There are few things that can add as much fun and joy to your life as a pet. But pet ownership comes with a lot of responsibility, too. When you bring an animal home, you’re making a commitment to provide for all of the physical, mental, and emotional needs of another living creature. This is not something to be entered into lightly.
First of all, you need to assess your lifestyle to determine what type of pet is best for you. If you’re rarely at home, work very long shifts, or never have time to go for a walk, a dog is probably not the pet for you. You’ll probably be better off with a cat, or perhaps some nice fish. I’m not saying these animals don’t need quality time, too. But if you have to work late, they can poop inside without it being a crisis.
On the other hand, if you really enjoy the outdoors, go for hikes on the weekend, swim in the lake, take a walk every day after dinner (or plan to start doing these things), a dog might make a great companion. (Our dog is a little guy, but as you can see in the video below, he has a ton of energy. He needs a long walk or run in the park every day to prevent wall-climbing craziness. He’s great to take on hikes, though!) Just know that when you get a new puppy, they rarely come housebroken. It might be a good idea to make sure your schedule the first week or so allows you to either work from home, or return home periodically to let the little one outside.
Once you’ve decided on a species, its good to think about personality. If you want a dog, but aren’t a really active type of person, you probably need a laid back, dare I say lazy, dog. A high-energy dog that isn’t given an outlet for that energy (ie. exercise) will have to get it out some other way, usually in the form of chewing, barking, or other behaviors that can disrupt your household. If you want an exercise buddy to run, swim, or hike with you, though, you’ll want to look for a pooch with some pep. Visit your local animal shelter or Humane Society, volunteer to walk some dogs, and you’ll get to know which personality suits your own.
Make sure your sound is on to watch the video!
The next rule for pet ownership is: BE PREPARED! Do your homework on your pet. Go to the library and check out a big stack of books on puppy training, cats, gerbils, lizards, or whatever furry/scaly being you’re adding to your family. Then read the books, talk to other pet owners, find some websites with recommendations. Know what you’ll need to have the first day you bring your pet home. Know how to house-train them, decide if you want to crate-train, find out when to get which shots. Does your city or county require your dog to have a license? What food is best? If you’re away all day, does your new puppy have access to the outdoors through a pet door or a friend stopping by?
My final rule for being a good pet owner is: have fun! Spend time w/ your new little buddy, and not just by lavishing hugs and treats on them. Dogs especially have fun walking or running with you, playing fetch or tug, and even training! We’re training our dog, Arthur, with the Sit Means Sit method, and he LOVES it! (Check out our trainer’s blog.) He enjoys the challenges of learning new things, and is visibly excited when we praise him for doing so well. Plus it gives him an outlet for his seemingly-bottomless supply of energy! Cats will have fun playing with balls or catnip toys, or dangle-from-a-stick toys. You can even train your fish to do tricks!
Ultimately, having a pet is a privilage, not a right. We are privilaged to get to live, work, and play with these wonderful animals, each with their own unique personality. They give us love, devotion, and a warm cuddle (except for the fish, hopefully), and in return we have a responsibility to provide them with exercise, discipline, and affection (to quote Cesar Milan), and a balanced life.
Please share your stories or comments of your relationship with your pet(s)!