Cheryl Fleming, GRI, ABR's Blog
While the majority of U.S. households do not have a dog, that's not to say that "man's best friend" is losing ground in the pet popularity contest. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 36.5% of households own a dog, while 30.4% own a cat.
Since both animals can be found in tens of millions of homes throughout the country (43 million households vs 36 million), it's fair to say that there is a strong and continuous demand for both felines and canines.
As a side note, those numbers are noticeably higher (and the margin narrower) in statistics from the American Pet Products Association. The APPA says more than 54 million households have dogs and nearly 43 million U.S. homes have cats.
The Popularity of Dogs and Cats
Although there does appear to be a statistical preference for dogs over cats, one thing's for certain -- both types of animals have exceptionally strong fan bases! Part of the reason is that cats and dogs both rank high in categories that matter most to pet owners, such as cuteness, affection, and training ability.
A big advantage of cats over dogs is that they're very clean by nature and are able to adapt quickly to litterbox use. For puppies, the learning curve for housebreaking is typically a lot steeper. Cats generally don't have the patience or interest in other types of training, but there are exceptions. They can be taught to come when called, for example, as long as they're not busy doing something they consider to be more important! Training a cat to respond to their name can be as simple as calling their name at the same time you're pouring food in their dish.
As is the case with all training situations, repetition and positive reinforcement are the keys to success. Surprisingly, cats can also be taught to walk on a leash (or harness), shake hands (or some reasonable facsimile), and relieve themselves on a toilet. Whether you'd actually want your cat to use the same bathroom facilities as you and your family is another question, entirely!
For dog and cat owners alike, it pays to gain an understanding of your pet's behavioral patterns, natural instincts, and health needs -- both physical and psychological. Dog owners, in particular, can benefit quite a bit from enrolling their pet in obedience classes. When a dog knows what to expect and what is expected of him, he tends to bond better with his human family, feel more secure, and fit in better with your lifestyle and daily routines. There are, of course, many variables which could affect a dog's temperament, behavior, trainability, and psychological health, but providing them with a loving environment and consistent, compassionate training is a good foundation for a positive and satisfying relationship.
- Exercise: We all need regular physical activity to look and feel our best, but it's all too easy to come up with excuses for skipping a day or two. As most of us can attest to, a few days of exercise avoidance can easily turn into weeks or more of inactivity. However, since dogs require daily walks to relieve themselves and expend pent up energy, you're less likely to have a sedentary lifestyle when there's a dog in the family. Motivating us to take them for a walk and play with them, every day, is one of the countless ways dogs enhance our lives. They may even help us live longer and be healthier.
- Home security: Whether a dog is an intimidating German Shepherd or a fluffy, white Bichon Frise, they're still going to bark when they sense a stranger on your property. While small dogs aren't going to inspire terror in the hearts of would-be burglars, their barking has a similar effect to that of a security alarm or a motion-sensor floodlight. It's going to call attention to the potential intruder. Since one of a burglar's main objectives is to not be noticed, a barking dog -- of any size -- can be an effective deterrent.
- Benefits to kids: If you had a dog when you were growing up, you know what a source of joy and companionship they can be to a child. Dogs not only create fond memories for children, but they can also help teach responsibility, empathy, and compassion for other living beings.