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Owning a pet is a big responsibility, whether it is a tiny little goldfish or a giant Saint Bernard.

Pets enrich our lives and are like members of our family, but before you get a pet you need to map out a plan for taking care of them. And, while pets and working dogs have many of the same needs, there are major differences between them. If you are thinking about bringing a guide dog into your life, see our section all about guide dogs.

Map Out a Plan

Whether you have a cat, dog, hamster, rabbit, fish, or bird, there are plenty of chores involved in owning them. All pets need shelter, water, food, grooming, exercise, and love — and all pets need to be cleaned up after when they make messes. Some pet chores need to be done every single day and some only need to be done once a week. Some can be done all by yourself and some need to be done with an adult.

In Measuring Penny, Lisa records how much time it takes to take care of her dog, Penny. Look at the list below and estimate how much time it takes each week to do each chore for the pets listed. If you aren't sure, ask your teacher or parent, or ask a friend who already has a pet!

After you've finished, answer the following questions:




Daily Pet Chores
  Washing food & water bowls  
  Filling food & water bowls  
  Cleaning the litter box or picking up messes  
  Taking for a walk  
  Playing with  
  Picking up & putting away pet toys  
  Petting & giving affection  
Weekly Pet Chores
  Cleaning the cage, tank, or sleeping area  
  Brushing & grooming  

Dog and Cat Facts

If you get a pet, you will learn a lot about them: what foods they can and can't eat; how many hours a day they sleep; how much exercise they need every day; what they like to do for fun; and much more!

Look at the interesting facts about cats and dogs below and see if you can answer the following questions:

There are 70-80 million dogs in the United States and 74-96 million cats (Source: ASPCA).

44% of households have a dog and 35% of households have a cat (Source: American Pet Products Association, 2015-2016).

A dog's nose has 4 times as many scent cells as a cat and 14 times as many as a human (Source: North Shore Animal League).

It is generally agreed that dogs were one of the first animals domesticated by humans and that all dog breeds are direct descendants of wolves.

Cats only meow to humans, not to other cats, and they use their whiskers to feel if a space is big enough for them to squeeze through (Source: North Shore Animal League).

90% of pet owners think of their pets as members of the family and 50% of pet owners give their dog or cat a present at Christmas (Source:

Over 50 dogs have lived in the White House (Source: The Dog Fact Information Center).

The 5 favorite dog breeds in the United States are the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever, the German Shepherd, the Beagle, and the Dachshund (Source: MSPCA Angell).

The noses of dogs and cats are unique, just like human fingerprints (Source:

April 11th is National Pet Day!

Is a Guide Dog Right for Me?

You should explore getting a guide dog if:

You should not get a guide dog just because:

What Does a Guide Dog Do?

A human and guide dog work as a team. They BOTH have important jobs to do!

Your job:

Your guide dog's job:

This activity was created by Kesel Wilson and Melissa Riccobono for Great Expectations.

What Is It Like Having a Guide Dog?

guide dog puppy with a yellow rose

There are both upsides and downsides to having a guide dog. It's good to understand them both before getting a dog.

The Upsides

  • Sometimes you can walk faster with a guide dog, especially through crowds.
  • Many dogs are very good at following a person they are asked to follow — a clerk at a grocery store who is helping you shop, a waiter at a restaurant who is showing you to a table, or a friend or family member in a crowded mall.
  • Dogs can be good companions. They will give affection, and they usually love to play when they are not working.
  • Traveling with a dog sometimes feels safer. You still need to be smart about where and when you travel though!

dog sits in a chair looking sad as a person wags a disapproving finger at it

The Downsides

  • They are a big responsibility! You need to take a dog's needs into account every day — not just when it is convenient!
  • They need to be taken outside, even when it is cold out or you are tired.
  • They need to be taken to the vet for regular checkups.
  • They need to be given firm and consistent expectations.
  • You need to be aware of what a guide dog is doing at all times, and you need to stop bad behavior as soon as possible so it does not become a habit.
  • Having a guide dog often draws a lot of attention to you. People will often tell you how beautiful your dog is, or tell you about their own pet dog at home. Sometimes this leads to fun conversations. Other times it makes it a challenge to get from place to place quickly.

Leader of the Pack

Guide dog leads person across busy street

Guide dogs can't read street signs, traffic lights, or street addresses, and they can't lead you where you want to go with only one command. You need to have basic orientation to the areas you want to go and give your guide dog directions to get there.

You also have to be sure your dog is taking you where you really want to go. If a pet store is next to a grocery store, and you want to go to the grocery store, you need to make sure your dog isn't going to the pet store instead!

dog eats from a big bowl

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