Holiday gift ideas and what to know before gifting a new dog

Well, I’ve started my holiday shopping, and while I do have things on my list for my dogs, I will not be getting a dog for someone else.  As tempting as it can be, it’s almost always a bad idea to get a dog as a gift for someone else.  You may think you know what dog to get, like which one would be perfect for grandma to keep her company, but chances are grandma would rather choose her own dog.  She may not be ready (or able) to keep up with the needs, expenses and time a dog requires.  Let’s face it, dogs are a major commitment no matter what age or breed.  If you are convinced that a dog would be the perfect gift for someone, here are some fun and useful alternatives to getting the actual dog.

1.        A gift certificate from your local shelter.  That way grandma can pick out her own dog when she’s ready.  You can still be part of the process – make it a fun day out.  You can pair the gift certificate with a stuffed animal dog to send the message of the gift.

2.       A “doggie bag” of things grandma will need once she does pick out her pup.  Things to include in the package of goodies can include collar, leash, food and water bowls, cozy bed, grooming tools, shampoo, treats and food.

3.       A gift certificate for a session or two with a trainer.  She will thank you later.

4.       A good-sized crate.  You may not know what size the dog will be, but chances are you know if Grandma favors small, medium or large dogs.

5.       A personalized gift certificate from you or other family members for dog sitting, yard clean up, trip to the dog park, dog walking – the list of ways you can help is endless. These are especially nice if they are homemade certificates from grandkids.

6.       If grandma is a dog-lover but she just can’t own a dog, consider giving a donation in her name to your local animal shelter.  Many times they will commemorate the donation with a nice card, memorial of some kind at the shelter – often engraved, or the sponsorship of a kennel, depending on the donation amount.

Earlier I said it’s almost never a good idea to get a dog for someone else.  My only exception is if you are getting one for your own child.  But there still some important things you should consider.

1.        Make an age-appropriate chore list for the child for the care of the dog.  Include walks, feeding, grooming, training and playing.

2.       Set ground rules for interacting with the dog.  Include where the dog will sleep, who is allowed to walk the dog, leaving the dog alone while eating (both dog and child), yard clean up and keeping things tidy so the dog won’t chew anyone’s toys but his own.

3.       It is always a good idea to include a session with a child-friendly dog trainer that can help with good manners and boundaries between the child and dog.

4.       Include your child in the adoption process. Let them help pick the dog, the name, toys and treats. They will feel more invested in the process.

5.       That being said, be prepared to still do all of the work yourself – at least some of the time.

If you just can’t stop yourself and decide to give a dog as a gift, wait until after the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over to do it.  The added excitement of the season is a huge confusion to a dog. Consider how overwhelmed you feel during this time and imagine if you were new to the household and unsure of the rules.

My wish to all of my two-footed and four-footed friends is to have a safe and happy holiday season.

Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at and on Facebook.

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