Giving a cute puppy to a family member or a friend for Christmas seems like a wonderful idea, but it’s not one that’s recommended by pet welfare organisations.1 Puppies and dogs are huge responsibilities in terms of time, money, care and attention. Before you think about gifting a puppy, you need to consider the implications and responsibilities involved.
Factors to consider when giving a puppy
Experts say a new puppy is like a new baby2; the owner will be providing full-time care and needs to spend hands-on time with the puppy. It is a long-term commitment impacting lifestyle, budget, and other members of the household.
10-plus years of commitment
Dogs have an average lifespan of 12 years3, with some breeds living up to 18 years or more.4 Your friend or family member should be ready to commit to providing and caring for a new dog for a substantial amount of time. You will need to know their future plans, and be certain they’re not making major lifestyle changes such as moving overseas or downsizing their home that could affect their ability to accept a new pet. Ideally, their long-term life plans should align with owning and caring for a dog.
Keeping a puppy well cared for and healthy requires as much as $25,000 over a lifetime.5 Vet fees can cost as much as $1,000 in the first year and $450 for the following years.5Annual feeding costs may be around $800, and other health expenses can be up to $450 a year.5 For example, desexing, microchipping, registration, vaccination, and preventative health care6 such as deworming are all essential for dogs.
The new owner might be spending $500 in the first year for accessories such as bedding and toys, and an additional $100 for every year afterwards.5 Unexpected health issues can add to the costs, but could be a manageable expense if you have pet insurance.
Care and attention
Dogs are social animals that thrive on human companionship.7 A new pet owner should have the patience and time to provide care and attention. Puppies in particular need training, socialisation, and dedicated care. Chewing, teething, and toilet training are puppy life stages the owner needs to give hands on care and attention to.8 Households with new dogs will also need to take preventative measures against disease transfers to humans, especially younger children.9
New puppy owners find they spend a lot of time cleaning up after their dog. Beyond training, owners need to provide exercise with daily walks, grooming, and play time and stimulation.8 Regular visits to the vet for vaccinations and checks will also require time, along with financial costs. If someone isn’t prepared to put in the extra time and effort, they might not be a suitable candidate to be a responsible dog owner.
Training and socialising
It’s recommended puppies receive training and socialising.6 This gives them critical skills for dealing with humans and other dogs, and it can help support positive behaviour for the rest of their lives. This critical socialisation period happens around 3 to 17 weeks of age10 for puppies. New puppy owners should be prepared to take their new pet to puppy school classes. This time investment could prevent the behavioural problems that lead to dogs being labelled “difficult”, and potentially abandoned.
Lifestyle and time considerations
Consider your friend or family member’s lifestyle before you decide to give the gift of a puppy. If they’re at work all day and have little time to care for, much less play with a dog, they may not make ideal pet owners. Dogs left alone all day can experience separation anxiety.11
Dogs are social animals who can benefit from daily play, companionship time, and contact with their human owners. Veterinary experts say you need to consider the owner’s daily schedule5 and whether they can accommodate a new puppy, rather than assuming they’ll have enough time.
Accommodation, space, and neighbourhood
Does your friend or family member have sufficient space for a dog? Their small apartment may be too small for a puppy, which needs space to roam. Consider their yard size and surrounding neighbourhood. If they live in a high-rise area without parks nearby, they could find it a challenge to give their dog sufficient outdoor time.
It is also vital to consider your friend or family member’s household. Do they have anyone who is allergic to dogs or who is afraid of dogs? Obtain agreement from all members of the household – including the recipient – as you consider whether it’s a good idea to give a puppy as a gift.
In addition, you should consider if they have existing pets that may not be compatible with a new puppy in the home. For example, if they have a cat, it may not take kindly to the presence of an energetic pup.
Choosing a dog
There are several aspects to keep in mind when choosing a dog to join the family, including the age of the dog, their breed and their temperament. We’ve identified these areas in more detail below.
Puppy or mature dog
Gifting a rescue dog – if you’re certain it is going to a good home – is a wonderful way to give abandoned dogs a new life. You can find healthy, well-behaved rescue dogs12 who are well socialised. If you give a puppy, make sure he or she is at least eight weeks of age.13 Waiting until at least eight weeks means the puppy has received sufficient milk from his or her mother, which can result in a healthier puppy.
Adopting is ideal, but if you must buy from a breeder, make sure you find a good breeder14 you can trust. Avoid buying over the internet or elsewhere if you can’t see the facility and meet the dog12 before committing to the purchase.
Breed or temperament
Experts suggest the nature of the dog is a top consideration3 when preparing for a pet. Consider lifestyle, space, and activity level, as detailed previously.
If you’re adopting a mixed breed dog, ask the rescue centre about the animal’s personality. Doing research on temperament of breed before buying can allow you to find a good match for the recipient.
Try before you buy: foster a dog
If you’re thinking about buying a puppy for your child or family this Christmas, consider trying before you buy. Fostering a rescue dog is a great way to find out whether bringing a puppy into your household is right for you.15 Accepting a rescue dog into your home until he or she can find a permanent home gives you a chance to help crowded animal shelters while adjusting to having a pet in your house. Your children will get a chance to experience the significant responsibilities of pet ownership.
Making the right decision
While giving an adorable puppy to a loved one seems like a wonderful idea for Christmas, it is a major decision to be considered carefully. Typically, you’ll be committing the recipient to at least a decade of care16, with the associated time2 and financial obligations.5 If you do want to gift a dog, talk it over with the recipient first and decide if it’s a suitable gift, and consider adopting a dog2 rather than buying from a pet store or breeder.
Reasons to rethink giving a puppy at Christmas
Christmas is a hectic period, and adding a new family member to a household can make it even more stressful.
A new pet is a major commitment. Your child, family member or friend may not have thought about the implications of pet ownership.
Bringing a puppy into the household usually means committing to at minimum a decade of care and attention, and more often 15–20 years.
You may not know what type of dog is best suited to the recipient’s situation. Choosing one for them means they’ve not had a chance to choose a dog they’ve bonded with.
You may not know if the recipient would prefer to adopt a more mature dog from a rescue shelter.
Will the recipient have time to train the puppy? Without training and care, even the cutest puppies can develop behavioural problems.17 Dogs that develop behavioural problems can be seen as a nuisance and end up being surrendered to animal shelters. The period after Christmas from January to March is peak period for pet owners giving away unwanted pets after the holidays.
Alternatives to giving a dog
Consider these alternatives instead of giving a puppy at Christmas time.
Stuffed animal – A plush pet makes a better gift if you have young children who can’t take proper care of a dog.
Pet supplies – Give the gift of pet supplies while taking your time to research dog breeds, understand the responsibilities of owning a dog, and finding a suitable dog for your recipient.
Donation – Animal shelters can always do with more donations, so a great gift idea may be to make a donation in your recipient’s name.
Animal sanctuary visit – Instead of a puppy, take your recipient to visit an animal sanctuary where they can see animals up close.
Real Pet Insurance is an affordable, trusted option, giving pet owners across Australia peace of mind. To find out more about our insurance products, feel free to explore our website or contact us for more information.