Is a Dog Right for You? Five Lifestyle Factors to Consider When Selecting a Pet

October 5, 2020 | We Learn | Tips from Mark Burdon

There are many motivators to purchasing a pet for your home. Primary among them are usually:

  • Companionship
  • General love of animals or a specific class/category of pet (let’s face it, lizards aren’t the cuddliest companions)
  • The human need/instinct to care for another living being
  • Satisfaction of the desires of a loved one (kids, spouse)
  • Need for stress relief (taking your dog for a walk can be very therapeutic!)

Many of these motivations are common around the world, and have existed for centuries. Some pets are used for protection, hunting, or herding.  However it tends to be the emotional factors which make certain pets appeal to us most.  When you have decided you want to adopt or buy any pet, it is vital to make decisions with your head AND your heart. Walking into a pet shop or animal shelter can be a dangerous thing to do unless you have worked through these five key considerations:

How much time you can devote to your pet?
This seems obvious, however many people go looking for a pet with best intentions to exercise their dog, play with their cat or gaze lovingly at their tropical fish for hours. They may have admired a certain breed of dog growing up, or thought it would be cool to have a certain kind of animal for its reputation. Later, a change in their life might drop the pet down in their list of priorities. Many dogs gain weight, get depressed, or get overly aggressive if not given sufficient attention and exercise.  Cats tend to be more independent, but they need to get their share of maintenance too.  If possible, have a serious conversation with your family about what roles everyone will play in the care and upbringing of the pet.

How active are you on an average day or week?
It’s tempting to say “I usually exercise once a month, but if I had a dog, I would walk twice a day!” Congratulations if you can be so motivated, however lying to yourself is not going to help anyone, especially your future pet.  If you live a very sedentary life, you are better off adopting a pet which also doesn’t need strenuous exercise. Just as you are “wired” in your brain to get aspecific amount of exercise to be happy and sane, animals are too. There are a number of pet selection tools on the internet which can help you filter down to the ideal pet for your way of life. Remember to put the well-being of your pet ahead of your ego as far as the size, athleticism, and breed of pet you decide on. If you aren’t able to meet your pet’s exercise needs, they will not be the best friend or companion you are looking for.
Besides you, what kinds of people will be socializing with your pet?
You might be a healthy, well-adjusted person who is ready to take on the responsibility of a high strung puppy or a cat that might like to ride around on someone’s shoulders. Children might like the idea of both but the reality might be too much for their size and patience. Elderly people find these behaviours overwhelming. Consider everyone in your “circle” of friends and family when you consider which pet to bring into your home.  You may find you are losing friends and alienating yourself from family if your animal is unbearable or presents a danger to those closest to you.

“When you have decided you want to adopt or buy any pet, it is vital to make decisions with your head AND your heart.”

What is your tolerance level for disorder or mess?
My friend has a sign on her closet door which says “No outfit is complete without dog hair”. For good reason, obviously. You may look at an Akita or a Husky with wonder and want to have one of your own. Talk to the owner of any pet you admire about their experiences with shedding, dander, litter box habits, and what their backyard experience is like in the spring. If your home has carpeting, furniture, art, or any other features where you would absolutely crumble if you found something clawed, chewed, soiled, or broken, you should consider your pet choices accordingly.  If you aren’t willing to make changes to your home to accommodate a certain kind of animal, it’s probably a sign you are “barking up the wrong tree” with your pet choice. Pets who are isolated to a small space in the home won’t be lead a happy life, and you won’t be able to feel comfortable socializing with your dog with the freedom you both deserve.

What is your budget tolerance for a pet?
When you open the door to a pet shelter and lock eyes with an adorable animal, all considerations of cost, lifestyle, and the animal’s “baked in” behaviours go out the window. Ask yourself how much you are able to afford in terms of feeding, grooming and maintaining the well-being of that animal. Consider the cost of pet insurance to mitigate the risk of unexpected illness or injury. Do your research before you invite a certain kind of dog or cat into your home. 

Though rationalizing your pet choices down to factors like cost, time and exercise needs might not seem like the way to find your four-legged soul mate; it is best to put the pet’s needs before your own. That way, you will be able to live the life you are happiest with, and be able to provide the best care for your furry, feathered, or amphibian friend!

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

If you enjoyed this post, you should read 5 Ways Your Dog Is Showing He Loves You here.

Which animal is right for your family type?

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