Pets can be a wonderful addition to the family. Pets teach children about bonding, loyalty and how to care for an animal. Children learn about responsibility, chores, training and hard work in taking care of the family pet.
But it’s not always easy bringing a new pet into the home. The temperament of each animal is different, and it takes a period of transition and training for all to go smoothly with a new furry, feathery or fishy friend.
We bought our kids a chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy for Christmas. We had a previous Labrador who passed away in 2016 and they had been begging us to get a new dog. They were elated at first, but as our active new family member is jumping on them, nipping at their clothes and chewing up their shoes, they are learning about the downsides of owning a puppy.
If you’re considering adding a pet to your family in the future, here’s my best advice:
As you analyze which pet to get, you must consider your family’s budget, schedule and free time available to take care of an animal.
If you have lots of free time, a dog or cat might be a great addition, but they take lots of effort to exercise and train. Be sure to research breeds and their temperament and try to match to your family as closely as possible. (I’ve never had a cat, but I’d guess that they’d take less time to train than a dog and they don’t require as much exercise.)
If you’re not in to dogs or cats, consider a smaller furry friend, like a hamster, guinea pig or rabbit. Remember that their cages need to be cleaned regularly.
If your time is minimal and you want a basic pet, a fish is a great option. Their tank needs to be cleaned every week or two. If you go out of town, you can give them vacation tablets that time release over a week. They’re brilliant!
But in any case, examine all aspects of caring for the pet that require your time, energy and money: exercising, training, bathing, veterinarian appointments, pet sitters when you’re out of town, cleaning of the tank or cage, etc.
There are pros and cons of each type of pet, so consider them carefully. Also remember that different levels of effort are required in different seasons of the pet’s life. For example, the puppy stage is very demanding, it’s like having a newborn! Puppies must be let out every few hours around the clock. They chew things and need a lot of attention.
Are you and your family willing to expend the time and money toward taking care of all these things in your current season? If there’s any hesitation, you can always reconsider in the future before diving in.
Consider Your Kids’ Ages
My kids are nine and six and I’m glad we didn’t bring a new puppy home any sooner. Our puppy is very active and has lots of energy, as new puppies do, which means she’s occasionally jumps or nips at the kids. If my kids were younger and smaller, it would probably have been even more stressful than it is now. (This may be different with a smaller breed of dog, but most puppies naturally jump and nip for the first few months of life.)
If you want a pet that your children can help take care of, identify each aspect of care and consider whether your children are mature and old enough to help. Is it realistic to expect a toddler to bathe a dog or be in charge of cleaning a hamster cage? No. Is it realistic for a nine and six-year-old to pick up the dog poo outside? Absolutely!
Pets can bring a lot of love and laughter into a home. Once they’re trained and exercised, they offer great emotional and psychological benefits to everyone in the family. To fully experience these benefits, be sure to carefully consider which type of pet is best for your family and when it’s the right time to bring one home.