Dogs and other pets bring love, devotion, a sense of responsibility and much more to family life. Sponsored by K9 University, this series will bring you stories about how pets benefit families and how you can better care for and live with your furry friends.
The Edmond Animal Shelter reported in early June they’re over their dog capacity by more than 300 percent and the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter reported being at capacity this month, as well.
Full shelters often give families even more incentive to adopt a pet by giving discounts on adoption fees or even waiving them altogether.
If you’ve been considering a pet for your family, summer can be a great time to take the plunge. Kids out for the summer have the spare time to get into the habit of the walking, feeding and daily maintenance of a pet.
“Pets are all about unconditional love and there are a great deal of benefits from that companionship,” explained Dr. Lisa Marotta, a clinical psychologist from Edmond. “Most consider a pet a family member, a living being that will listen, love and not steal their stuff.”
But there are also more than just those benefits to having a pet, Marotta added.
“Pets can help develop social skills, including nonverbal communication,” she said. “A pet’s whole way of communication is nonverbal and kids learn how to understand and respond to their nonverbal cues. For example, if a child is too loud, the animal will likely move away. Also, when pets are taken care of they respond in a positive way. Kids can learn empathy by thinking about another living being and their needs and it’s a way for a child to contribute to the family or community in a tangible and important way.”
Julie Bank, superintendent of Oklahoma City Animal Welfare, agreed that having a family pet offers many benefits.
“Animals have an integral role in the family,” Bank explained. “A pet can bring families together with a common focus and goal and give a child someone to connect to, get them out of the house, can build confidence and add lots of new love.”
However, as someone who sees what happens when pet ownership doesn’t work out as expected, Bank also noted having a pet alone does not teach responsibility.
“You can’t really expect a child to be fully responsible for a living thing,” Bank cautioned. “Parents will have to help.”
And that is often where parents might have some trepidation. Adopting a family pet is a serious commitment. Some research, conversation and practice can help your family decide if and when it’s the right time.
While puppies are likely the first thing to pop into a child’s mind, that may not be the best option for a family. Luckily, local shelters have plenty of options.
Here are seven tips for choosing a dog at a shelter or through a rescue organization, provided by Angel Soriano, owner and animal behaviorist, of K9 University in Oklahoma City:
Consider the energy of the dog versus how much time you have on a daily basis to exercise them.
Consider the size of the dog versus how much space you have for them. Larger dogs and those with more energy need a larger space.
Consider the amount of grooming this particular dog will need daily, weekly, monthly. Do you have the time and resources for this?
Look for a dog that displays friendliness to you and your family and is not fearful of you or others. You want a confident dog.
To know better whether a dog will be good with your children, bring your entire family to the adoption center. Observe how the dog you are interested in react to children. If you have other pets, ask to introduce this new dog to them. Look for friendly behavior; no growling, snarling, biting or assaulting behaviors
Once you adopt your dog, consider a good trainer as soon as you get your new arrival. A good obedience foundation as well as socialization will be needed.
Also find a good veterinarian and get the dog checked out as soon as possible. A good resource to find one is at www.okvma.org.
Find local shelters and rescue groups here.