Dogs are not hobbies or toys to be discarded as our interests and lifestyles change; they are living creatures with thoughts and emotions. If you, the parent, really, really want a dog, and want to share the experience of being a loving and responsible pet guardian with your child, then please, get a dog! Bring your child to the local shelters, let them see the result of irresponsible pet ownership, and then consider which pet is right for you, whether from a breeder or a shelter. Get advice from shelter staff, breeders, trainers, veterinarians, and pet-loving friends and family. Pick the right dog or puppy for you, because this will be your dog.
Some few exceptional children (and I realize your child is one of these few, and clearly exceptional) can make responsible pet guardians, but only at the expense of other interests – and the responsibility is a burden which can hobble and haunt the child for years. Dogs require, at a minimum, an hour of walking or other interactive attention each day. They require skills training classes and lots of practice. They require attention, playtime, feeding, watering, veterinary care, and lots of time. During winter months, if a child has an after school activity, this means walking in the dark – is it appropriate to send a child out in the dark with a dog? When it comes time to decide if your child is going to participate in sports, or drama, or glee club, or get a part-time job, or have after school visits with friends, the responsible answer must be, “No, my child must attend to the needs of the dog or puppy I game them as a gift, so he or she may not do any of those things.”
When your child goes to college, will they live at home, where the dog is? If they are going to live elsewhere, where will that be, and will that place allow dogs? Once your child finds a place that even allows dogs, will it be affordable, and appropriate for your child and their dog? Not everyone lives in the dorms when they first go to college, but it is nice to have that option. Who will pay for the dog’s expenses once your child moves out? An average cost of $2,000/year is not an unreasonable expectation. This is if the dog does not have an injury or illness. Were you planning on buying your child a car when they graduate from high school? Many young adults live happily with public transportation and bicycles, but not dog owners. Dog owners must be able to transport their dog, so they need a car. Most young adults struggle to support themselves without the gift of this added expense; will you pay for the dog’s expenses after your child moves away?
If the plan is to leave the dog behind when your child moves out, then the dog isn’t really theirs, it is yours; and it should be from the beginning. Include your child in the raising, feeding, exercising, and training of your dog – it can be a wondrous and magical experience and a great bonding experience for parent and child. The dog you bring into your home, however, is your dog, and to encumber a child with such a huge responsibility is not fair to the child, and inhumane to the dog.
2 thoughts on “The Gift of a Dog is No Gift at All.”
It’s about time someone pointed out that animals are not “gifts” to be outgrown or thrown out as ‘this year’s fall fashion colors’ no longer match your new dog. I especially liked the comment about taking your child to see the sad end-result at the shelters of poor animal responsibility. Perhaps if more people did that; our next generation would have fewer homeless animals, and so on. My cats only get more interesting and our relationships mature and ripen with the added years: I imagine dogs would be the same with their pet guardians.
yikes- thanks for laying out the actual cost of having a dog – it really is a good reminder of the commitment needed before getting a dog.