2. It's okay to get a dog, in part, to teach your child responsibility, but it's not okay to give all the responsibility to your child. Your child should start out with a small job (feeding or walking the dog once a day) and go from there.
3. The rules for teens are different. If yours doesn't want a pet, but you get one anyway, you can't force pet responsibilities on him. With luck, your teen will grow to feel affection for the dog and want to take care of it. However, don't count on this or become upset if it doesn't happen. Teens are sometimes self-centered. Besides, this is not a fair fight since you wanted the pet, not him.
4. Test out owning a dog by dog-sitting for a week. This will help your family see whether it is ready for the commitment.
5. Consider your other responsibilities right now. If you're getting divorced, moving, looking for a new job, or dealing with any other major issue, this may not be the right time for another big responsibility.
6. If your child is terrified of dogs, don't get one expecting the fear to vanish. If she's not afraid of puppies, start there; her fear of big dogs may dissipate as her puppy grows up.
7. Consider the financial responsibility of owning a dog: food, shots, grooming, possible vet bills for illness.
DR. SUSAN BARTELL's latest book is Dr. Susan's Fit and Fun Family Action Plan. Learn more about her at www.drsusanbartell.com.