According to a new study, University of Florida researchers found that kids with pet dogs feel less stressed out. In the study of 100 kids and their pet dogs, researchers found that kids performed better on cognitive tasks when they had their pet dogs present.

If you’re thinking about a pet dog for your family, check out our tips:

A dog will quickly become part of your family and dependent upon you for love, food, shelter, training and medical care. In return, you’ll get unconditional love and a friend for life.

Questions to ask before you get a dog

Can you really afford a dog? Pet food isn’t cheap, plus you’ll need veterinary care, heartworm and flea medicines, a dog bed, collar and leash, dog toys, and a budget for training classes and grooming. When you leave town, you’ll need to take your dog or board him (expect to pay $20 or more per day).

Who will take care of the dog? Decide on and assign family responsibilities and determine if your family really has time to feed and walk the dog daily, play with the dog and teach doggie manners. If the answer is no, consider a pet that requires less care.

Will this be your family’s first dog? Your dog will need training and so will your family. Get a book or DVD about dog care and plan to enroll in an obedience class to help you and your new friend understand each other and agree on good dog behavior.

Do you have a fenced yard? Dogs, especially young ones, need a place to run off energy. In addition to neighborhood walks, dogs love playing fetch and chasing squirrels in a fenced yard.

Where will your dog spend his time? Dogs are social creatures and want to be part of a pack, spending time with their family and sleeping indoors at night. If you’re considering adopting a dog that will stay outside in a doghouse, he’ll be barking and miserable, day and night, and you and the neighbors won’t be happy either.

What’s your family’s energy level? If you’re more sedentary, a young dog with lots of energy, no matter how cute, is not a good fit. Consider an older dog – many are already potty-trained, know basic commands and make calmer pets. Puppies and younger dogs will need training and may have accidents in the house.

Have you thought of fostering a dog? If you’re unsure whether a dog is right for your lifestyle, consider fostering first. Rescue organizations rely on foster families to help dogs who’ve been picked up as strays or turned into county animal shelters. Foster commitments can be as short as a few days or a week or two. Find a list of rescues near your area at petfinder.org, as well as photos and bios of dogs awaiting homes.

Fulton and DeKalb County Animal Services allow overnight fosters – the dog gets a day out of the shelter and families get to be with a dog without a long-term commitment; visit lifelineanimal.org for information.

Sources: Petfinder.com, cesarsway.com, humanesociety.org.

– Amanda Miller Allen

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