Today I want to talk about one of the most important elements to bringing a pet into your home and family. Commitment! Adding a pet to your life, whether it is your first or 12th, is not a decision that should be entered into lightly or on an impulsive whim. Here are some major factors to consider in adding a pet to your family.
- Take an honest look at your lifestyle and home environment before choosing your next family pet. It is very easy to fall in love with a sweet face (happens to me all the time) or a sad story but choosing a pet that does not fit well into your life and family can mean heartbreak for everyone! For example; do you live in an apartment building with lots of close neighbors where barking could prove to be an issue? Maybe you should stay away from the happy, barking dog in the kennel! Perhaps a cat or better yet a bonded pair of cats may be the perfect addition! Is your home like Grand Central Station with kids and activities going on all the time? That sweet, quiet dog that seems shy might not appreciate the business of your home! Adding a pet to your home is an exciting event and should be met with joy but try to think with your head as well as your heart and truly give your life and home an honest look before bringing in a new pet to make sure the match is one everyone can be happy with.
- While adopting an animal is admirable be aware of your financial limitations as well. The mindset of trying to "save them all" can lead you down a path where everyone suffers. Being a responsible pet owner is expensive. Proper veterinary care such as yearly exams, vaccinations and preventative medicine can run up a big bill, not to mention any emergency needs that arise on top of toys, food and pet care when you travel. If you get in over your head with the amount of animals in your home, their health, as well as yours can suffer consequences. Give your financial health an honest assessment before bringing in another animal to make sure you can adequately and properly care for them.
- Bringing a pet into your family is a long term commitment. Pets are not fashion accessories, child substitutes or short term fun. Some cats can live to the ripe old age of 20, are you prepared to care for your pet for its' entire life? If not then perhaps it is not the right time for you to add to the family. Sometimes our lives are busy and committing to something long term is just impossible. If that is the case with you don't feel bad about that. It's good to be honest with yourself and not get into a situation that may require you to give up your pet. If you feel you don't have the time to commit long term, you can still get your "pet fix" in other ways! Volunteer at your local Humane Society to walk dogs and socialize puppies and kittens, volunteer for a local rescue group as a foster home for a dog in need, you get the joys of having a pet in your home but it's not a long term commitment and you are really helping so many when you foster! The benefit of volunteering is it also gives you the ability to meet many different animals and personalities so that when you do have the ability to make the long term commitment you know exactly the kind of pet and personality would best suit you and your family! It's a win-win situation!
- Another important factor to think about; do you have the time and willingness to provide your pet with the appropriate amount of exercise and mental stimulation that they require? I'll give an example: I LOVE Border collies and BC mixes, I think they are amazing, beautiful and sweet animals, however, I could never own one. There is no way I could give them the amount of mental and physical stimulation that they would require to be a happy member of the family. It would just not be a good fit, I am not that active! Give me the energy level of the Great Pyrenees any day! So be honest about your physical abilities, age, time allowances and desire to provide your pet what it needs to thrive and be happy in your home! Remember a bored pet will find something to do…and it's not usually anything constructive! =)
- Last but certainly not least, are you prepared and willing to properly train and socialize your new pet. This goes even for cats as some people like to have their cats travel on vacations with them or act as therapy animals! As a trainer I of course think this portion of the commitment equation is super important but don't take my word for it, look at the stats…80% of dogs don't live out their lives in the home they started in! 80%!! That is crazy and very, very sad. The main reason for dogs being surrendered to shelter is for "behavior issues" these usually encompass; too energetic, jumping, destruction and potty training. All of these "issues" could be helped or eradicated all together had the dog had the proper training from the beginning! So even if you don't ever want to compete with your dog in all the fun, new dog sports that are all the rave now, training your dog is still vitally important so they understand how to be a happy member of your family and you aren't tearing your hair out and threatening to send him to the pound! Get in touch with a trainer in your area, learn how they train, observe a class so you feel comfortable with their methods and teach your dog the basics of being a polite canine member of society and your family! It is one of the best things you can do for your dog and family!
So Happy National Pet Week, do something for the animals in your life this week! Check back for more posts about our lives with pets!