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Animal lovers can agree that an armful of puppies brings instant joy. So, the not-so-new trend of renting puppies for parties might sound like pure magic. It’s also no surprise that there are companies offering puppies for rent, in part thanks to social media and mainstream media attention. They provide puppies for all sorts of events, including birthday parties, corporate events, and even weddings. But if renting a puppy for your next soirée sounds too good to be true, you might be onto something.

Animal advocacy organizations, such as Best Friends Animal Society, raise serious concerns that renting puppies from businesses perpetuates inhumane breeding practices. As an alternative, some animal rescues are offering ethical options for quality time with puppies and adult dogs, including sleepovers, puppy parties, and outings. Here’s what you need to know before you rent puppies for a party.

Can you rent a puppy for a day?

There are several companies that offer to bring a whole litter of puppies, along with their food and a stash of toys. These puppy-rental companies boast that their puppies are available for corporate events, carnivals, birthday parties, bachelorette parties, wedding proposals, and photo shoots. But should you rent a puppy?

“Renting” puppies for the afternoon should involve far more consideration than a quick online search. Unlike scrolling for five-star reviews of party supplies, renting a dog has real, potentially negative consequences that deserve careful thought. Here are a few reasons why renting a dog is a bad idea:

  • These establishments prioritize profit over animal welfare, often subjecting their puppies to harmful conditions.
  • Puppy rental companies will often use puppy mills to supply the fleeting fun. Dogs in puppy mills are kept in cramped and dirty cages, leading to health disorders.
  • Many puppy rental companies are connected with designer puppy breeders, contributing to animal overpopulation.
  • Not to mention that allowing people to rent dogs can also support the idea that caring for a pet isn’t a long-term commitment.
  • And puppies may become overworked and overwhelmed during events with no escape.

“For dogs, socialization requires providing puppies positive experiences with people in the first few months of life,” according to behaviorist Karen B. London, Ph.D in her article on puppy socialization. “Exposure to people and other dogs that results in positive experiences for the puppy provides proper socialization. Being in a large crowd and becoming overwhelmed does not.” Those negative experiences can be detrimental to a dog. If a dog has negative experiences with people early on, they learn not to be comfortable and social with people, but to be nervous or afraid around them. It’s far better to meet people one or two at a time and have those people provide treats, toys, and gentle touching in a calm setting.”

So, where can I play with puppies?

The good news: There are plenty of alternatives to enjoy playing with puppies and dogs without contributing to harmful practices. Some animal shelters and rescues are embracing the puppy party trend, offering puppy birthday parties, play sessions, and puppy cuddles at corporate events, all with an ethical twist. Through animal shelters and rescues, you can get playtime with puppies (and adult dogs) in ways that don’t compromise their health and happiness.

One positive approach used by the Animal Rescue Foundation is therapy dogs. In partnership with the University of California at Berkeley, they host Pet Hugs events, where a pack of adorable therapy dogs take over campus to provide their cuddly support. But you don’t need to enroll in a bachelor program to gently wrap your arms around a well-socialized dog or cat. The Animal Rescue Foundation’s “Pet Hug Pack” is available for scheduling at your facility, free of charge.

Other opportunities to play with puppies, cats, and even rabbits include:

Consider adopting a dog.

Adopting a dog is a wonderful way to have a puppy party every day. You can visit Adopt A Pet to find available dogs in your area. You can also go directly to your local shelter or rescue organization’s website — most shelters and rescues share adoption profiles on their websites, so you can browse through the dogs available for adoption and learn more about their personalities and any special needs.

Benefits of spending time with shelter dogs

Whether you’re interested in adopting a puppy or an adult dog, or you simply want to spend quality time with a furry friend, many shelters welcome visitors to play with puppies and dogs. It provides dogs with much-needed socialization. Consider fostering a puppy or dog. Shelters often provide everything you’ll need, and if they don’t, you can write foster pet expenses off on your taxes.

There are many other reasons why you should spend time with pets, especially those available for adoption:

  • Spending time with pets helps to socialize them and get them comfortable around people. This, in turn, can help them get adopted and acclimate to their new homes more quickly.
  • Sleepovers and outings reveal a pet’s true personality. When you report back to shelter staff, they’ll use this information to place them with the perfect individual or family.
  • If you’re interested in adopting, puppy parties, outings, and sleepovers are all fantastic ways to see if you and the pup are a good match.
  • Spending time with animals reduces stress and boosts happiness for both humans and pets.

How much does a puppy party cost?

Ready to host an ethical puppy party? Shelters and rescues tend to ask for donations ranging from $450 for at-home puppy parties to $700 for a corporate puppy party. “All monies raised by puppy parties help us save more animals, either by covering veterinary procedures, transportation expenses, food costs, or more,” assures Secondhand Hounds, who provide at least three puppies or adult dogs for parties in the Minnetonka, Minnesota area.

Rather than transporting puppies and dogs to your home or office, you can also opt to bring your party to a shelter or rescue near you. For example, the Animal Humane Society happily hosts 90-minute parties for $275. Your in-shelter puppy party can include an adoption floor tour, games, and a meet and greet with an adoptable animal. At the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, puppy parties start at $300 and can include making treats for the adoptable dogs.

FAQ (People also ask):

Where can I go to play with puppies for free?

Volunteering at a reputable animal rescue or shelter is the best way to get your puppy fix for free. Beyond volunteer work at the shelter, many animal rescues and shelters offer sleepovers and daytime outings for potential adopters and volunteers, allowing you to spend quality time with a puppy.

Janelle Leeson is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Inside Your Dog’s Mind, Inside Your Cat’s Mind, and Paw Print, as well online at Insider Reviews, NBC Select, Shop Today, PetMD, and Daily Paws. She has two adventure cats, a flock of urban chickens, and a soon-to-be-husband who doesn’t mind housing the occasional foster cat — or five