Here’s one family’s advice to keep in mind when choosing a new pet.
She may have just been a dog, but she arrived in our home with the sort of fanfare and celebration that surrounds a new baby, largely because we had (read: I had) denied requests from our children for a dog for five years. With more than a decade under my belt as a stepparent and parent, I had known too many families (and we were one ourselves at the beginning of my marriage) that had bought spur-of-the-moment dogs in pet stores, from newspaper ads and out of boxes in parking lots — only to find that the dogs were biters, jumpers, chewers, aggressors or frenetic tail-chasers. I had seen these dogs relegated to crates and backyards and passed off to friends or strangers or animal rescue organizations. It’s sad for everyone involved, and I determined that when we finally got a dog for our kids, we’d do it right.
Here are a few things that worked for our family:
Waiting makes a difference.
I was so glad I waited until my children were older before allowing them to have a dog. Not only did the wait for a dog heighten their anticipation and make them eager and willing to care for our dog, but my then-5-year-old had to learn how to properly handle her and be reminded to be careful when hugging her or picking her up. If he’d been any younger, I think the situation would have been unfair and unpleasant both for him and for our pet. I’d now suggest that families wait until the kids are at least school age to add a dog into the mix.
Interact with your pet to prevent mischief.
We learned that a dog’s behavior often directly correlates with how often he or she is able to interact with others. Our new dog rarely had to be crated. She proved easy to have around the house and almost never got into trouble. But on the days when she had to be in her crate for a few hours, she was a different dog when we let her out. She was bursting with energy and jumping on everyone, and chewing anything she could get her teeth on. Know that if you have to be gone for much of the day, your absence will probably impact your pet’s behavior.
Adopt a rescue dog.
We decided to adopt a rescue dog for a number of reasons. The main one was that many rescue organizations adopt out dogs on a trial period first, allowing you and your family to get to know the dog before making a final decision. I wanted to be absolutely certain that our next dog was a good fit for our family, since we’re hoping to have her around for the next decade or so, and this trial period allowed us to get to know and love our dog without pressure.
In addition, we signed papers promising that if we had to give her up for some reason, she’d go back to the rescue organization that adopted her out to us. It was comforting to know that she had a place to go if something catastrophic were to happen and we were no longer able to care for her.
And finally, the rescue organization (in our case it was Bonaparte’s Retreat here in Nashville) didn’t adopt our new dog out until she was spayed and had a clean bill of health from the veterinarian. They brought her to our home along with a crate, toys, food, treats, and flea, tick and heart-worm medications. We had everything we needed to get started, all for a (very reasonable) adoption fee. Someone from the organization stayed and answered all our questions, and was available throughout our trial period to help with any questions or concerns we had.
With a little care and planning, we ended up with a dog that’s perfect for our family, and your family can have the same experience. Take your time selecting a new pet and get advice from friends, experts and websites like this one. You’ll end up with a pet that will provide your family with years of love and a lifetime of memories.
This post was written by Lindsay Ferrier, who has has authored the award-winning parenting blog “Suburban Turmoil” since 2005. An avowed bookworm, she’s also blogged about how to turn your child into an avid reader.
What advice do you have when it comes to selecting a new family pet? Leave it in the comments below.