“Mom, can we get a dog?” It’s a question that has been asked by countless hopeful children over the years, and one that requires quite a bit of logical thought. After all, while research shows that owning a dog can keep you happy and healthy, it’s also a huge responsibility. How do you know when you’re ready to bring home a family-friendly dog breed?
Dogs require more than just unconditional love and attention daily — regular exercise, grooming, veterinary care, and healthy food are just a few aspects of caring for a family dog.
If you have babies or toddlers in the home, you probably already have enough on your plate and may want to wait a few years before adding a dog to your family. If your children are older, however, adopting a dog may be the perfect avenue for more household responsibility.
What’s more, dogs can help bring your family together. You’ll likely find that you plan more hiking and camping trips and go on more afternoon walks when a dog is part of your household. And members of active families are less likely to experience negative health conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression.
Let’s explore the various benefits of dog ownership as well as factors to take into consideration before welcoming a family-friendly dog breed into your home.
Financial and time considerations of pet ownership
You may not realize it, but owning any type of pet can be a costly endeavor. According to CNBC, the lifetime out-of-pocket cost of dog ownership can fall between $27,074 and $42,545. That amount doesn’t even include emergency veterinary costs. So before adopting a dog, make sure that your family finances are secure and can handle the extra expense.
Unfortunately, more and more families are struggling financially in our current economic climate, and poverty rates are rising in suburban areas. In 2015, in fact, 16.5 million Americans in suburban areas lived below the poverty line, compared to 13.5 million in cities. In light of that fact, dog ownership may be out of reach for those impoverished families.
But ensuring that your family is financially stable enough to take on a pet is only part of the equation. Dog ownership can be time-consuming, as dogs need almost constant attention, along with regular exercise. Even if you have a large, fenced yard with plenty of space for a dog to run, your canine companion will also need daily walks around the neighborhood. The good news is that walking with your dog is a great bonding experience and allows you more opportunity for leash training.
Ready to adopt?
Once you’ve made the decision to invite a canine companion into your home, it’s time to choose the perfect pooch for your family. Your best option is to head to your local animal shelter or humane society and check out the adoptable dogs. Adopting a shelter or rescue dog is a win-win for everyone involved: you can give hope and love to a homeless animal, and your shelter dog will likely already have rudimentary training.
Conversely, if you choose to adopt a puppy, be prepared to spend a lot of time with training. Puppies often struggle with becoming housebroken, and you will need to teach them simple commands such as “sit” and “stay.” During the housebreaking process, you may need to take your new puppy out in the middle of the night to prevent accidents.
No matter if you adopt a puppy or shelter dog, however, there’s likely to be a period of adjustment as your dog adapts to his or her new home. Patience is key.
Choosing a family-friendly dog breed
Do your research. Different breeds have different food, grooming, and exercise needs. And certain dog breeds may be a better fit for your family than others.
For example, if your family is active and you don’t mind a decent amount of shedding, a Golden Retriever may be a great fit. One of the country’s most popular breeds, goldens are typically friendly, energetic, and loyal. Other options to consider include the Australian Shepherd or if you’re not afraid of getting a really big dog, a Great Dane.
If you’re looking for a dog that’s more content in an indoor setting, you may want to opt for a smaller breed such as a Chihuahua, a French Bulldog, Boston terrier, or Cavalier King Charles spaniel.
Keeping your family happy and healthy
As previously mentioned, there is a multitude of benefits to dog ownership, especially for children. Children who live in a home with a dog or other pets may have improved self-esteem compared to children in a dog-free home. Dogs provide companionship, friendship, and comfort on difficult days.
Further, the physical health benefits of owning a dog include reduced risk of allergies and asthma, improved heart health, and increased circulation. Health professionals agree that two of the best ways to improve your circulation and keep blood flowing are regular exercise and frequent walks. Dog ownership can provide both.
If you’re looking for a way to bring your family together and improve their overall health, adopting a family-friendly dog breed may be a perfect choice. But dog ownership comes with its share of challenges, including financial cost and training time.
Make sure that your whole family is ready for the responsibility, and enjoy a more enriching life as a dog owner.
Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience with nose boops and chin scritches. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.