Those of us who spend our scarce free time watching adorable dog videos know the scene: a usually young human is led (eyes closed) into a room by another human where a large box awaits. When the first human is told to open their eyes, there is a pause, then some confusion, and finally a command: "Open it!" The person takes the lid off the box where a lovely puppy has been patiently sitting. Tears and squeals follow: dog and human fall in love immediately.
Nobody appreciates a good dog love story more than I do, but let's be real. Surprising somebody with a dog as a gift has its risks.
1. Make sure that the person actually wants a dog. Does this person follow through on ideas? If this is someone who has a track record of taking action to back up some talk, then this person might be an OK candidate. That's not enough, however. What is this person's history with dogs? If they grew up with dogs, they'll have a clear idea of the work and time commitment involved. Otherwise, they will be in for a rude surprise.
2. Take their living situation into consideration. Does this person live in a home where pets are actually allowed? Getting your friend evicted will definitely strain the relationship. There might be size restrictions, and there might be potential hazards. Is there a safe area for the dog to be walked? If your friend needs a professional dog-walker, does the building allow for non-residents to come and go fairly easily? Also - who else lives in the home? They should definitely have a say in the matter.
3. Notice how they spend their free time. If your pal hikes or loves running on the beach, then a large dog might be the perfect companion. But if your friend has to fly out of town every weekend, a dog should not be in the cards. And puppies should only go to people who have the time to spend training them and bonding with them.
If these questions give you pause, then know that there are other gifts to give a dog-wanter. Consider paying the adoption fees in advance at a rescue or a local shelter, then give the certificate to your friend. Also, consider making a donation to a pet charity in your friend's name. True, you'll only have a piece of paper to give to your friend, and paper doesn't snuggle or give kisses. But giving an actual animal to a person who may not have the time or resources to properly care for it is just not fair for anybody. There are plenty of good surprises in the world: a bottle of champagne, tickets to Hamilton, or a trip to Paris. Dogs and puppies should stay in the world of non-surprises.