The advantages of owning a pet dog are well known. Companionship for people living alone, sick or elderly, and for the young, are the advantages that most people think of when considering pet ownership.
It has been shown that close presence of a pet aids in recuperation from illness in the elderly as well as having a beneficial effect on people confined to institutions or recovering from heart ailments.
The association with a living animal that has simple needs and whose affection transcends fluctuating human moods is a great comfort in the complex and artificial society in which many humans find themselves.
The decision to acquire a pet dog is often made hastily. A puppy is seen at a fete or market or an advertisement is answered on the spur of the moment. It is often not until the adult form of the animal begins to emerge that many owners begin to have second thoughts.
The first thing to be considered is whether to acquire a dog. It is not practical if you live in a one-bedroom unit or in a large block of flats to acquire a large dog.
Cats, on the other hand, adapt well to high-density housing, provided there are not too many other cats in the neighborhood. They can spend a large amount of time indoors, but are much healthier if they do have a chance to get outside for some period of the day. Cats are not likely to disturb the neighbors and are, of course, much less expensive to feed.
It is quite strange that many owners do not fully realize the implications of the size of their new pet on their lifestyle. The range of sizes in the dog world is enormous and vary from tiny chihuahua to the Great Dane or Irish wolfhound. Remember that when travelling by car, a large dog takes more room than an adult.
Large dogs cost more to feed, to board in kennels, and require larger doses of worm tablets and other medications. It is important that large dogs are obedience-trained, and this requires a further commitment from at least one member of the family. They are also harder to restrain in the back yard. If you are not willing to construct high fences or a special dog run, you should concentrate on a small breed.
Dogs vary greatly also in the amount of grooming needed. Long haired breeds such as Afghan hounds, old English sheep dogs, silky and Maltese terriers require daily grooming, otherwise a tangled mass of grass seeds and matted hair develop that requires professional help to unravel. Poodles and wire-haired terriers require regular clipping and plucking to retain show-ring appearance.
It is difficult to predict the size or appearance of a cross-bred puppy when it is only a few weeks old. Of course, the size of the mother is a guide but very often the unknown father was much larger.
Be wary of the puppy with very large feet, or one that is already much larger than its litter mates. Try to gauge temperament as well. Avoid the puppy that cringes in a corner or seems to snap at its litter mates. The outward-going, tail-wagging puppy with short hair and which looks you straight in the eye is the one to choose as a companion for young children.
Cats also vary in the amount of care they require. That attractive long haired persian in the cat-food commercials requires daily brushing and combing. By giving a little thought before the acquisition of a pet, the few problems of pet ownership can be avoided.