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Teen Perspective: On Getting a Dog

by Louise | March 16th, 2011 | Teen Perspective

“Can we get a puppy?” It’s a question parents often get asked by their kids. My guess is that this question, when asked for the first time, is answered with a no. Honestly, this makes sense, at least at first. The first problem with the question was the way it was asked: as a plea for a puppy, not a dog. Puppies do not stay puppies, and that’s a fact a child needs to understand before receiving a puppy. However, let’s suppose the child asks seriously instead, “Can we get a dog?” Then, we can start to think about an answer.

There are many reasons the answer to this question might be no, some better than others. There might be safety concerns if there is still a baby in the household, and it is unknown how a new dog will react to infants. This is a legitimate reason to wait a few years and be cautious, though there is the possibility of adopting an older dog who has been deemed “okay” around young children. There are also concerns about allergies, which is reasonable, though there are certain hypoallergenic dogs with which many people with dog allergies are compatible. However, it seems that the number one concern about getting a dog is, who will be responsible for the dog?

I know there are parents who simply do not want any part in taking care of a dog. Then, we hear the children who say, “But we promise we will take care of him: feed him, walk him, and let him out every day!” It’s hard to know whether or not this will be true. One way to give the child a chance to prove that he or she is sincere about his or her promise is to start with a different pet that requires fewer responsibilities. You can start off by getting a hermit crab, a beta fish, or perhaps even a hamster. (Or to put no animals at risk, even a plant might suffice as a basic test of responsibility.) If the child can’t handle these “easier” options, it’s unlikely that a dog, at that point, would be an appropriate addition to the family. However, if the child handles the experience well, it would be fair to seriously take some time and reconsider the answer to the initial question.

If you, together with your child or children, decide to bring a dog into the family, the cooperative effort of taking care of the dog can be an experience filled with lots of learning, love and joy.

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