You have been promising your kids a puppy for a year, explaining that they had to wait until you moved into a house with a yard. Well, you moved last week and now they are holding you to your promise – they want a puppy and they want it now!
However, getting a puppy is not something you or your family should rush into. It is a decision that must be well thought through as making a mistake can hurt you and your family as well as that little ball of fur everyone is dreaming about. Consider how you want to raise the pup, what type of dog works best for your family, the individual ramifications of buying from a breeder or adopting from a shelter and the long-term effect a dog could have on your family.
The responsibility of raising the family dog falls on the parents guaranteed. Yes, the kids may enjoy playing with the pup and they should be involved with training the pup. However, no matter what the age, most kids do not have the level of commitment that is required to raise a happy, well-trained dog. And why should they? They are kids after all! It is important that the kids have a hand in the choosing and rearing of the pup but it is not realistic to expect them to do all the work.
Do You Have the Time for a Puppy?
So be honest with yourself, do you have time to raise a pup? It means getting up earlier to take the dog for a walk before work and school, a walk in the evening, feeding schedules, sleepless nights, obedience class once a week and the ongoing struggle of housetraining. If you live near work, coming home for lunch can mean less of a mess at the end of the day as you can get the pup out for some midday exercise and a bathroom break. If you cannot come home then at the end of the day you have to expect a mess, a hyperactive and bored puppy with an evening of tiring him out so that you can sleep for at least part of the night.
The first few months are usually the most difficult so pick a time of the year where school, work and social commitments are less. Bringing the pup home at the beginning of summer holidays for the kids has the advantage of good weather and fewer distractions so the kids will be more inclined to help raise the pup.
Choosing the right breed can make the most significant impact on how well your family adjusts to the four-legged bundle of fur. Consider the size, exercise requirement, grooming needs and temperament that would best fit into your lifestyle and read up on breeds that suit your family. Many people are sold on the looks of a breed and do not look beyond them to whether the dog is a good family pet, how much exercise they require, how big they will get or whether they are good with children other then their own. Labrador Retrievers are the number one breed right now for families but they are a big dog – can your four-year old handle a rambunctious seventy-pound pup running around the house?
There are good dog breeders, average breeders and breeders that do it to generate an income that do not have the good of the breed or their pups in mind – it is only a business. It takes research and talking to people within the breed to find out the difference between the breeders. Go to a dog show and watch the various breeds parade around the ring. Most participants are happy to talk to legitimately interested people and will answer any questions you may have on their dogs. Ask who are the good breeders and they will quickly point you in the right direction.
Adopting a pup from a shelter is another option. Shelters are always looking for good homes and are happy to work with ‘newbies’. Shelter dogs are usually mixed breeds, which often are healthier then purebred dogs. However, not knowing the ancestry of the dog can run into some interesting quirks – no true idea how big the pup will get, what kind of natural instincts it may exhibit or what traits it will have. When kids are involved, you do need to know whether the pup has, for example, any Border Collie in it as their natural herding instinct can mean that they will nip at the ankles of running children.
Adding a puppy to the family will change the dynamics, usually for the better but the long-term effects should be considered just the same. If your family travels overseas a lot, then owning a dog means kenneling it when you are away whereas camping, boating and driving trips are well suited for a many breeds of dogs. For the busy family that is rarely home, a dog can become an unwanted frustration as everyone fights over whose responsibility it is to stay home and look after the dog. What is the expected lifespan of the breed of dog and will that having a positive or negative effect on the family? These are all small things to consider but important. Plans for handling these complications as they arise should be in place before you bring the pup home to help keep the conflict to a minimum through the years.
For many families, the addition of a puppy is a wonderful experience that everyone will enjoy and appreciate in their own way as the years go by. However, do your research and discuss the various ramifications before your bring the pup home to make sure it is the right decision for your family.