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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 Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

photo by Hope Abrams/Flickr

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