Skip the Hamster, the Gerbil, the Other Silly Pets. Just Get The Dog.

You will convince yourself (and your kids) that stopgap pets will suffice. They will not.

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Dogs are amazing and, if you don’t have one, you probably want one. If your kid is old enough to articulate the sentiment, she or he probably does as well. But dogs are also a pain in the ass, another confounded mammal to housebreak, discipline, feed, and comfort. They are a commitment. This is the downside of dogs and also why people buy hamsters, which are cute but kinda worthless, and ferrets, which are basically probable cause with fur. Those are stopgap pets and there are millions of them because, every year, millions of parents decide that they’re not going to get the dog, but that they would like a pet. That’s stupid. Don’t get the dog or get the dog. Those are ultimately the two options. Put differently: If you can get the dog, get the fucking dog.

Frogs, ferrets, turtles, gerbils, lizards, birds — all of these are merely shades of owning a dog. (Except birds. Those are just horrible pets, full stop.) You’ll never fool yourself into believing that staring at Goldy the goldfish is anywhere near as enjoyable as watching a silly doggy chase its tail. You will not pet Sally the snake because you can’t pet a snake. You will not marvel at Harvey the Hamster’s running wheel endurance, remarkable such as it is for a creature with such stupid, tiny legs. You will resent Harvey for not being a dog. So just get the dog.

In fact, let’s take opinion out of the equation. Forget for a moment that dogs are the undisputed king of pets (I say this as feline apologist), and consider the research. Dogs deliver proven, research-backed benefits to their owners. They’ve long been lauded for their therapeutic value to trauma victims and soldiers with PTSD. Their mere presence triggers a surge of endorphins, serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, collectively known as the hormones that make you feel all warm and squishy inside. Dog owners walk more, on average, than non-owners. It’s not a stretch to say that the physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of having a dog could help a person add years to their life. So just get the dog.

All the more time to spend with your kids, who might be begging you for a puppy at this very moment. Honestly, they’ve got a point. More than two decades’ worth of research has shown that children who grow up with dogs have lower asthma rates than those who do not. A study published in the journal Nature just this year noted that infants with pets in the home have a greater diversity of bacteria in their guts than those without pets, including several microbes linked to lower risk of allergies and obesity. And researchers from Cambridge recently reported that kids feel stronger bonds with their dogs than their siblings. They found their dogs made ideal sounding boards for disclosing their thoughts, concerns, and anxieties. Must be those kind eyes. So just get the dog.

So do yourself a favor. Stop pussyfooting around and just get the dog. Your kids will have a great new friend and so will you. And that friend won’t run away and die somewhere in the living room wall.

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