The big decision: Should your family get a pet?

June 14, 2016

You're starting to cave - every wish list, trip to the park or visit to a friend's house has your child begging for a pet. They beg, they plead and they bargain, "I'll help walk and feed him!" There is no doubt about it, taking in a pet introduces your home to lots of unconditional loving from both parties. But is your family really ready for a pet? No matter what type of animal you're considering, - from dogs to rabbits to goldfish - they all require special TLC. 

Is your family is considering getting a new pet? Check out these tips to help you make the big decision: 

Throw some new responsibilities at your kids.
First things first, can your child handle regular chores and responsibilities? If they can't handle doing the dishes, then a new puppy might be too big of a step up for them, explains Parent Minds. However, if they are able to prove that they can consistently handle their chores, you can bet they'll be a big help once you bring home your new family member.

"Make sure they show signs of respect towards the animal."

Try pet sitting or dog walking.
Before you get the pet in question, see if one of your neighbors needs their pet taken care of while they're away or consider having the kids start a dog walking service in your community. This will be a good experience for the whole family to see if you're really ready for all the responsibilities of a pet. Care.com explains that you'll want to observe your children and make sure they show signs of respect towards the animal. It should be communicated to your child that animals, particularly the bigger ones like dogs and cats, should be approached cautiously, and touched gently after the owner has given permission to approach. 

This is also a good time to assess everyone's health. If your family hasn't been exposed to furry pets before, they could potentially trigger an allergic reaction. It's not uncommon to develop water eyes or runny noses from pet dander. Of course there are hypoallergenic animals, such as the bichon frise, which you can consider. But at the end of the day, you have to do what's best for your family's comfort, so make this decision together.

Consider the ages and energy levels of your family have.
Your family might be ready for an animal, but you have to consider the ages and the energy levels, notes Parent Minds. If your son or daughter is young with lots of energy to burn, then a fish probably won't excite them. On the other hand, dogs require lots of extra attention, especially puppies, so if you're kids are more inclined to quiet games, this pet won't be a good fit for you.

This is also a good moment to address dog breeds that may or may not be suitable for your family. Many people believe there are certain breeds that make for great family pets, such as golden retrievers, labs or bulldogs, however, the breed matters much less than the way you train the dog. Some breeds are more aggressive than others - many automatically think pitbull - but if you train your dog to be sweet and loving, you have nothing to worry about. That being said, your children's temperaments will matter. If you have young boys that like to wrestle, that can bring out the instinctive aggressiveness of any animal, so be sure you address what behavior is appropriate around dogs, and what is not, explains Healthy Children. 

A pet can be a great addition to the family - you just have to make sure everyone is ready first. A pet can be a great addition to the family - you just have to make sure everyone is ready first.

How much spare time does your family have?
Are your nights and weekends filled with back-to-back activities and events? The amount of time you have becomes a big issue if you have a pet that needs attention. A dog can't be cooped up inside all day, and a puppy will need even more time to be trained. But even if you're go, go, go you can still have a pet. Animals in cages and bowls often don't need as much attention as dogs or cats - they just need to be fed and have their habitats cleaned once a week. 

Make it a family decision.
Finally, everyone should be able to agree on what type of pet you want to get. If one of your kids is afraid of big animals, it's not fair to bring home a dog. You will be able to see how your child reacts to animals based on some of the previous tips like observing kids interacting with a stranger's dog, or pet sitting. Care.com notes that it could potentially be dangerous to have a fearful child around animals, as they could make a mistake and get bitten or scratched. If this is the case, start with a smaller animal, like a fish, or work on their confidence by exposing them to more animals at places like a petting zoo or animal shelter. 

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