Taking on the responsibility of a pet is a big decision. It should include all members of your family and should never be a decision that is made without proper forethought and planning. If your children are bugging you for a puppy and you are not ready to make such a big and lasting decision yet, there are ways you can give them an experience of pet care responsibility and gauge how dedicated they will be to the decision:
Volunteer at a Shelter or Rescue Organization
While volunteering at a shelter will not give you the experience of having a pet in your home, it can be a wonderful way to introduce your children to the responsibility that a pet will require. Many shelters welcome children as volunteers although a responsible adult should accompany younger children. Volunteers may be asked to feed animals, take them for a walk, clean up kennels or outdoor areas and may even be asked to participate in introducing pets to their prospective new owners.
Foster a Rescue Pet or Litter
Many rescue organizations use foster parents to house young animals, mothers and new litters, or may just not have the space required to house the animals in their care. Sheltering a rescue pet can give you the chance to see how your child interacts with a pet within your home but also allow you to do so on a short-term basis. It is important to speak with your child about the impermanence of the situation so they are aware from the beginning that this is not their pet for long.
You will quickly be able to determine when the honeymoon period wears off and the day-to-day reality of pet care becomes real to your child.
Raise a Service Dog
If you feel your child is ready for a pet but you are not in a position to offer a forever home to one, raising a service dog can give you the best of both worlds. You have the chance to raise and train a puppy from a young age with the knowledge that you are giving someone not just a lifetime companion but also a life changing one.
This can be a wonderful way to introduce a child to both pet ownership and service to others. As a puppy raiser, you will be responsible for all aspects of pet parent responsibility including finding quality veterinary care.
You may find that your family is ready to welcome a pet more permanently into your home, if so you should visit with your local veterinarian to discuss the breeds that would best fit your family's lifestyle.