“Can We Get a Dog?”

A Parents Guide to
Adding a Pet to the Family

The idea of getting a pet is undoubtedly exciting for kids. The mere thought of a dog running around the house can bring immense joy to their faces. While the idea of having a pet can be enticing, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons, understanding the impact a pet can have on your family’s lifestyle. And as your children continue to ask the questions of, “can we get a dog?” It’s important to include them in the conversation and make them aware of the responsibility that comes with owning a pet. Whether you decide to say yes or no, here are some things to consider:

Benefits of Having a Pet:

Companionship: Pets can offer unconditional love and companionship, teaching children valuable lessons about empathy, responsibility and nurturing.

Physical Activity: Owning a pet can encourage physical activity and outdoor play, which is beneficial for both kids and parents. 

Stress Relief: Interacting with animals has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote emotional well-being in both children and adults.

Teaching Responsibility: Taking care of a pet instills a sense of responsibility in children, as they learn to feed, groom, and look after their furry friend.

More Factors to Consider:

Time Commitment: Pets need your time and attention. Consider your family’s schedule to ensure you can dedicate enough time to care for and bond with your pet. Are your children ready to commit time to take care of a pet?

Responsibility: Do your kids understand the responsibility that comes with owning a pet? All too often, parents end up taking care of the animals. Ensure your children are ready and willing to pick up extra shared responsibilities. 

Life Cycles: Saying Hello and Goodbye…while no one really wants to talk about this, pets don’t have the same lifespan as people. Sometimes pets will need to be “re-homed” as not all pets can successfully integrate into some families. When a pet is not happy, safe or fitting in or especially when a loved pet dies, you should be preparing your family for these difficult times. Be honest, be clear and support your children with the inevitable trajectories of life. One of the most important aspects of pet ownership is learning to love and grieve the loss of a pet. 

So what are the first steps you can take?

Education: Teach your child about the responsibilities that come with owning a pet, such as feeding, walking, and grooming. Reading books or watching documentaries about pet care can be a fun and educational way to introduce them to their future responsibilities.

Trial Period: Before making a permanent commitment, consider pet-sitting for a friend or volunteering at an animal shelter. This will give your child a taste of what it’s like to care for a pet and help you gauge their readiness for the real deal.

Start Small: While your kids may want a dog, it’s possible your family’s lifestyle isn’t conducive to that level of commitment. Find a compromise and find a pet that requires a little less responsibility, like a cat or a hamster. Seeing how they take care of these pets will indicate to you their preparedness for a larger commitment. 

Increase Responsibility: If you ultimately decide to get a pet, decide upon responsibilities for every family member. Include your child in training lessons for their dog, cleaning the hamster cage or cleaning the litter box. These consistent chores will empower them to take ownership of the family’s pet.

Bringing a pet into your family can be a rewarding experience for both you and your child. It teaches valuable life lessons, fosters empathy, and creates beautiful memories. However, it’s essential to make an informed decision, considering the time, effort and responsibility required for pet ownership. By preparing your child for the responsibilities involved and choosing a pet that best matches your family’s lifestyle, a pet can be a rewarding experience.

For more family tips and resources, check out Decade2Connect.

Our Intensive Outpatient Program is in-network with United!