Dear Family Pet Expert,
Our kids have been begging for a dog. Both my husband and I grew up in pet free homes and honestly do not have a clue where to begin in the selection process. What are the main points we should consider in regards to 1)determining whether we are all prepared for the additional responsibility and 2) IF we are ready, how to figure out what breed(s) are best for our family?
Great question! Deciding when the right time is for everyone in the family to enjoy a companion can be a challenge. As much as the kids insist "they will do it" the reality is that the responsibility falls on Mom and Dad to pay for, train and in general care for any family pet. Researching options of what pets are available and what might best fit your family's lifestyle is a great place to begin.
Is a dog the best fit for your family? If so, what size would be comfortable for all members? How active of a dog would you like? Consider your daily routines and how a dog might fit in. How many hours alone would the dog be left? Some dogs love to lounge while others need jobs. You want to be sure to do your research and work with a reputable breeder or rescue so that you can select the right companion.
Maybe a dog is too much of a pet for you. Cats are wonderful companions and are so much fun. My daughters enjoy their company as much if not more than our dogs. Cats are playful yet cuddly. Again, if you consider a cat you can talk to a local rescue about the personalities they have in their program to find the right match. Another great option is a guinea pig. I grew up loving guinea pigs and even had one before I was ready to have a dog. Gunea pigs are social and interactive a bit and often like to sit in your lap and I have found them to be wonderful pets.
The bottom line is you have many options. I suggest have each family member write about their ideal pet, then come together to discuss options. Visit a local shelter or rescue event near you and shop around. It is best to do a lot of looking around before you decide what you would like to do. I was not given your children's ages but include them in what is involved in the care of whatever type of pet you are considering. Take your time and make the right choice. If possible seek out a professional who will help you in selecting the right companion for you. If you decide to add a dog to your family there are many dog professionals who offer pet selections services. I wish you luck and so much enjoyment as you learn together what will be the best option for your family.
Jennifer Shryock, is the founder/Director of Family Paws Parent Education which offers two international programs, Dogs & Storks and The Dog & Baby Connection, in over 40 states and 8 countries. Jennifer is a stay-at-home Mother of four and a certified dog behavior consultant, specializing in safe dog and baby/toddler interaction. Believing the relationship between dogs and their family is precious, Jennifer created her business, Family Paws LLC to offer opportunities to families to enhance their relationship with their dog(s). Jennifer uses only positive dog and kid friendly techniques that anyone can perform in their own home. Jennifer's combination of passion and experience as a parent, special education teacher and certified dog behavior consultant allows her to connect and support families in a unique way.
Jennifer is certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and maintains professional membership with the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Jennifer is also the U.S. representative for Doggone Safe, a nonprofit organization dedicated to dog safety. Jennifer has been featured in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart LIVING and Dog Fancy, as well as has been a popular guest on various radio programs.
Jennifer and family share their home with their 3 dogs and 3 cats.