Is Your Family Ready for a New Pet?
If you asked me this question, my off-the-cuff response would be an emphatic “Yes!” When I stop to think about it, however, I wonder if my family really is ready for a new pet. We lost our dog just 6 months ago and are still healing from the loss. My 8 year-old daughter (Olivia) is most certainly ready. One glance around her room and you’ll see why – dog posters, dog stuffed animals, dog books, drawings and books of dogs she has made, and more and more dog stuff. And then there’s her “get a new puppy” campaign. I’m sold. My husband, on the other hand, is being pragmatic about it. He has valid points about why now isn’t the best time for our family to get a new dog: our work and activity schedules are jammed, our summer vacation includes travel, and we’re still renovating the basement destroyed by our dearly departed Molly.
It got me thinking about what we should be considering important in the pet decision. Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful.
Knowing When Your Family Is Ready for a Pet
- Your whole family is committed to getting a new pet. Pets are big responsibilities and pet care should be shared by the whole family. It’s important to make sure each family member is ready to take on some of the chores required to successfully raise a pet. In our case, we know what to expect having had two dogs in our family but, as I mentioned, my husband is not quite ready yet so we’ll probably wait a few months.
- Your child is comfortable around pets. Not all pets are alike so it’s important to consider your child’s comfort level around the pet of your choice (and the breed if thinking about a dog!). I remember when my brother got a new puppy and it jumped on Olivia (then 4 years old). Despite having a dog of her own, she was scared of this little jumping and nipping puppy because it was outside her experience with our dogs and other adult dogs she had previously met.
- Your child does chores and pitches in. All pets require care but some more than others. When deciding if a pet is right for your family, consider how many chores your child can handle currently. When it comes to pet care, kids may say they “will definitely feed it and clean up after it” but their current chore participation is a better indicator of pet readiness. Our children will have to work on this one. In fact, I think I’ll use this as a motivator for both our kids to pitch in more.
- Your family’s schedule accommodates the care needs of the pet. A pet is a family member with needs just like everyone else. It’s helpful to consider your family’s schedule and how the pet’s needs will fit into it. Despite being a busy family, we made it work with our dogs by finding excellent dog walking services and leaning on family and neighbors. I’m sure we can do it again but we’ll need to consider this if we decide on a puppy.
- Your family’s budget. Some pets are more expensive than others and budget should be considered. Costs to consider: vet bills, food, medicine, toys, pet care, etc. For me, the price is worth the years of happiness but that’s not true for every pet owner.
- Allergies have been considered. When considering pets that trigger allergies, such as cats and dogs, you should ensure that all family members are allergy-free prior to getting a new pet.
There is a lot to consider when deciding if your family is ready for a pet. Personally, I think we’re close but logistically we may have to wait until after summer travels. In the meantime, Olivia’s grandmother recently got a dog from a local shelter so that just may be the perfect way to get Olivia to “practice” taking care of a new pet.