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Sooner or later, every parent is likely to hear: “Please, can I have a puppy?”
A pet can become a wonderful addition to a family and teach children valuable life lessons including responsibility, compassion, patience, respect, nurturing skills as well as boost their self-esteem. However, parents should consider whether their family is ready for a dog and weigh the pros and cons of adding a pet to the household before agreeing to your child’s request. A pet is a long term commitment and animals should not be seen as just a bit of fun which can be given away when the novelty wears off or when the pet grows up.
The following should be considered before deciding to get a puppy:
- Do sufficient research and find out all you can about the background, general behaviour and sociability of the breed you are considering. Think about the future, when the puppy grows into a dog, will it still be as much fun? Will it outgrow your home?
- Dogs are social animals and should not be left alone for extended periods of time. Family members should realise that they may have to give up other activities to properly care and include a puppy in their lives. Food, toys, a pet carrier and medical expenses could also become expensive and should to be planned for.
- If you decide your child is ready for a pet, resist the urge to give a puppy as a surprise present or Christmas gift. Allocate the care responsibilities together and involve your child in each step of the decision making process, including selecting the size and breed that will be right for your family.
- It is recommended to schedule a home visit before adopting to see how the puppy interacts with the family, especially your child. The puppy should display behaviour that indicates that he or she wants to be around your child more than anything including having their ears back and wagging their tail. You are looking for a pet that will be spending up to 10 years in close contact with your child, so don’t rush the decision.
- All dogs are born wild and need training. The first 12–16 weeks of a puppy’s life is very important. It’s easy to overlook the fact that a cute little puppy will grow into a dog and without the proper training may become unruly. Once they know who the leader is, they will settle into their new life quite happily. Obedience training can can be a time-consuming process and needs to be taken into consideration when choosing a dog.
There are many benefits of pet ownership for your child – they can have emotional and physical needs fulfilled, including comforting contact, love and affection. However, do not rush into the decision – ensure that you have the time, resources, space and patience to welcome a new four legged family member.