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Has your child or someone else in your family asked to get a puppy for Christmas? The fantasy we see in movies — running to the tree on Christmas morning and finding a puppy wrapped up with a bow — isn’t as fun in reality. Puppies shouldn’t be a surprise. Everyone in the family should be ready and prepared for the commitment of bringing a new dog home.

So if someone you love asks for a dog this holiday season, here’s how to best approach the situation.

Puppies Don’t Make Good Christmas Gifts

It’s never a good idea to give dogs or puppies as a gift if the recipient hasn’t been actively involved in choosing them. Even with the best intentions, you could end up in a situation where the person receiving the puppy struggles to bond with the puppy. Or the breed or particular dog might be a poor fit for that person’s lifestyle or personality.

The Christmas season is also a busy, exciting, and often stressful and overwhelming period for families, which doesn’t make it a good time to add a puppy into the mix. Although having time off work and school at home can be great when helping a puppy to adjust and start potty training, this is a time of year when many people’s schedules are in disarray. The joyful chaos of holiday festivities and visitors in the home makes it challenging for a puppy to get used to life in your home and family. If you want to surprise your kids with a puppy for Christmas, consider gifting them a letter telling them a puppy will be joining the family soon, rather than giving them the actual puppy on Christmas Day.

Small lovely doggie, in Santa Claus's cap. Costs two paws on a gift box. Nearby set of gifts. Attentively looks in the camera

The Gift of Research

Get everyone in the family—even young children—involved in researching the right dog breeds for you. Consider not just what a puppy looks like, but also their exercise needs, grooming needs, and temperament. Make sure to be honest about what your lifestyle is really like and how a dog or puppy will fit in. Instead of having a puppy under the tree, consider gifting your family member a book about different dog breeds.

Another option is to get tickets to attend a large local AKC show or plan a trip to a big dog show like Westminster. Visiting dog shows together as a family is a great opportunity to meet and learn about different breeds in person. You’ll be able to see different breeds up close, as well as meet breeders and other dog owners. This is a great way to get involved with dog communities and develop a clearer sense of what breeds might be right for you.

Practical Gifts to Get Puppy-Ready

If someone in your life has asked to get a puppy for Christmas, a wonderful and helpful gift is to wrap up some of the supplies they’ll need when their puppy comes home. You can gift items like:

These supplies will come in handy when someone’s new puppy arrives and will give that person a fun, tangible object they can unwrap on Christmas morning. Other thoughtful gift alternatives that will be useful when the new puppy comes home are gift certificates to puppy kindergarten or basic training classes, gift certificates to local groomers, or membership to a local breed club or all-breed training club.

Finding the Puppy

Once you know what type of dog your family wants, it’s time to start the journey of finding a puppy. The national breed club for your breed of choice is a great place to start both for learning more about the breed and for connecting with breeders and breed clubs in your local area. You can also find breed-specific rescues if you think that a mature adult dog would be a better fit than a young puppy.

Responsible breeders and rescues will want to get a sense of someone’s home and lifestyle before deciding to place a puppy with them. As part of determining what puppy is going to be the best fit, most breeders and rescues will also want to meet the entire family, including children. The goal is to make sure they find the right family for each puppy. Responsible breeders are very likely going to have a waiting list for upcoming litters, so you may have to wait a little while to bring that dream puppy home.

If you already know what kind of puppy your family wants, you can start talking with breeders now about waiting lists and possibly even put a deposit down on a puppy in an upcoming litter. Although your loved one might be a little disappointed to wake up to puppy supplies instead of a puppy on Christmas morning, it will be worth it for everyone in the family to be prepared for the puppy to come home.

Related article: How to Know if Your Child Is Ready for a Dog
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