So, you want to buy your child the perfect gift, and he or she has been asking for a dog forever*, and you're thinking that Christmas would be the right time...Step away from the pet store! If you purchase a dog at a pet store, it is very likely that it came from a puppy mill. The Humane Society of the United States has done the work for you, and has some pretty damning evidence that animals are being treated horribly just for the sake of making a buck. I'm hoping it's not your buck. Read this:
If you really want to give your child a pet for the holidays, please consider adopting one from a shelter. In addition to a more reasonable price, you can be assured that the shelter really wants to send its animals to a good home, and will work with you to find the best pet for your family. Of course, if you have a specific breed in mind, you might want to wait until after the holidays, when people discard unwanted animals given as pets. Yup, it happens. Why? Pet ownership is a big responsibility, and it is not to be taken lightly. The American Kennel Club has a long list of how to be a responsible dog owner; read it here: http://www.akc.org/public_education/responsible_dog_owner.cfm
Before you assume that a cat is "easier", think again. Read this to find out why: http://www.webvet.com/main/2008/06/22/10-things-you-should-know-owning-cat
What about a bird or a fish or a rodent? They all have requirements for their care, and if you aren't willing to step up when your child loses interest, it's going to be a sad existence for the animal. Do you really want that?
If you are planning to go ahead with giving a pet as a gift, check out this info: http://www.petfinder.com/pet-care/pets-as-presents.html and if you aren't ready for the responsibility, just say "NO". Your child may be disappointed, but please think of an animal's welfare over placating your child.
*The kiddo has repeatedly asked for a dog, to which I have replied that it's "not the right time". She has no idea what that means, but it's basically "NO", because I'm not ready for a dog along with a kiddo and a cat. Yikes.