• So you’re thinking about getting a dog and you already have children! Insane? Probably, but you’ve either been begged for ages and are giving in, or are a dog lover and are ready to open that door again.  The question is when and if to invite the inevitable chaos of the combination into your home?

    When do you get a dog?

    Well, like having children, there never really is a perfect time. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes, hold your breath and jump in. Having said that, there are definitely better and worse times. If you have a new baby, have a big trip coming up, are in the midst of a big life change or are still exhausted on a daily basis – delay introducing more chaos and work into your life. If your life is moving forward smoothly (you have children, so let’s be realistic – whatever passes as smoothly nowadays) and your children are old enough to take care of themselves for an hour at home (while you are present…clearing up whatever the dog has recently gotten into) then maybe now is the “right-ish” time.

    Dog versus Puppy

    If you can convince your children to skip a puppy in favor of an adult dog, even a young adult dog, you will save yourself a lot of time, money and energy. Finding a dog that has been in a foster home is ideal. The Foster owners will be able to tell you about the dog’s personality in detail and, because they usually want to find the best home possible for the dog, are unlikely to sugarcoat any personality quirks the dog might have. Add to that the fact that the dog will be house trained (I’m a positive person but even I can’t find the silver lining to pee and poop on your floors or carpets), leash trained, socialized and possibly crate trained and you have a fairly easy transition ahead of you. The medical cost of spaying or neutering (ideally done between 6-12 months) and visits/vaccines (less frequent after the first year, as with children) is much less. And if it is a more mature dog (read closely – mature = calm) then it’s about as good as it gets.

    If you or your children have set your sights on a puppy then your work will be exponentially greater in the first year (…or two or three).  There really is nothing like a puppy, on all fronts. Puppies need to be house trained, leash trained, socialized; they chew up your shoes or couch, nip, and jump; they need obedience training; they have many veterinary visits for check-ups and vaccines; and they are the sweetest things ever. Your choice! I suggest researching breeds and how to choose a puppy. There are a numerous resources online, adoption agencies, and of course friends who can help.

    Be realistic about who will truly be taking care of the dog/puppy. Every child promises to feed and clean up after a dog if they can only have one. And then you get one and eventually the novelty wears off.  We each have a different perspective about this.  I think entering into this adventure with an expectation that the bulk of the work will be yours (otherwise known as accepting reality), while hoping and encouraging your children to participate, is the least stressful approach. And choose your battles wisely.

    Dogs are a privilege and are a great way to teach your children about responsibility. They will also receive unconditional love, acceptance and companionship. They will learn how to be quiet leaders, and how to be kind and empathetic if you help them along the way.  Anyone who has grown up loving (and being loved by) a dog knows that it is a bond that is irreplaceable and unforgettable, which is what makes the mess, work and time that often accompany a dog, totally worthwhile.