Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets.


We are currently having dog discussions in our family. While it has been a long-time vision of mine to have a dog (since asking for a puppy every Christmas as a child), I’m still not sure if I’m quite ready for the reality of it.

My daughter Sofie is an animal lover who has been collecting the stuffed variety of every species — including bears, owls, chimps, jaguars, horses — to fulfill her love of furry creatures. She’s been asking for a family pet for years, even after her birthday bunny died just three weeks after bringing her home.

An only child, Sofie has been complaining lately about loneliness. Her father and I did promise that we’d get a dog if we didn’t have a second child… a boat that has since sailed. Still, I worry.


  • Will a dog be too much responsibility? Unlike bunnies, who live about 5-6 years if you’re lucky, a dog is an average 15-year commitment. Never having been around dogs much, I’ll have a lot to learn — and I’m not sure I’m ready for more learning.
  • Will this be one of those things that my daughter really, really wants then changes her mind about it? Like the ballet, piano and horse riding lessons, which all became boring, difficult or scary. Of course, the dog would be a family pet, but I’d hate to see Sofie lose interest.
  • Will having a dog hamper our travel plans? We want to see Paris, Costa Rica, Tuscany, Alaska and more… and I do not like the idea (or the cost) of boarding a dog. I’m not even sure my parents will welcome our regular visits to Philly if we bring along a four-legged companion.
  • What about the eco footprint of a dog? I have researched and written about the most eco-friendly pet choice, so I do feel some guilt over increasing our footprint with the less-than-sustainable canine species.

Despite these worries, I can also see the many benefits of having a pet:

  • A chance for Sofie to take on the responsibility and caring for another. She would have been a great big sister, so why not allow her to transfer those nurturing skills to a pet? A dog can be an excellent stand-in for a sibling, with the perks of being more loyal and less argumentative.
  • This will also force Sofie to make a commitment (unlike those lessons she can simply quit), since Noodles — her latest name suggestion — will be with us into my daughter’s college years.
  • The physical, emotional and mental benefits of having a pet seem endless, from increased empathy to reduced allergies.
  • The adoption process — because, of course, we will avoid pet stores and adopt or rescue a needy dog —will be a teaching experience for Sofie.
  • As “dog people,” we will inevitably broaden our social circle as we encounter other dog owners on our walks and trips to the park. This will also expand Sofie’s (and my) level of comfort around other animals, which can only be a good thing.
  • A dog will be a positive role model in the household, as animals offer great spiritual lessons for all of us.
  • Figuring out ways to be eco-friendly dog owners will likely provide new material and lots of cute photos for my blog.

I remember what it’s like to have a family pet. Mike and I lived with a series of bunnies for ten years, and they each added love and depth to our home. I can see how a slightly larger, furry creature would be a nice addition to our threesome. The unconditional love always outweighs the worries and problems. Because of that, I feel pretty confident that we’ll welcome a dog into our family sometime within the year, and that it will be a process of learning and discovery for all of us.

This feels nearly as big as having another child, with so much to learn. I’m sure there are a variety of dog-rearing philosophies just as there are with children. Will I discover the doggie version of attachment parenting? Is there such a thing? I look forward to finding out.

Photo credit: Christian Collins via photopin cc

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
  • It’s not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
  • Canine Haikus —Kids, dog, haikus, at Dionna (Code Name: Mama). Pet-centric poems.
  • Beanie’s BunniesOur Mindful Life‘s Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
  • Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
  • How to Nurture Your Child’s Awareness of Spirit Guides — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a post from her regular contributor Lauren of SpiralElixir.com. Lauren looks at the concept of animals as spirit guides and how deeply children are connected to this realm. She also encourages us to open ourselves up as parents to the reality that children are naturally more connected to the animal world, giving us ideas on how to nurture their relationships with their Spirit Guides.
  • No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
  • Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn’t sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!
  • 3 Reasons Why Keeping Backyard Chickens is Good for my Toddler — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, started keeping backyard chickens for the benefit of their eggs, but what she wasn’t prepared for was what they would teach her two year old daughter too.
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12 Responses to Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet

  1. We have been having similar discussioms, and we made lists that were practically identical to yours. Finally, I had to throw away the lists or else convenience would have continued to win out. Owning a dog is a huge commitment, but it was the things that aren’t easy to measure – the love, the responsibility, the respect for other forms of life – those were just too important to me. So yes, owning a dog can be a huge pain, but we just got ours about a month ago 🙂 I’ll tell you in about five years whether it was the right choice 😉

    • Donna DeForbes says:

      I know you are right – the decision will come down to emotion over practicality or convenience… Rather like the decision to have a child!

  2. You certainly bring up a good point, in that dogs aren’t very eco-friendly. That’s not something I’ve ever considered before. Despite that though, it sounds as if you’ve almost already convinced yourself this would be a good move! I hope the decision-making and path to dog ownership is as open as fun! 🙂

  3. Survivor says:

    Animals are a big commitment. They require an enormous amount of time, just like a child. They will hamper your travel plans and mess with the budget when they get sick. However, it’s a wonderful experience and one you shouldn’t miss out on!

  4. If I may be the Devil’s advocate here..
    Have you considered getting a cat? They are much more self sufficient than dogs, so a lot of your worries to that end will disappear. Similarly, they don’t have to be let out at all, so leaving them for day trips is a lot more simple that is leaving a dog.
    I know. I’m the absolute worst.
    Just something to consider 😉 I support you guys in whichever decision that you make.
    I’ve seen soo many posts in this carnival about getting dogs-I’m thinking perhaps I ought to have written my post about cats, rather than horses! LOL.

  5. We’ve had the same sorts of discussions and are holding off on a dog for now, though we have cats and are considering other small critters. I had to make the same decision to just go for it and trust that we’d figure it out and manage.

    One option for vacations — not cheap at all, but a nice way to support a local small business and let your animals stay where they’re familiar — is to hire a pet sitter to come over to your home twice a day for feeding, play, & walks. That’s what we do, and our kitties love seeing their pet sitter every day when we’re gone! I think they’re always secretly disappointed when we return. 😉

    • Donna DeForbes says:

      A friend just told me about a local dog sitter, so that’s definitely a good option to have!

  6. Just an idea. If you go to pet stores without Sophie or even breeders houses, you could get a chance to see how you feel among the different animals before making your decision. You can stay as long as you want and talk to the experts in the stores about pet care and I’ve found I’ve learned a great deal that way. Good luck!
    Laurie at Parental Intelligence

  7. Claire says:

    I love that you’re putting so much thought into getting a pet! So often people don’t realize the full responsibility before taking the plunge and then that poor animal is left without a home or family to love them. It’s a big responsibility, but I’m sure that if/when you take that step that you’ll be ready and you’ll be fantastic pet owners.

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