Parenting, Pregnancy and Baby Care

Choosing the Right Pet for Your Family

Spring has finally sprung and with the nicer weather many people start thinking about adding a pet to their family. Experts caution, however, that you shouldn’t just rush out to buy or adopt a pet.

CC Image courtesy of  Angie Constantino on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Angie Constantino on Flickr

Things to Think About

Veterinarian Ron Hines notes on his website that the decision to get a pet should be “a deliberate, thought-out action.”

Some things to keep in mind: how much time and energy do you have to devote to the daily care, training, and exercising of a pet; what is your home environment like; why do you want a pet; how old are your children; how long do you want this pet to live; can you afford it; and is this the right time for you to get a pet.

Your lifestyle should also play a role in choosing a pet. If you’re frequently away from home for long hours, for example, a dog is probably not the right choice for you. Instead, check out information on animals such as gerbils, hamsters, fish, birds, etc. and see if one of those types of pets would be a better fit for your life, family, and home.

If you do decide to get a cat or dog, you need to find out as much as you can about specific breeds. “Get to know the breed you are interested in and be open to changing your mind if it doesn’t fit your ability to provide for its temperament. Ask lots of questions from the people adopting the animal out, maybe even find a breed specific group to ask questions of some of the members,” advises veterinarian Victoria Heuer of PetMD.com.

Introducing Children to a New Pet

Regardless of the type of pet you choose if you also have children, “careful handling of introductions will set the scene for future interactions,” notes Kelley Bollen, a Certified Animal Behaviour Consultant.

Talk to your vet for guidelines on how to handle, behave around, and interact with your specific type of pet. You should supervise your children until you are sure they know and can reliably follow the rules. Some pets, such as dogs, should never be left alone with young children, cautions Bollen.

Test Drive a Pet

Still not sure if having a pet is right for you? Consider pet-sitting for a friend or fostering through an organization such as the Toronto Humane Society. This will allow you to see what it’s really like to be a pet owner before you make a commitment.

Resources and more information

Dr. Ron Hines, DVM, http://www.2ndchance.info/choospet.htm

PetMD http://www.petmd.com/dog/care/evr_multi_10_things_consider_before_pet_adoption

Best Friends Animal Society http://bestfriends.org/resources/pet-care/general-pet-care/getting-started/choosing-the-right-pet-for-you/

She Knows Pets & Animals http://www.sheknows.com/channels/pets-and-animals

Toronto Humane Society http://www.torontohumanesociety.com/

Introducing a new dog to children, Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, http://www.dpvhs.org/training/tipsheets/dog.to.children.php