The holiday season is synonymous with gift-giving, and the idea of a fluffy puppy under the Christmas tree is undeniably heartwarming. However, responsible pet ownership requires careful consideration and planning. Instead of impulsively gifting a dog, let’s explore thoughtful alternatives that still capture the spirit of giving (whether you’re the gift-giver or receiver) with mindfulness regarding the long-term commitment of adopting a dog.

If YOU Are the Gift-Giver

  1. Make the Opportunity to Adopt a Dog the Surprise:
    • Rather than placing a dog with a bow under the tree, buy an “Adoption Care Package” with a gift certificate to a local shelter, a collar, toys, and a leash with a note that says, “Let’s fill the collar!”
  2. Explore Foster or Volunteer Opportunities:
    • Instead of bringing a new pet into someone’s life without their input, consider gifting the experience of fostering or volunteering at a local animal shelter. Animal shelters are often looking for volunteers who can play with, read to, or walk the dogs in their care.
    • This allows the recipient to enjoy the companionship of animals without the long-term commitment. What’s even better? You leave a lasting positive impact on your local rescue community.
  3. Think Pet-Related Experience Gifts:
    • Give the gift of an experience, such as a pet photography session, a dog training class, reading to dogs at the local shelter, or a visit to a pet-friendly cafe.
    • This way, the recipient can enjoy the joy of spending time with animals without the immediate responsibilities of pet ownership.
  4. Share Educational Materials:
    • Encourage wise pet ownership. Gift books, documentaries, or online courses on pet care and responsible ownership.
    • This allows the recipient to educate themselves about pet care before making a decision about bringing a new furry friend into their lives.

If It’s YOU Who’s Considering Adopting

  1. Apply To Be a Foster with a Local Shelter or Rescue:
    • Fostering a dog is one of the best ways to learn more about what it’s like to be a great pet owner, without the long-term commitment. Plus, fostering truly saves lives–it’s one of the most profound ways you can make an impact on the lives of dogs.
  2. Sign Up To Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter:
    • When you volunteer for an animal shelter or rescue, you leave a lasting impact on animals and the animal welfare community. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to interact and learn more about what it’s like to be around dogs and build trust.
  3. Let the Dog Choose You:
    • Adopter after adopter recount their adoption stories, and it’s not uncommon for the dog to choose YOU! When you visit the animal shelter, rescue, or adoption event, keep an open mind. Get to know each dog. Think about how they will fit in your life. Do you have the time and energy to help an active dog thrive, or would you prefer a mellow couch potato? (Here’s our guide to dog temperaments.) Pay attention to the verbal and nonverbal cues, and let your perfect dog choose you and a lifetime of happiness.
  4. Consider Adopting After the “Holi-Daze”:
    • It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the season, but keep in mind that adopting a dog is a lifetime commitment, and that means about 15 years. Take stock of your lifestyle, and ensure that you’re ready to invest in the long-term.
  5. Involve Everyone in the Family:
    • Because it’s a lifetime commitment, family members should be invested in the decision and process of adopting a dog, and the same goes for other dogs in the household. When meeting potential dogs, be sure to do so on neutral ground like a dog park so everyone can get acquainted without feeling upper- or under-handed. Here’s our handy guide to dog introductions.
  6. Rescue Dog Decompression–It’s a Thing:
    • If you decide to rescue a dog, keep in mind that there will be a period of adjustment or “decompression” as they adjust to their new fur-ever home. We share more about the “333 Rule” in this blog post.

The Best Holiday Surprise

While the idea of a furry friend as a Christmas gift is heartwarming, it’s crucial to prioritize the well-being of both the pet and the potential owner. By exploring alternative gifts that celebrate the love for animals without the immediate responsibilities of pet ownership, you can ensure that the holiday season is filled with joy and thoughtful gestures that resonate with the recipient for years to come.