Few gift ideas get kids more excited than a new pet; contrary to popular belief, it is not always a terrible idea. Not sure if dog adoption is right for you this holiday season? Here is a quick checklist to make sure you are making the right decision.

1. Read up on leading dog websites

The internet is full of useful information that can set up dog owners with the perfect platform for raising the dog of their dreams. Topics usually covered are breed characteristics, training advice, gear to use and much more.

A great site to check out is wileypup.com.

2. It’s an idea the whole family is behind

If one of the children in your family wants a dog, that isn’t a good enough reason. Even if they really, really, reeeeealllyyyy want a dog!

The truth is a dog will be a member of the family and will require care, attention, and some lifestyle accommodations for everyone in the family. Be sure you have “buy-in” from every member of your household before making this important decision.

Consider having a conversation about who will take on what responsibilities before you bring a dog home. As a parent, you have a lot more leverage to get enthusiastic buy-in for taking on the daily chores of dog ownership before you bring one home!

3. Make an honest list of qualities for the “ideal” dog

It is much more important to adopt the right dog, then to adopt the wrong dog at the right time. Unless you have a great deal of experience with dogs, including understanding dog behavior, you may need some help making sure you find the right fit when it is time to choose a pooch as a holiday gift for the kids.

Fortunately, many of the staff at animal shelters can speak to the personalities of the dogs in their care. If you go to them with a list of some of your top priorities, they can help you make sure you get the right fit for a big Christmas hit, instead of a worrying flop that can bring the trauma of having to rehome your new pet – not a good childhood memory.

There is a great dog for just about every situation, however, an honest inventory of your needs helps you find a good fit. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before going to the shelter:

  • Do you have a fenced yard, or will you rely on primarily leashed walks for exercise?
  • How much time will your dog need to spend alone during a typical week?
  • Are you experienced with dog training methods, or do you need an “easy” to train, lower energy dog for a family pet?
  • Do you have the time/expertise to housetrain a puppy, or would an adult dog who already knows the ropes be a better fit for your situation?
  • Do you have other pets or small children in your household?

4. Make sure the budget allows for all the initial expenses of dog ownership

If you adopt your dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization, the adoption fee will likely cover some of their initial vaccinations and/or spay/neuter costs. However, every dog will need a routine visit to the vet within a few weeks as well as routine medications such as heartworm and flea/tick prevention.

The initial start-up costs such as getting the right tools, gear, and training tools can also be expensive, especially when first bringing a new dog into the home. Be sure your checkbook has room for these expenses and consider rolling some of these items into the stocking stuffers to open on Christmas day.

5. Don’t wait until the week of Christmas to try to adopt a dog

If you think you are the first parent considering a dog as a gift this holiday season, forget it. A surge of adoptions around the holiday season is typical. This can result in a temporary shortage of available dogs. Once you decide that adopting is a smart choice for your family, go ahead and start looking for the right fit in your area.

In addition, another option is to go with an “Adoption Coupon” promising the kids that a decision to adopt has been made, but that finding the right furry friend is a process that you will begin in the following weeks. This takes the pressure off, giving you the time you need to find the right fit, rather than settling for a dog that may not meet your family’s “ideal” companion list.

In addition, if you plan to travel or host family and friends over the holidays, it is probably not the best time to introduce a dog to the mix. Keep in mind that animals in the rescue system tend to have some stress and anxiety about finding their fur-ever home. Give them the benefit of a calmer household and wait to bring them home until you have the time in your schedule to help them adjust to a routine.

6. Where can you find adoptable dogs for the holidays?

Most communities have one or more animal shelters. Some are run by your county animal control office and others may be run by chapters of the ASPCA or other pet adoption and welfare agencies. In addition, behind the scenes, are often breed rescue groups run by volunteers who foster animals looking for a second chance. 

Be sure to research animal rescue groups that may be active in your community, but which may not have a brick and mortar animal shelter. For example, many breeds such as Border Collies, Greyhounds and Dachshunds have an army of dedicated volunteers who love the breed and do their best to make sure they are rescued from shelters and find their way to suitable forever homes.

Try a Google search for “[BREED] rescue near me” or “dog adoption near me”. Or, look on social media such as Facebook to find groups that may be active in your area that you may not find otherwise. In addition, adoption sites such as Petfinder.com consolidate the efforts of many different adoption groups and can make finding adoptable dogs in your area much easier.

BONUS TIP: Avoid Holiday Pet Adoption Scams

One last thing to watch out for are internet scams. The first is a common one: You follow up on a dog you just fell in love with from an ad on a local website, but then find out that you need to pay a fee so the dog can be shipped to you. Don’t do it. It’s a scam.

Second, watch out for people selling puppies on local “for sale” sites such as Craigslist or apps such as Letgo. This is one of the most popular ways that people running backyard puppy mills, often in deplorable and neglectful conditions, run their businesses. Instead, work with trusted volunteer groups or your local animal shelter to make sure your adoption fee is actually going to support animals in need, not a for-profit puppy mill.

DOGTV Note: If you’re bringing a new pet home for the holidays, give yourself a gift of a FREE trial of DOGTV.