To get a pet or to not get a pet…that is the question? Are your children begging you for that cute puppy in the window? Are they sweet talking you into a fluffy kitten? Do not give into those pitiful eyes just yet. Pets do come with a lot of responsibility, but major lessons can be learned when a child takes care of dog, cat, or even a fish. Before you “paw print” on the dotted line, let’s look at the pros and cons of owning a pet.
- Pets bring joy to ordinary life
- Great companions to the lonely
- Teaches responsibility (feeding, watering, grooming, etc.)
- A nurturing sense develops
- Fitness benefits gained if walking/ jogging a dog
- Comradery and spiritually grows
- Dander can cause irritation causing allergies
- Evaluate if known allergies already exist
- Major provisions required (food, medicine, gear, etc.)
- Veterinarian and regular grooming expenses
- Boarding/pet-sitting required if going on a vacation or away for long hours
- Shedding associated with some pets
In the end, there is a lot to think about before purchasing or adopting a pet. Ask the question…will it benefit your children and the family beyond the effort and finances required?
You decided to get a family dog, now what?
There are over 300 breeds of dogs out there, so how can you decide which dog is right for you? We’ve got some important factors to help you determine the right dog for your family:
Size: When deciding on a breed, narrowing down an ideal size for your family dog is important. Although you may adore the neighbor’s Great Dane, is the size practical for your family? Consider some technicalities with larger breeds. For example, do you have a large car to transport a 100+lbs dog? Is there room in your home for a massive dog bed, crate, etc. and can your yard handle a large pet? Will you be able to afford the amount of food a larger dog needs? Do you and your spouse have the strength to control a large dog, and will your small children be trampled? When you’re considering a small dog, question whether or not your children are too rough for a fragile creature.
Energy Level: After you’ve decided on an ideal size for your future family member, consider your family’s lifestyle. Does your family spend weekends outdoors and keeping active, or indoors on the couch? Some breeds are working dogs and they must be kept busy. If you’re not keen on running a dog and throwing a ball for hours on end, a working dog may not be for you. Do you have quite a few young children? If so, you may not want a herding breed, such as a collie or sheepdog. These dogs are known for rounding up children and can be rather stressful for families. If you live in an apartment, you may not want a breed known for barking or stubborn to train.
Maintenance: You must be realistic when considering a particular breed and their upkeep, too. For example, long-haired breeds require regular grooming, typically every six weeks. With a cost of $60 per appointment, that’s almost $500 per year. Are you ready to take your pup to the salon that often? If not, you may want to consider a short-coated breed. Another factor to consider is shedding.Terriers, for example, are known for limited shedding. Whereas a Husky can shed a soccer-ball-sized clump of hair in one brushing. If the idea of carrying a lint roller everywhere makes you cringe, you may want to avoid high-shedding dogs.
Medical: Once you’ve narrowed down your list of ideal breeds, it’s important to factor in long-term medical needs for the typical routine vet visits, flea and heartworm treatments. Some breeds were dealt a bad hand when it comes to genetic predispositions. So, when picking a breed, be sure to research any common medical illnesses the breed may have. For example, English Bulldogs are known for having breathing issues, skin problems, hip dysplasia, heart disease and more. These issues can lead to high-cost medications, food and physical therapy. Can your wallet afford these costs for the next 10+ years of your pet’s life? Many people opt for mixed breed dogs in hopes to avoid common genetic illnesses. These designer mutts can be found at your local shelter and often have the best qualities of each breed.
So now for the great debate, shop or adopt?
Once you’ve decided on a preferred breed or breeds, it’s time to begin your search. One can choose a private breeder, pet store or shelter. Wherever you decide to meet your fur-ever pet, weigh the pros and cons of your supplier. When you purchase a dog from a pet store, you can get a cute puppy same day and have a choice at a wide variety of breeds. However, many pet stores use puppy mills which are known for inhumane practices and bad breeding. This could increase your chances of getting an ill dog with an unhealthy lineage at a high price.
Before you go on your search for a breeder, consider adopting a shelter pet. Saving a shelter dog’s life is a great teaching opportunity for your children. By adopting, you’re showing your child the value of saving a life, the responsibility of owning a dog and the realities of irresponsible pet ownership. There are many great animal shelters in the Chattahoochee Valley. Shelters often have purebred dogs, and if you visit Petfinder.com, you can narrow down your search for a specific breed, age and gender. Of course, when you adopt from a shelter, you are often unaware of your dog’s lineage, this is something to strongly consider if you or your child suffers from allergies, or if you want your dog to serve a specific purpose, such as hunting. If you decide a particular breed is right for you, and you can’t find a match in your local shelter, check the AKC’s website for nearby breeders. Oftentimes breeders have a waitlist for their puppies, which is a great sign of a responsible breeder. Be sure to interview your breeder and visit the home. If you cannot see your future puppy’s parents and living environment, consider another breeder, as these are red flags of an irresponsible breeder.
However you find your new furry friend, it’ll be worth the effort. Dogs are a great addition to your family and can teach your child responsibility, friendship and dependability.