“The best way to get a puppy is to beg for a baby brother — and they'll settle for a puppy every time.”
That one-liner by Winston Pendelton describes one way to convince your parents to get a dog; it’s funny, but probably not very persuasive. If you really do want to add a dog to the family, there are several strategies you can use to present your case to reluctant parents.
First, put yourself in their place. You say "dog," and they may hear "time, expense, disruption of schedules, a lot of extra work, and possible destruction of furniture and household goods." You’ll want to address their concerns and also tell them the benefits of dog ownership. But don’t just talk the talk: you have to walk the walk. Here are some ways to show the folks that you're ready for a dog.
- Make a plan of the daily routine. Whether you get a new puppy or an adult dog, he will need feeding, potty time, exercise, grooming, and training. By creating a list of daily tasks, you’re showing your parents that you understand the time and effort that goes into having a happy, healthy, well-adjusted pet.
- Show them what you’ll do to implement the plan. Will you get up earlier to feed and walk the dog? Will you give up some after-school activities to come home and take care of the dog? Will you clean up after him? Are you willing to contribute to the expense? Will you take the dog to puppy school or otherwise work to train him? Too many times, families get a dog "for the kids," and mom and dad end up doing all the work. Show them you’re willing and eager to take care of a dog.
- You need to show your parents that you’re responsible. So far, this is all just words and promises. Start by fulfilling all of your household tasks, without being nagged to do so. Make your bed, pick up your room, take out the trash, do the dinner dishes — whatever your responsibilities are. Get extra credit by taking on additional household chores.
- Do your research. Every breed is different, in ways ranging from size and appearance to temperament, exercise needs, and health issues. A cute dog you saw in the park may not be the right breed for your family. For example, if your family is athletic and active and wants a dog to take on summer hikes, a Pug may not be the right breed for you. If you live in an apartment, a Newfoundland may be way too big for your space. Then explain your reasons for wanting a particular breed. You can learn a lot about different breeds by reading the AKC dog breed guide.
- Figure out a way to help with the expenses of dog ownership. If you’re old enough, get a part-time job or offer to do odd jobs. Save your birthday money to put toward expenses. Or, even better, take a "test run" by earning money walking dogs or dog sitting in your neighborhood.
- Point out the benefits of dog ownership. Here are a few you can put on your list:
• Owning a dog often means more family time. Walks, playtime, and training are all activities the whole family can share.
• You’ll get more outdoor time and physical exercise. Fresh air and physical activity are good for both you and your dog.
• Having a dog makes families feel safer. This doesn’t mean you need to get a guard dog, but with training, most breeds learn who is and is not welcome. And households with visible or audible dogs are less likely to be burglarized.
• Point out that having a dog will teach you responsibility. You’ll learn to stick to a routine and follow through on your promises. You’ll also experience the value of being responsible for another living being.
• You can get more ideas about the benefits of owning a dog here.
- Make a contract. Specify exactly which caretaking tasks you will be responsible for. Will you walk the dog twice a day? Feed him? Clean up after accidents? Will you train or at least participate in training the dog? Will you bathe the dog? Will you take him for a run, play games of fetch, and find other ways to offer him physical and mental stimulation? This is a good time to be really honest with yourself and your parents: if there’s one thing that can sow family discord, it’s arguments about who takes care of the family pets.
- Address your parents’ concerns. There might be a deal breaker that you can do nothing about. Perhaps one of your parents is allergic to dogs. Look into hypoallergenic dogs, and see if there’s a breed your parents find acceptable. Are they worried about your grades or extra-curricular activities? Do they have doubts about your ability to be responsible? This isn’t the time for an argument — hear them out and respond honestly. And then give them time to think about it.
Owning a dog can be one of the great joys of family life. There’s nothing quite like the companionship and love between humans and dogs. But it comes with great responsibility. If you can show your parents that you’re willing and able to take on that responsibility, you may soon have a canine best friend of your own.