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With the holidays approaching, the temptation to wow somebody with the gift of a puppy is ever-present. After all, the idea of giving a dog as a gift is extremely attractive. The thought of a new puppy as a gift conjures up images of a Norman Rockwell painting, but it’s often not the reality. One of the biggest mistakes people make is surprising their partner or child with a new pet. While it will certainly be a surprise, it may backfire.

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First Steps
The first thing to assess is if the recipient actually wants or has the capacity to care for a pet. Even the staunchest pet-lovers may not be in a place in their life where they can care for an animal. Pets, especially dogs, require a great deal of time, commitment, socialization, and attention. If the recipient is a child, bear in mind that the ASPCA recommends waiting until ages 10-13 before considering a dog as a gift for a child. Around that age range, the child has a greater capacity for responsibility and probably a greater interest in owning and taking care of a pet.

One of the most important steps to take is to do your homework. Each breed of dog has a different disposition and energy level. They are prone to different behaviors and tendencies, so it’s important to match the breed to the owner. Puppies are adorable, but they are a ton of work. Consider the option of adopting a rescue instead. Not only will they be less work to care for, but an adult dog has a fully formed personality that the recipient can connect with prior to adoption.

Most shelters are staffed with workers who are genuinely concerned with matching the rescues with new homes. They realize that dogs are unique and not every home is a perfect match, so they can be great at offering recommendations for your new pet. Be sure to take the entire family and communicate what you are looking for or trying to avoid, and take your time choosing the right one.

Gifting Methods
Though the thought of a child opening up a gift-wrapped puppy seems adorable, it is something to avoid entirely. Even if you poke holes in the box, and choose one large enough, chances are your new dog will not enjoy his or her gift-wrapped prison. As an alternative, consider wrapping up a stuffed animal with a note that promises a trip to your local animal shelter to pick out a new pet.

Another option is to choose an appropriate dog toy and wrap it up. Jolly Pets has a wide variety of toys to choose from for every type of dog. Visit our products page to see what’s available.

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Welcoming Your New Pet
The holidays can be a busy, stressful time for everyone, including new pets. Considering that it can take time for a dog to acclimate to their new home, it may be wise to wait until after the holidays are over before bringing him or her home. The holidays are often filled with visits from friends, family, and distant relatives, which can overwhelm the dog. Even under the best circumstances, the excitement level alone could be stressful to the dog.

Dogs respond favorably to consistent directions, commands, and coaching. Develop a vocabulary or script within your immediate family to use for training and general communication with the dog. Not only will the dog appreciate it, you will discover it will be more effective.

Don’t forget to get tags made as soon as possible, and to update the registration if the dog has a microchip. This seems like common sense, but it is often put off or forgotten, and the stress of a new home could increase the likelihood of a puppy runaway.