving a gift certificate for the adoption fee at a local shelter. You could wrap up food and water dishes, some toys, and the gift certificate and put them under the tree! The sad reality is, if you visit your local shelter in January or February, you’ll likely have your pick of pets that were given as Christmas gifts without the benefit of planning. This idea will also allow you to fully consult with the recipient and allow them to be involved in every step, from selecting the new pet to preparing for the homecoming. Best of all? You will be changing the life of a deserving animal who was waiting for someone just like you.
Renee Jones, CPDT-KSA is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for Jeffers Pet and JeffersPet.com.
Questions about this article, training, or non-emergent health concerns are welcome. Renee can be reached most weekdays (M-F) from 9 AM – 5 PM (Central Time) at 1-800-533-3377 (1-800-JEFFERS) ext. 381 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.