Find the right pet for your family

It’s important to do your research before adding to your brood

There are many good reasons for considering a family pet – companionship, exercise and teaching kids responsibility, just to name a few. But the process isn’t always easy. You may be certain you want to introduce a pet into your family, but unsure of where to start and what to take into consideration. It’s important to do your research and know what you’re looking for and what kind of pet would be a good fit in your family before getting a pet.

According to Deb Vaughn, director of operations for the Humane Society of Greater Nashua, a family discussion is a great place to start once the topic of owning a pet comes up.

Some important points to answer include: What species of pet are you interested in? Who in the family wants the pet (child, parent, companion for resident pet)? What do they want from a pet (play, jog, quiet company, therapy, friend for another pet)?

Once you have decided on a species and discussed or considered these other points, says Vaughn, it is fun for kids – and important for adults – to research different breeds and their general profiles, keeping in mind that there can be variations within a breed, and certainly within a mixed breed.

Some things to consider for a dog, says Vaughn, are what size they will be as an adult, how much exercise they need, whether you have time to house train a puppy and how you will train the dog or puppy. Some things to consider for a cat are that kittens scratch and bite playfully, they quickly grow into cats, where the litter box will be located (and if you have a dog, how will you keep him out of the litter box) and where the scratching post will be located.

If there are kids, it is helpful to consider pets they have already met at the homes of friends and family and what their comfort level was with those pets. Another big consideration, regardless of whether you choose a dog or cat, is the cost of caring for a pet. This includes food, toys, veterinary visits and medications, as well as any other necessities or unforeseen expenses.

Danielle Hebert, director of adoptions for the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire agrees that doing your homework is key before considering bringing a pet into your household. Luckily, says Hebert, there are resources that can make this easier.

“We would recommend doing your research to determine what kind of animal would best fit your lifestyle,” she said.

“There are many resources and tools available on the internet. Beyond our web site at, we would recommend utilizing information on and, which are online directories for pets that need homes. Many of the animals on these web sites are available from rescues and shelter operations. Like ARL-NH, these types of organizations understand that adopters need to be well-informed and prepared for adoption in order for it to be a success.”

Hebert added that the ARL-NH web site has information on their adoption procedure and success tools for a great match – and the organization also utilizes a tool called Meet Your Match, instead of a formal adoption application, to help potential adopters find the right pet for their family.

This tool helps to determine what kind of “canine-ality” or “feline-ality” would best fit the adopter’s lifestyle (go to Potential adopters are encouraged to fill out the dog or cat survey either in hard copy or online and bring it with them to the shelter for the initial visit. The result from the survey places the adopter into a color category that the ARL-NH uses to help match owners with potential adoptees.

“Animals are as varied as humans – they all have their own unique personality traits, tendencies and motivations,” she says. “Tools like Meet Your Match help to better understand which animal would be the best fit for your family’s personality.”

Similarly, the Humane Society for Greater Nashua has profiles for all of their pets that include information such as whether they get along with other dogs or cats; what kind of personality they have (dependent, shy, playful, confident); whether they are house- trained; any potentially problematic behaviors such as jumping, digging or scratching; reactions to people; and activity level.

The organization also requires all individuals interested in a pet – even those who just want to take a dog for a walk around the shelter – to fill out a detailed adoption application to get a better sense of the kind of pet that would be the best fit in their household.

Vaughn says it is important for many reasons, for both pets and families, to match people with the best pet for their family, rather than arbitrarily adopting.

“Most humane societies take the time to ask the questions that will help families find the right pet,” Vaughn says. “However, some people enter the pet search with unrealistic expectations about their choice. Most people adopt or purchase a pet with the idea that the pet will stay with them for life, and it is devastating for them to discover the pet doesn’t match their lifestyle. At this point, they often feel guilty about returning the pet to the shelter and instead give it away. Some pets are bounced around to many homes before hopefully landing in the ‘right’ one.”

Hebert also stressed the importance of making a well-informed and well thought-out decision, and finding a pet that will fit with the lifestyle and personalities of your family.

“Having a pet is a relationship, just like a friendship between humans,” Hebert says. “If the match is not compatible, the friendship won’t last. In the case of a pet, this often leaves the pet unhappy, neglected, abused or abandoned. It is our responsibility as a rescue league to insure the pets we place are in the best possible situation for their forever home.”

Categories: Pets and kids