Before choosing a pet, it’s wise to think about what pet ownership entails, both for pet and person. Since many pets become an extension of our human families, maybe we can extrapolate a bit from Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, to understand what it really means to invite a pet into our lives.
The basics are food & water – we all need proper nutrition, and it’s important to think about whether you can be home everyday to provide food & water for your pet (well, obviously, fish probably have enough water, but they do need food!). If you can’t be home, make sure you have an “alternate” who can provide fresh food & water until you are home.
Of course, food & water leads to elimination – and since you won’t want messes in the house, you will need to be prepared. As any pet “parent” can tell you, dogs & cats would rather not make a mess in their home, if they can help it. Cats are pretty good at cleaning up after themselves (some even tend to be neat-freaks who need a pristine place to do their p&p!), but dogs will need to be taken out regularly, puppies even more so (puppies can certainly be trained with newspapers & pee pads, but who, really, wants to deal with that!).
Another basic requirement is shelter. That means an environment with thought given to things that might be harmful to your pet. For example, do you crate your puppy during the day because it shows a tendency to chew cords? Are all non-pet edible food sources put away? Does your pet have a quiet place to go to if it is over stimulated?
Pets need to know their boundaries – boundaries helps keep them out of harm’s way. Proper training for both inside and outside behaviors will help keep your pet secure and healthy, both physically and psychologically. Some common safety behaviors for both you and your pet are regular vet screening & vaccinations, leash training, commands training, & dog-park training to learn proper etiquette.
It also helps to do some research on breed specific behaviour so that your personality and your pet’s tendencies have lots of commonality (of course, keep in mind that, like you, a pet has it’s own unique personality, separate and apart from it’s breed’s characteristics). Having a pet whose personality meshes with your own helps to create a good bond – just like with people, enjoying each other’s company will encourage time spent together. You may want an active dog that can go for good long runs with you, or you may want a little dog who needs some exercise, but who also makes a wonderful addition to your lap. You may want a kitty that is feisty and loves to play, or you may want a kitty who loves to snuggle and curl up with you.
Once you meet your pet’s basic needs – you can really form a great relationship. A pet with confidence knows that if you go away, someone will come in to meet its needs and all will be well – no separation anxiety for your pet! Your kitty knows you are the provider of good things, and both you and your dog can feel comfortable & confident in going out for walks, or meeting new people & experiencing new things. Together, pets and people can have wonderful bond where the whole relationship is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.