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BUT, I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas!

Gift giving is a holiday tradition practiced within many different cultures during the winter season.

A gift can show a loved one that you care, and the gesture warms the giver as much as it does the receiver. I love gift giving! One thing I do not like though…is the idea of giving something that is alive as a gift. Something that requires more than AA batteries. Something that requires nourishment, love, and potentially costly veterinary visits.

Whether you are considering gifting your mother the tea-cup Yorkie of her dreams, or your 10 year old son that Labrador mix he has been making straight A’s for, there is a lot to consider before making this commitment.


Many of us have been there. I have.

It was Christmas morning in Texas, 1992, when I was 5 years old. A moment I could never possibly forget. There she was, in a laundry basket under the tree, a little roly-poly rottweiler-mix rescue puppy, the first dog who was really “my” dog.


She had a big floppy red bow on her neck, and she smelled like oatmeal cookies. Being the massive Disney fan that I am, I of course named her “Princess”.

Princess was a very lucky Christmas puppy! We had her through the entirety of her life, until she passed away grey and arthritic when I was in high school. Unfortunately, not all Christmas puppies are so lucky.

January through March the shelters are flooded with awkward teenage Christmas puppies. Dropped off by families who were unprepared for the responsibility. People who at one point genuinely thought it was a good idea, to buy, or adopt a dog to give to someone else as a present.

Adopting a new family member is a decision that the recipient really needs to be a part of. There is a lot to consider when adding a new furry friend to your life. Someone may want a pet, and talk about it even, without actually being personally ready.

If you plan on gifting a dog to another adult, it should NOT be a surprise. A nice surprise is a book or a necklace, or maybe some concert tickets. A new dog or cat should be discussed, researched, and planned for. The adult wanting the pet should always be a part of the selection process to ensure that the new relationship is a good match.

If you are considering gifting a dog to a child, please consider that even though you are going to allow your child to name the dog and care for him/her, ultimately you are the responsible party. Prior to adopting or buying the dog it is imperative to ensure you are prepared financially and well educated on the care your new family member will need.

This new dog or cat is actually yours. You can’t say this to your child because it is “their’s” but really, this new dog is yours. Make sure you are ready for all of the ups and downs of dog ownership.



Things to remember when choosing to gift a pet:

  • No Surprises! Make sure the owner-to-be is involved in the selection process, and is ready for the new commitment.
  • Be ready! Before you even get the new pet, be ready. You will need to pet-proof your home and yard. Check fencing thoroughly and make sure anything a dog could get into is put away. Have a veterinarian in mind as you should always get new pets checked out thoroughly right away. Have food, a bed, and everything you need ready for your new pets arrival prior to bringing him home. Make sure you have researched the breed you are choosing, but never hold expectations on how your new pet “should be.”
  • Be financially ready! Your new pet will need to be fully vetted, spayed/neutered, and vaccinated. Your new dog will need to be properly groomed whether at home or professionally, every couple of months. If groomed at home you will need to buy tools, if professionally, you will need to pay a groomer. Your new pet is going to need food, and the cheap stuff can make your veterinary expenses go up. You also need to be financially capable of handling middle of the night veterinary emergencies, if they were to arise.
  • It’s Actually YOUR dog! If you are gifting your child a dog this holiday season, remember, he is actually YOUR dog. You are responsible for the dogs well being and care, but you are allowing your child to practice caring for an animal.
  • Training and Supervision! Allow your child to name the dog and take on many of the responsibilities associated with the new dog.  Be sure to provide supervision as your child gets to know the new pet and it’s needs. Choose your new pet carefully to be sure they will get along well with your child. Teach your child how to remain calm and gentle with the new pet to avoid fearful aggression.
  • It may not be easy! Owning a pet is work. They do not clean up after themselves, feed themselves, or schedule their own appointments. Your new family member does not come with a dog walker, that is you! It is going to be work, and for many people the work associated with pet ownership is totally worth the trouble. Make sure you have the time and energy to care for an animal properly before making this decision.
  • Give it time! Sadly, many “Christmas Puppies” are given up for adoption soon after the holiday passes. Pets have personalities. Sometimes they are not at first thrilled with their new living situation. If your pet doesn’t “fit right in” please, don’t give up on him or her. Give them time to adjust. Spend time with them. Walks are great for bonding, but consider a professional trainer if need be.

I hope this blog post has been helpful for your decision. A new pet could possibly be a great option for your family, but please, make sure you are ALL ready first.