10 steps before you own a pet

Cartoon of a boy and a mean dog. The boy says, "A puppy! Can I keep you?"Have you ever had a child begging you for a pet? You know it will be extra work and money, but deep down you want the pet as well, don’t you?

One day, my son announced he wanted a dog for his birthday. My wife and I thought it was time and we began looking for the perfect dog. The whole episode ended badly because we were ill prepared for pet ownership. Here are ten things I learned that enabled us to become responsible pet owners later.

  1. No matter what, don’t let emotions be your deciding factor. We chose the first dog my son loved (which was the first dog he saw!). We needed to consider if dog was the right fit for our family.
  2. As a parent, assume you will have the primary responsibility. Pet ownership is a great way to teach responsibility, but don’t let your pet suffer because junior forgot to take the dog outside. Parents have to assume they will at least be sure the pet is cared for.
  3. Biking with a dog is a tricky thing. Don’t assume you or the pet will pick it up immediately. I still have the scars to prove it can end badly.
  4. While treats are a great reward, too many lose their effectiveness pretty quickly.
  5. Consider your yard. We thought our backyard was perfect. Little did we know our new dog liked to dig and make a break for it. We soon discovered this dog need much more room.
  6. Consider the size of your home. This dog wanted outside all of the time. She just didn’t feel comfortable in our house. And because she was outside all the time, the house became much dirtier when she was inside.
  7. Consider the age of all your kids. Our son was ready. Our daughter is four years younger and she didn’t understand that the dog didn’t want to play dress-up.
  8. Make sure everyone is prepared and ready to take on this new pet. My wife was staying home with the kids and didn’t feel comfortable with the dog. I knew we were in trouble at that point.
  9. Admit when you are wrong. Thankfully, the previous owner was gracious and welcomed the dog back. We just weren’t prepared. We had to be humble enough to admit we goofed.
  10. Start with a smaller pet first. We discovered later that a cat was a better fit for our family. When our family learned to take care of a cat, a dog came later. It was a better fit.

We ended up finding the right pets for our household. How about you? What are some tips you would give someone before committing to a new pet?

Why kids love pets

Cartoon of two girls looking at a hamster. One girl says, “This is my new hamster. She’s so neat, I notified all the news networks, Internet news sites and Grandma!”

It took a long time for me to allow a pet into our family. In fairness, we tried to own a dog once before and it went wrong quickly. We weren’t prepared, the kids were too young and we went on the first dog our son fell in love with.

The next pet came to our doorstep three years later. The kitten knew which house had the daughter in love with cats. He ended being one of the best cats I ever saw (once we learned how to keep him from destroying our Christmas tree!).

Why do kids love pets so much?

  • When they feel cared for, kids like to return the favor.
  • They want to be responsible. Everyone wants to feel like they can be depended on.
  • We all feel an attachment to nature. Even city dwellers like to know there is a wild, natural world out there.
  • We all want a companion

If you feel like it is time to own a pet, learn from our mistake and do your research first. I nearly kept my kids from a great experience because I wasn’t prepared the first time. Now we have a dog and a cat. And what do you know? Over the years, those two pets have taught everyone about conflict resolution. Dogs and cats can live in harmony!

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Cartoon: Hacking Pet

Cartoon of a boy scolding a dog on a computer

Cartoon of a boy scolding his talented dog. The caption reads, “Skippy! Bad dog! There is no hacking in this house!”

I’ve come to the conclusion a dog’s main talent is hacking. My dog is a good hacker. She isn’t a computer hacker, but she is a very vocal hacker nonetheless.

When I heard Illustration Friday’s word was “talent, I thought of my talented dog.