Puppies, with their floppy ears and adoring eyes, can melt your heart. But if you plan on gifting one to a family member, it is very important that you do so in a responsible way. Dr. Howard Schutzman, owner and veterinarian at Antioch Veterinary Hospital, gives readers his expert advice on the proper way to give someone a pet.
“The truth is one-third of all gifted pets end up in a shelter, which accounts for the largest group of pets in animal shelters,” Dr. Schutzman said. “The general rule is never to give a person a dog unless you live within their household and plan to help with caretaking duties; however, if parents are willing and ready for a new family pet, a child can benefit tremendously from the empathy and responsibility it teaches them.”
He explains that pets are lifetime commitments and, while puppies are cute, they grow out of that phase. New owners need to be prepared and set up caretaking duties before the enthusiasm wanes.
START WITH A COMMITMENT
Adding a pet to the family needs to begin with a decision from parents. “It’s okay to surprise kids, as long as the parents understand the adults are making the commitment,” Dr. Schutzman said. “If possible, bring the kids along to select the pet. Everyone will be more invested if they pick it out as a family. It will give them more ownership. There is a lot of psychology in that. If you pay for something, you are more likely to keep and care for it.”
When going to select the pet, sit down and let the puppies come up to you and see how they interact. Are they fearful or aggressive? Do they have the type of demeanor that would fit within your family’s lifestyle? “If you’re not sure, go home and think about it. Don’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision that you may regret. This is a living being, and you want to be responsible,” Dr. Schutzman said.
Dr. Schutzman also encourages future dog owners to be realistic. Setting the right expectations is the most important thing about adopting a new pet. Make sure to discuss the decision with your partner and any adults who live in the house where the new dog will reside. You don’t want resentment later.