Is Your Teen Ready for a Dog?

Is your teen giving you puppy eyes in hopes it’ll score them a dog? Before you go finding a Fido of your own, here is how to tell if they’re ready for the responsibility.

As the weather is warming up and the days are getting longer, many families may be thinking of adding a four-legged addition to their family. Having a dog can be beneficial for the whole family—they can teach our children empathy and responsibility, while helping mom and dad de-stress from daily life. Plus, dog owners actually live longer, since owning a dog is linked to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease! All those daily walks are good for you!

But just because having a dog is good for you, doesn’t necessarily mean your tween or teen is ready for the responsibility. Sure, they may give you puppy eyes in hopes of actually getting a new puppy, but here’s how to know if they’re ready for the real deal.

Make a project out of it

Before you even head to the shelter or research breeders, get your tween/teen to treat getting a pet, almost as they would a book report. Get them to research different breeds and write out the pros/cons of each breed and why they think a certain breed will be best-suited for the family. For instance, if you’re an active family who likes to spends weekends hiking and doing other activities, you want to make sure you get a dog that’s best suited for an active lifestyle such as a lab or husky. If you’re looking a dog to chill on the couch with while you binge-watch your faves on Netflix, you’re best suited for a dog like a Pug or Basset Hound.

“With most teens and tweens, the first fluffy puppy they see they say ‘oh yay great!’ because they don’t care what it is,” says Julian Bronk, Area Pet Training Instructor with PetSmart. “But to have the kid take charge and do research on their own is a great way of knowing that it’s not just a spur-of-the-moment decision. If they treat it like a school project, they have to take initiative.”

Make a contract

Create a contract between you and your teen that commits them to certain responsibilities including walking the dog before/after school, attending training lessons every single week and divvying up on chores, etc.  “It all goes back to responsibility,” says Bronk. “Having a dog or any pet is a big responsibility. The teen has to be willing to take that on and understand what exactly they are taking on.”


When it comes to training Fido, make it a family affair, says Bronk. “When I’m signing up someone for one of my classes, I tell people to pick a time and date for the classes, so as many members of the family can come. It’s very important because when you have the whole family coming, you get everyone involved and on the same page.”

Making sure everyone is involved also makes training the dog a lot of fun. “When I have teenagers and parents signing up for my classes, they take those classes or lessons consistently because they find that it benefits them so much. It’s an extra activity for the kids and the classes are really fun to go to. I have parents repeatedly taking classes because they tell me ‘for the value we’re getting, the kids are learning something, the dog is learning something and we have a family activity we can all go to.’”

PetSmart offers a variety of training classes – for puppies and older dogs. They’re six weeks long and just $129. In addition, you can also purchase a bundle wherein your pup graduates from puppy or beginner to intermediate and advanced for just $329—a wise investment for any new dog owner, says Bronk.

“The main reason that dogs are put up for adoption is behavioural issues,” he says. “Not giving a dog any rules is just like letting a teenager do whatever they want—we all know how that’s going to turn out. Every dog needs structure and the rules. They need to know what their expectations are, and you need to know how to encourage those expectations through positive reinforcement. That way you’ll get the best result.”

Adopt where you shop

PetSmart, together with non-profit PetSmart Charities® of Canada, invite more than 200 animal welfare organizations to bring adoptable pets into stores so they have the best chance possible of finding a forever home. Visit PetSmart’s in-store adoption centre to speak to your local animal welfare organization.

May 18-20 is PetSmart and PetSmart Charities of Canada’s National Adoption Weekend where homeless pets across Canada will be looking for forever homes in nearly all 130+ PetSmart stores.

Visit petsmartcharities.ca for more info.

BY Rachel Naud

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