danny asks: What is the appropriate age for keeping a dog?
Hi danny –
I assume you’re asking about the right age for a human to be, if they’re going to adopt a dog. If I’m wrong, and you mean to ask what is the right age for a dog to be adopted, please get back to me on that.
I don’t think there’s an appropriate age for getting a dog. What matters is the appropriate maturity level. While dogs (and our wolf ancestors) have survived in the wild for millennia, we can’t really make it in civilization without help. We absolutely require humans to give us food (since we’re not popular when we go out hunting people’s cats, or sneaking into their kitchens and taking what smells good!), shelter, and basic grooming and medical care.
But there’s something else that’s every bit as important as those, and that is Love.
When wolves and dogs live in the wild, they survive by being tough, wary, and vicious. Our fighting and hunting skills are the basis of our existence. For us to live in human society, we need to be loved enough for us to learn to trust the people we’re supposed to. When you meet a young puppy, it’s so clearly eager for love and play that you’d never imagine that they need to be taught to be loving and loyal; it’s in their nature, but if they learn that the world is an angry and dangerous place, that’s what they’ll live believing.
So when is a person ready to get a dog? They’re ready when they’re able to give that dog the physical and emotional necessities for a good life. That person could be three years old, if they have a family who’ll take care of these things. Or that person could be sixty-three and not have it in them to be what a dog needs.
But in general, if the person is supposed to do the actual caretaking (feeding, walking, cleaning up after the pooch), I would think they need to be at least ten (and a ten-year-old probably needs help with reminding about these things).
The thing that I find most surprises people, about having a dog for a pet, is that there’s a lot of responsibility at first – lots to remember and take care of. But then after some time goes by, things like walking, grooming, and feeding become simple routine (like dressing or brushing your teeth), and instead, it’s clear that the dog is putting way more effort into taking care of them! A fifteen-minute walk a day pays for an obsessive security guard 24 hours; an inexpensive meal pays for a loving and devoted playmate; an occasional trip to the veterinarian pays for the best role model anyone could have!
So my advice is to try to be the right maturity level as soon as you can, danny, because the rewards you’ll get from having a dog will simply blow your mind!
I know. Handsome tells me so every day!