A puppy should never be a surprise gift for Christmas, birthdays, or even a lockdown cheer-up present. This is not fair on the gift receiver, the household where the puppy will be living, or the on the puppy itself. Dogs have a lifespan of 10 to 13 years and this is huge responsibility to give to someone who is not expecting it.

This responsibility doesn’t just include the amount of daily care and training a puppy needs, but also the financial commitment. According to the PDSA, even the smallest breeds, like pugs and chihuahuas, are estimated to cost between £4,600 and £8,900 over their lifetime.  

A new dog in someone’s home affects the entire household. Puppies are highly energetic and will cause some form of chaos before they are trained to behave properly. This can a strenuous undertaking for everyone involved.


More than just a cute gift

The Dog’s Trust first introduced their famous slogan ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ over 40 years ago in 1978 and attitudes towards pup gift-giving have changed. Before that campaign launched Dog’s Trust research estimated 20% of dogs were given as gifts, by 2008 this was down to 1.8%. 

But even with the successful campaign and with all the free, readily available, information there is, many people still think that a dog really is just a cute gift. In January 2019 the Dog’s Trust received 2,247 requests from people wanting to give up a dog. The Dog’s Trust have made a number of awareness videos about the ridiculous, but completely true, reasons why owners had given their dog up for adoption. These highlight that there are still people who don’t understand the undertaking they are making when getting a dog.

There are a number of legitimist reasons why someone might have to part with their dog, such as elderly people who begin to struggle to give their pet the care they need. Another big reason is when a person’s housing situation changes and then they are unable to find a landlord willing to rent to a dog owner. However, renter’s pet owning rights could change with the upcoming Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill in 2021.

Getting a puppy is very exciting and so is the idea of surprising someone with one. But there are many factors to consider before making such a big, life-impacting decision for someone.


You need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the person getting the puppy expressed interest in owning a dog?
  • Are they aware of how hyper a puppy can be?
  • Does the gift receiver know how to look after a dog?
  • Do they understand the needs of the specific breed?
  • Can they afford it?
  • Do they have the time to look after it properly? This includes multiple daily walks, vet checks, and mental stimulation (playing, affection, etc.)
  • Can they commit to training it correctly? This might also include paid behavioural classes.
  • Do they understand the long-term commitment involved?
  • Are they able to take legal responsibility for it? Such as getting it micro-chipped and keeping it under control in public spaces.
  • Does the receiver or anyone else in their household have a pet allergy?
  • Do they have enough space in their home?
  • If they are renting, does their landlord allow pets?

Legal responsibilities

It is also worth knowing the 2008 Animal Welfare Act law which states the minimum age a person is legally responsible for a dog is 16 years old. If you are considering getting a dog for a child then their parents must be aware they would be held accountable for the dog. This includes all dog laws on public behaviour and fouling.

The Blue Cross has an extensive list of UK dog laws you should be aware of here.


Pets abandoned after lockdown

During the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, the RSPCA received 40 reports a day of abandoned animals across England & Wales.

Many people thought that a pet would be good company for a few weeks when they were trapped indoors, but didn’t realise the amount of work and responsibility involved.   

Please remember that a dog is not an impulse buy but a long-term responsibility. A puppy is not just a cute gift but a new family member.

The Dog’s Trust slogan is worth repeating every year: a dog is for life, not just for Christmas (or lockdown).