Your child has asked for a puppy for Christmas.
Before you head out to the pet store or your local breeder, you will want to really think the decision through.
What could make a sweeter holiday memory — Christmas morning, your child is greeted by an adorable puppy under your tree. A childhood of puppy love and your child’s best friend is sure to come, right? Unfortunately, Christmas presents that consist of live animals don’t always have a happy ending. Often, care for the pet is relegated to the parents, and sometimes the kids don’t maintain interest beyond the big holiday.
Experts strongly recommend that you do your research before buying a pet of any sort as a gift, especially for a big holiday such as Christmas. “In general, the holidays are not a good time for families to bring a new puppy into the family,” shared Paris Parmenter, author of Barkonomics: Tips for Frugal Fidos and co-publisher of DogTipper.com. “The excitement that surrounds the holidays — not to mention Christmas trees, decorations, and a disrupted schedule — makes this a tough time for a new pet in a new home.”
Consider that if parents and children have an opportunity to choose a pet together, the chances of your child being more fully invested in its care is much greater. “If you bring your children with you to help pick out their new pets, they are more likely to feel a greater sense of responsibility for those pets and take a more active role in their care,” said Sandi Laird, the animal care director at Operation Kindness. “Some dog and cat breeds require more grooming or exercise than others; some are better with children than others; and some are more adaptable to change. Before adopting, parents should think about their family’s lifestyle and make sure the pet is a good fit.”
Specialty pet retailer Petco suggests if you do decide to introduce a pet as a gift to your child, to not leave it alone under the tree — this can stress out your newest family member and sometimes the animal can be mistaken for a toy. Instead, buy the essential pet care items, such as a crate, food and water dishes, brushes and shampoo and a few toys, and wrap them as gifts instead. Arrange to pick up or pick out the pet on a later, less exciting day.
“One fun idea is a ‘Pet IOU,’ wrapped as a gift, that can be given with books, videos, stuffed toys, and more to help children start learning about all that it takes to care for a pet and to start narrowing down the choices for a dog,” suggests Paris. This way parents and children can work toward the idea of pet ownership together and can decide what sort of pet would be ideal for the whole family.
Precious photo ops aside, a pet is a living creature that deserves care, love and attention. With a little careful planning, you can grant your child’s wish for a pet for the holidays as long as you research your options together and plan for an adoption date that does not surround the holidays.