Your kids have been begging for a dog to walk, a gerbil to snuggle or lizard they can feed. Are you ready for a commitment of many years and possibly a lot of money?

There are many benefits of adding a pet to your household. On the other hand, dogs and cats and everything in-between aren’t always fun and games. Consider these pros and cons before bringing home a new, furry family member.

Nine ways pets are good for kids

Parents need to be involved, openly discuss and plan to ensure a safe, positive pet experience for the whole family. In these ideal circumstances, pets help children:

  • Build up resistance to common allergies and asthma
  • Learn values, loyalty, empathy and coping mechanisms for fear and anger
  • Cope with cognitive disorders, stress, loneliness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by providing animal-assisted therapy (AAT), according to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)
  • Stay physically active and learn collaboration skills through walks, throwing the frisbee and playing games
  • Develop confidence and self-esteem through companionship and taking on responsibility for feeding and grooming
  • Be patient when teaching tricks and obedience
  • Build family and sibling bonds during pet-related activities
  • Improve both verbal and non-verbal communication skills, explains NPR, and start conversations when meeting new people
  • Learn about sadness and grief when a pet dies and experience their family’s support system

The right pet for your family

You’ve decided as a family to get a pet. But how do you know you’ve chosen the right pet? Be prepared for the unexpected:

  • Dogs, in particular, can be very expensive. CNBC reports that “Even excluding expensive and unforeseen veterinarian visits, the likely cost of owning a dog through its lifetime, as calculated by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), falls in a range of $27,074 to $42,545, depending on the breed.”
  • Be careful what breed you choose. Certain dog breeds like Boxers, Mastiffs, Golden Retrievers and American Staffordshire terriers are safe for children if trained properly. Aggressive breeds include Chow Chows, Dalmatians and Chihuahuas. There are also pure breeds like French Bulldogs and Shih Tzus that are prone to health issues. The Humane Society suggests adopting a mutt instead.
  • Consider allergic reactions of close family members or friends when choosing dog and cat breeds.
  • You might also want to avoid animals that can be aggressive, high maintenance or long-living like birds.
  • Children may neglect a pet or not be capable of taking care of them. “Children under the age of 4 should be monitored with pets at all times, and children under the age of 10 should not be expected to take care of a dog or cat completely on their own,” says Michigan State University.

If you decide to welcome a pet into your family, we wish you all the love and happiness in the world!

For more information

At Suburban Pediatrics, we’re here for you and your family every step of the way. Check out our additional website resources and follow us on Facebook.