Pet Project: Choosing the Right Pet for Your Family

An age-by-age guide to picking the best pet for your family.


Published:

Are your kids clamoring for a pet? Saying yes may be smart; research overwhelmingly shows that owning and caring for pets benefits kids at every developmental stage, boosting levels of empathy, teaching responsibility, and even offering a science lesson or two. Research from Purdue University shows that kindergarteners who care for pets have a better understanding of biology; and a large study by Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University links pet ownership with improved emotional health during the teenage years. Read on for pointers on picking the best pet for your family.

Ages 0-5

Pet Pals

Adding a new pet to a home already occupied by a baby or toddler can be a challenge. When considering which type of animal to get, keep your family’s lifestyle and your baby’s developmental stage in mind. A tail-pulling toddler might be better off with a low-maintenance goldfish than a cat or boisterous puppy. Some parents, however, find that a high-energy puppy or kitten fits right in with their family. Young children can keep up with a playful pup or kitten, and parents of babies are already used to getting up at night to clean up messes.

“Puppies take work. If you are going to add a new addition, make sure the house is ready for noisy nights and a little bit of chaos for the first few weeks,” says Jason Troy of Canine Scholars Inc. dog training in Charlotte.


Ages 6-12

Pick of the Litter

Ready to take the plunge and get a dog for your school-age child? Ask around for guidance on the best breeds for families. Expert dog trainer Joel Silverman, former Animal Planet host and author of “Bond With Your Heart, Train With Your Brain: Techniques for Training and Motivating Humans and Other Animals,” recommends against dogs with a strong prey drive, such as terriers, for families with young children. Though these dogs can make wonderful pets, they may react negatively to the noisy, unpredictable nature of a child.

“Dogs with a strong prey drive are often quick to react to the sudden movements, and may chase or nip in these situations,” Silverman says. Retrievers, retriever mixes and other notoriously mellow breeds are known to make great family pets, he says. Selecting a rescue dog? Reach out to a pro beforehand. Trainers, including Jason Troy, will consult with families prior to bringing their rescue dog home to help ease the transition from shelter to forever home.


Ages 13-18

Separation Station

You’re not the only one who will miss a teen who ships off to camp, college or to study abroad. Your teen’s pet may experience separation anxiety, too. While more college campuses and dormitories are allowing pets, most still don’t, so it’s likely that Fido or Fluffy will have to stay behind. Expect a few weeks of mopey behavior after a teen departs, Silverman says.

“Pets bond differently with different members of a family, and a pet will most certainly feel sad when the person he’s most bonded to leaves,” he says.

Offer the pet extra attention, petting and reassurance during this time, and consult with your veterinarian if the animal displays signs of anxiety, such as excess vocalization, accidents or appetite changes. If your pet isn’t overly anxious, just sad, it may be a great time to consider adding another pet to the family, Silverman says. After the initial adjustment period, a new dog or cat can help distract your pet from the loss while providing the rest of the family with another furry companion to love.  

Malia Jacobson is an award-winning health and parenting journalist and mom of three.

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Calendar

September 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

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The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Embrace your inner rebel and celebrate the motorcycle lifestyle with family-friendly activities ranging from stunt shows and specialty rides to live music and local vendors. See website for hours.

Cost: $10 for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  17560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Experience a full day of outdoor experiences, nature adventures and family-friendly activities to kick off Take a Child Outside Week.

Cost: Free

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Take part in a 5K race, a kid’s dash and family activities to raise awareness in the fight against lung cancer in North Carolina. 

Cost: Free-$30

Where:
Midtown Park
4011 Cardinal at North Hills
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
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Website »

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Discover Historic Yates Mill – a place of business, community and exciting local history! Explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water as it turns the milling...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675

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Pepper Fest heats up with a fresh array of pepper-themed dishes and brews, family activities, a kid chef competition and zesty live music.

Cost: $5-$30

Where:
The Great Meadow, Briar Chapel
161 Salt Cedar Ln.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Website »

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Monday, Sept. 24, 11 a.m.–noon Let’s celebrate the arrival of Fall! Make a craft inspired by the leaves’ changing colors. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all...

Cost: free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
Contact Name: Ashley Martin

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Search the meadow for katydid, cicadas, crickets and other incredible insects that make up approximately 80% of the world’s species of animals. All ages. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Website »

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Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2–3:30 p.m. The harvest season was a busy time for Laura Ingalls Wilder's pioneer family. Put on your straw hat or sun bonnet and head to the park to try out the types of farm...

Cost: $6/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Discover how beavers live, eat and play in their watery world. Search for beaver signs around the pond. Ages 3-5 with parent. Advance registration required.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy croquet, bocci, corn hole, ladder ball and more. Register online. Choose course #117149.

Cost: $4/resident, $5/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Play giant board games and special activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Cary Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Enjoy nature-themed books followed by a hands-on activity or garden exploration. Ages 3-5 with adult. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
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Apple Day features fresh North Carolina apples, an apple dessert and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy trivia about sports, music, movies and more. Register online. Choose course #116583.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Mums and pumpkins take center stage at this festival featuring food trucks, inflatables, hayrides and vendors.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Welcome fall's arrival with a food truck rodeo, car show, face painting, a craft show and more.  

Cost: Free

Where:
125 U.S. 1-A
Youngsville, NC  27596
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Website »

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Enjoy national and regional professional dancers from the Wake Forest dance community and beyond, as well locally rising advanced dance performers. 

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC
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Take part in a 1.4-mile walk for inclusiveness. Registration and activities begin at 10 a.m.; walk begins at 10:30 a.m. Enjoy refreshments, games, raffle and a decorating station. All ages and...

Cost: $15/family, $5/individual

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
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Website »

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Mums and pumpkins take center stage at this festival featuring food trucks, inflatables, hayrides and vendors.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Take the family for a celebration of Orange County’s heritage and culture. Enjoy local food, music, cooking demonstrations, local artists and crafters, and kids’ activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Blackwood Farm Park
4215 NC Hwy 86
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Government
Telephone: 919-245-2063
Contact Name: Mike Lanier
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Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Matthew Cordell's upcoming tour for his next book, "King Alice," will make a stop at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. Cordell most recently won the Caldecott Medal for his picture book,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Enjoy a day at the park and listen to stories from professional storytellers in an event presented in partnership with Wake County Public Libraries. Enjoy a wagon shuttle, activity tents, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Wake County Public Libraries and Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space
Telephone: 919-212-7695
Contact Name: Abby Jones
Website »

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Take the family for pony rides, riding demonstrations, miniature horses and a petting area, hayrides, games, food trucks and an appearance by Woody and Jesse from Toy Story. Purchase activity bands...

Cost: Admission is free. Some activities charge a fee.

Where:
Horses for Hope
2909 Banks Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Celebrate Morrisville, Wake County’s most diverse community, with a day of food, culture and music from around the world. Kids can enjoy face painting and a bounce house.

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Website »

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Snakes are very misunderstood and feared, yet are so important to the ecosystem. Meet some friendly snakes up close and learn about common snakes found in this area. All ages. Meet at the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Be part of the 2017 Harvest Festival, organized by St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church Raleigh, where authentic freshly cooked food, stage performances, music, live auction,...

Cost: Free

Where:
St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church
225 Bashford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

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