No two families handle the prospect of their kids heading off to college or leaving home to pursue their careers in the quite the same way. Although it can be hugely exciting to see your kids reach a new stage in their lives and you can feel enormously proud of the fact that you have raised your children in the right way and that they feel ready to move on, you may still feel emotional about how it will be living without children in the house.

Going from a house of four or five to three, then two, can take a lot of adjustment. Although you may value your independence and the ability to make plans without having to allow for time spent working on homework, attending sports events of making dinner for the masses, it can also be a difficult adjustment.

Baby boomers were the first generation for whom pet ownership was a common thing and who brought their pets inside and made them part of the family. Prior to this, most pets were considered to be working animals and were most common among rural households where they lived outside and survived on a mixture of table scraps and whatever they could catch on their own. If you never experienced the joy of pet ownership when you were growing up, this is a great time to start.

A new beginning

If you have retired or are close to retirement, having a pet dog in particular can also give your life new meaning and purpose. Having to get up every day and take your dog for a walk, come rain or shine, provides a similar kind of obligation to the one you had where you were working. In the same way your boss used to rely on you to turn up and do a good job, so your dog will be relying on you to provide a good level of care.

If you have previously been living a sedentary lifestyle, having a dog means you’ll be getting more in the way of fresh air and exercise which will be of benefit in other areas of your life. If you and your partner have both finished work, walking the dog together and being responsible for its care and training can not only replace some of the feeling of responsibility you had when your children were present, but it can also bring you closer together by providing you with a new “joint” project to focus your attention on.

You need to decide about where you are getting your dog from, while puppies are undeniably cute, there are plenty of older dogs that need rehoming through no fault of their own. Taking on a puppy rather than an older dog provides a great level of challenge as you will need to spend far more time training a younger dog. The plus side is that when the training is complete, and you realize you have raised an obedient, well-mannered dog, you get a real sense of accomplishment.

A friend to the family

Parents are not the only ones who can suffer from empty nest syndrome. If you have more than one child and especially if there is a significant difference in age between the oldest and the youngest, then having the eldest leave can mean there is a gap in the lives of everyone in the household.

As well as being a great substitute for a child, a pet dog can also be a great substitute for a sibling. Studies have shown that pets have a great ability to provide children with stability during stressful situations. Younger children may even feel more comfortable talking about their feelings and emotions to pets, safe in the knowledge that they will not be judged in any way and will not have to listen to responses that might upset them.

The latest research conducted by the American Pet Products Association shows that pet ownership is one the rise thanks to a new generation of pet owners, surpassing baby boomers who were traditionally the largest group to own pets. Many of those children are getting pets of their own because that’s what they grew up with.

A source of happiness

One of the best things about dogs is the sheer joy they find in the simplest pleasures. Watching a dog go crazy the first time it experiences running through snow or seeing your dog wagging its tail with pleasure at the sight of your return – these are experiences that are simply priceless.

It doesn’t usually take very much to make a dog happy. A walk in the park, a game of tug of war with a piece of rope and a handful of treats from Betsy Farms will all bring delight and this in turn will bring a smile to your face.

Access to services

If your children have left home but you are still working, you may worry that you don’t have time to properly look after a pet. However, the changing demographics of pet ownership are altering the way those within the pet care industry work. For example, the percentage of households with two parents in on the decline. In a single-parent household, time and money are generally scarcer so the ability to have a pet is more of a challenge.

For those single households that continue to have or acquire a pet, the challenge becomes finding time to see healthcare, both for family members and pets, while working full time. Some veterinarians have begun offering a doggie daycare bus service that travels to an owner’s house and picks up their sick pooch to save the owners having to make the trip themselves.

There are also multiple dog walking and dog food nutrition services that will take your dog out during the day while you are at work, so you can be sure your pooch is getting plenty of exercise during the week while you taking over walking and playing duties at the weekend. It’s the perfect way to enjoy all the many benefits of dog ownership without any of the downsides.