A dog sitting in a gift box wearing a Santa hat in front of a Christmas tree.

Rescue Me: To Gift or Not to Gift?

“Rescue Me” is a recurring column by Samantha Randall, editor-in-chief at Top Dog Tips. She’ll provide personal anecdotes and perspective about her life as a pet lover with a passion for cat and dog rescue. Today, she talks about how to determine whether a four-legged gift is the right idea.

In one of my previous columns, I’ve mentioned how gifting pets should be taken extremely seriously and in many cases when either party isn’t prepared, it shouldn’t even be done. And while giving pets as a gift is generally frowned upon, this isn’t necessarily true in every situation. After all, people usually consider the worst-case scenario when they talk about pets as presents.

If you are thinking about gifting a rescue dog to someone, it can certainly be a lovely — and in the right circumstances, appropriate — gift. Some studies even show that when dogs are given as gifts, the recipient will likely be more attached to the pet. But how can you know whether it is the right decision or not? As someone who’s been rescuing dogs for more than two decades, I’ll try to help you out in making this decision and explain the things you need to consider to be sure your gift will truly be appreciated.

How to Know Whether the Recipient Is Ready

If you are considering gifting a rescue dog to another person, you probably already know that the potential recipient loves dogs and would like to care for one. However, you also need to make sure that it is the right time for that person to take on such a responsibility.

After all, having a dog is in many ways like having a child. A dog owner needs to be able to provide food, supplies, medicine and, most importantly, time. So, ask yourself a few important questions before you make a decision:

  • Is the recipient a dog lover?
  • Did they ever talk about getting a dog?
  • Can they take on the financial responsibility that comes with owning a dog?
  • Do they have enough space for a new pet?
  • Do they have enough time to dedicate to their new pet?

Remember That Dogs Are Not Good Surprise Gifts

Even if you responded positively to all the questions above, surprising someone with a dog as a gift is never a good idea. While pets can be wonderful gifts, according to experts, they are rarely good when they come as a complete surprise.

It is always better to discuss it with the recipient first. Ask whether they would like to get a rescue dog as a present without beating around the bush and trying to deduce the answer without giving away your intentions.

Decide on the Right Dog to Gift

Gifting a rescue dog is usually a better choice than buying a dog as a gift from a pet store, for many reasons.

However, you need to make the right choice when you select the rescue dog to gift. For example, you should consider the dog’s size, age, temperament, breed, activity level and whether they were housetrained or not before you choose them as a present for another person. If the recipient has children or other pets, you need to take that into account as well and look for a dog that is accustomed to kids or other animals, or can be easily trained, and doesn’t have any “negative” history associated with that.

Even then, it’s entirely plausible that you won’t make the right choice. While this would somewhat ruin the surprise and gifting aspect of it, my advice is simply to take the recipient with you to the shelter and let them choose a dog that will suit their personality, energy levels and living conditions, while you simply foot the bill.

If going the above route, another thing you can do to add to your present and make up for the lack of surprise is the adoption kit. Buy the new owner a collar-leash combo or a safe no-pull dog harness, some healthy treats, maybe a dog bed and/or crate, and if at all possible, schedule and pay for their first trip to the vet. This is what would make the most amazing present when it comes to gifting pets — a smooth and paid-for initiation for a new dog owner.

Don’t Get Carried Away by Holidays

It is easy to get carried away by the holiday hoopla and easy to think a rescue dog is a perfect Christmas present. However, the “holiday high” eventually wears off, while the person who receives the gift is left with responsibility.

Even if you know that the recipient would like a dog and you discussed all the details with them, it may be better to wait for the holidays to end. Other than the fact that many of us don’t think completely straight when we’re riding the “holiday high,” it also can be hard to train a dog during the holidays. This is a hectic time, and the recipient might have guests, parties, constant preparations or travel plans, all of which are not good for a new dog to be unloaded on them.

As they say, patience is a virtue; and in this case, it is undoubtedly true.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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