News Item | PAWS Chicago

Tips on How to Choose the Right Pet for Your Lifestyle

by Joan Harris | May 01, 2012

Adopting any new pet requires a lot of thought, time and commitment.

Every member of your family needs to be on board and present for the selection of this new member of the household. Before selecting a new pet, know what kind of personality will best suit you and your family. Also, be realistic about the amount of time, space and resources that are available. If you have the time and resources, rescue a pet and you’ll have a devoted friend and family member for life! Before choosing, consider exactly what type of pet would be best for your lifestyle. Even though you will be doing a good deed, do yourself a favor and consider all of your options. Make several trips to the shelter and introduce all family members (including other household dogs) to make sure everyone is happy. This decision will affect you for many years. Enjoy the opportunity to help a rescue pet find a loving home and a second chance at life.

Pups at heart 

Are fun and frisky puppies the right fit for your family?

Puppies generally require much more time and attention than older dogs. Cute as they are, they come into your life untrained. They are not yet housebroken and need to go out on a regular schedule, usually every two to three hours during the daytime. This can be impossible if you are gone for an eight-hour work day. Young puppies may also need to go out one or more times during the night until their bladders are large enough. This could mean losing many a good night’s sleep.

Adopting a puppy provides an opportunity for you to teach and train as you like.

Puppies also chew! Without constant supervision and crate training, you can expect some destructive behavior. This behavior can go on until your puppy reaches adulthood. Many breeds do not mature until about two years of age. This means they need socialization, activities and training to keep them from becoming a nuisance during a long period of adolescence. 

There is also a degree of guesswork involved when adopting a puppy. Although we can make an approximation, we don’t really know what the puppy’s personality will be like as an adult. There is no way to know if the puppy will be easily trained, how active he will be, or even how big he will get. 

If there are small children in the household, a new puppy can be overwhelming. (PAWS Chicago recommends that the youngest child in the home be at least five years of age when adopting a puppy or a small dog.) Growing puppies put their teeth on everything, including your children. While they are learning bite inhibition, mouthing and nipping can cause tears and frustration from children who want nothing more than to play with the new puppy. 

On the other hand, a puppy can be a joy to live with especially if you have the time, resources and a flexible schedule. Nothing compares to the joy of watching a cute puppy play or learn a new trick. Helping with the responsibilities of a growing puppy can help older children learn to care for an animal. 

Puppies can sometimes be easier to train the way you like because their flexible minds are not yet set in their ways. If you feel a puppy may be right for your household, educate yourself beforehand on how to raise and train one. Conduct research to find a good puppy class in which to enroll your puppy and figure out what equipment you’ll need to purchase ahead of time.

Older & Wiser

Adult dogs take the guesswork out of adoption

Adopting a mature dog can be a great alternative to raising a puppy. While an adult dog does require time and attention, they do not need the constant supervision and stimulation that puppies demand. Many times, an adult dog is already house-trained which will allow you to leave the house for longer periods of time and sleep soundly through the night. Many already know some basic commands and are intelligent enough to fit into the regular household routine seamlessly.

When adopting an adult dog, you know more about the dog’s size, confidence and personality.

With an adult dog, you have a pet who is mature and ready to do things NOW. You won’t have to wait until the puppy grows up to enjoy certain activities. You can come home from a long day at work and take a relaxing walk or sit in front of the fire with your new best friend. 

You will know how big the dog will get and what he looks like as an adult. You will also be able to pick a dog whose personality suits your household. For example, an active, busy household would probably do best choosing a confident, outgoing dog that is very friendly. A shy or fearful dog would do best in a household without children that is quiet and predictable. Assertive, high-energy dogs will require more exercise and training while a shy, quiet dog may take less effort to control and will be content with a laid-back lifestyle. And senior pets can be perfect pairings for senior citizens looking for calm and loving companions. 

Some people mistakenly think that dogs who end up in rescues are inferior either genetically or behaviorally. Rescues acquire dogs for many reasons. Perfectly good dogs are sometimes surrendered because of the financial burden. Others are relinquished because of allergies or owners who really didn’t have the time or energy for a dog. Dogs that have been uprooted or have not had a great start in life are likely to bond deeply with their new owners. They are very likely to blossom in a good, loving environment. 

Adopting an adult dog doesn’t always come without problems. Sometimes there is little information available about the dog’s past history and some behavior problems or personality traits will not show up until the dog is in the new home. This is especially true if the dog was neglected or abused in his/her former home. Adopters must be prepared to be patient and committed to working with their new companion. A consistent environment and a gentle hand may be required to teach the new dog to develop trust in a new guardian. The good news is that most behavior problems can be managed with the guidance of an experienced trainer or a veterinarian behaviorist.

Cat or Kitten?

By Rick Turley

Choosing between an adult cat and a kitten – even better, a pair of kittens – is all about finding the perfect match. The advantages of an adult cat go beyond their obvious size and appearance. Cats have matured and developed distinct personalities. Volunteers are able to help assess a cat’s activity level, temperament and social needs. The personality of a kitten, on the other hand, is harder to predict. Because there’s nothing cuter than a kitten, much of the choice with a kitten relies on appearance which can lead to a poor match if potential adopters have particular traits they desire which might be found in an older cat. 

For example, a cat who loves playtime and sitting with its human to watch a movie might not be the best choice for those of us who are away from home for long hours. A nice easygoing adult lap cat can be a good choice for a firsttime owner. Volunteers will tell you that cats can have definite preferences for particular humans. 

A kitten generally reacts in the same way to almost everyone. Young kittens require a significant commitment to properly train, protect and socialize. Some people prefer to adopt a “blank slate” so they can have an influence on their kitten as it matures. If you are interested in adopting a kitten, you might consider adopting a pair of kittens in a home with no other animals or when no one is home during the day. Sometime young kittens will develop inappropriate grabbing and hard nipping play behaviors if left alone for long periods. Kittens will teach each other what is appropriate and what is not for playtime, which is helpful in training them to interact with humans. 

In addition, some parents choose to adopt a kitten to give their children the experience of watching an animal grow up. An adult cat can be a good choice for homes with younger children. Although there are kittens who love children, there are also kittens who don’t want to be held at a particular moment and might scratch or nip to get away. An adult cat will usually learn to avoid children when they don’t want to interact. 

Cats and kittens can bring so much happiness and love to a home. But, finding the right pet for your lifestyle and needs should help dictate which is right for you. To discover this, identify the top traits that are most important to you in a pet and match those with your lifestyle. Based on those preferences, volunteers at shelters like PAWS Chicago can help introduce you to your perfect match and set your new pet up for a lifetime of happiness.