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Karen B. London
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If You Couldn’t Have A Dog
What pet would you choose?

Perhaps it’s too horrible for many of us to contemplate, but if you couldn’t have a dog for some reason, what pet would you choose instead? There’s no replacing dogs, but other pets do offer some of the same benefits. Whether it’s companionship, exercise, training fun, participating in activities together, the peacefulness that comes from being with animals, or the satisfaction of caring for others, dogs offer so much to our quality of life.

There’s a reason they’re called our best friends—dogs seem to do more for us than so many other pets, but it would be dishonest to suggest that they are the only ones that can provide any of these benefits to us. Rabbits, cats, birds, rats, ferrets, fish, hamsters, snakes and horses all provide some of the same benefits to various degrees. They are all common pets for people who have dogs and for those who don’t.

There are many reasons that people who have always had dogs may decide not to acquire another. It may be too difficult to provide them with enough activity in the face of aging or a health problem. A housing situation such as those designed for the elderly may not allow dogs. A new job with an extensive travel schedule may raise concerns about properly caring for a dog. Allergies in yourself or in a family member may make a dog problematic. A new relationship in which no dogs becomes a key compromise may mean not having a dog. (I realize many readers have expressed their disinterest in developing a relationship in which dogs were a point of contention, but this is an issue for many people and there’s no right answer.)

I know it’s the stuff of nightmares—not being able to have a dog—but if you couldn’t have a dog, what pet would you choose instead?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

photo by Hope Abrams/Flickr

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Submitted by Kitty H | September 21 2013 |

I've had pet rats before and they are fun. I here that pigs are similar to dogs, but I couldn't jog with a pig. It would be really difficult.

Submitted by Linda B. | September 21 2013 |

Last week I lost the love of my life, my dog Rielly. Right now I can't even bear to think about ever having another dog. I choose goats! They are so amazing-smart, affectionate, tactile, love to cuddle. My Nigerian dwarfs are clicker trained and do agility (they love tunnels!). They are also great hiking companions. Nomad, my buck, curls up in my arms and snuggles when I sing to him.

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