So you think you want to add a dog to the family….
When I was first married, we acquired a dog before we were even living under the same roof. It’s one of the few things my husband and I had in common. We both wanted a dog. So we got one.
Then we added another one.
Then we had kids. And being a pet owner changed. Poor dog.
In all seriousness, we had a big debate about our dogs when I became pregnant. We’d only had our second dog a few months when I got pregnant and I was worried. Okay, to be honest my mom was fairly convinced that the dog was going to eat my baby. Yeah, I know, crazy. But such is how life goes when you have a Rottweiler. And a mother who is NOT a dog person….
As much as I joke, okay give my mom a REALLY hard time, I did have a conversation with my then-husband about the dog. Our older dog I had no worries about. But the young one, the wild energetic, spastic one? I was a little worried about her. And, did I mention she was a Rottweiler? I will never own a dog that I have to worry about. If I’m worried that the dog might bite one of my children or another child in my house, then I need to not have that dog. End of discussion.
Fast forward a few years…
We’re in a house with a much bigger Rottie. I love my fur babies, and I’ve never been sorry to have them around. Having a pet is great thing for a kid. I have many fond memories of sitting and “talking” out my issues with my dog as a kid. A kind soul that would let me cuddle up and pour out the worries in my little world. Now it’s my kids’ turn to take care of them: feeding, watering, letting him out (and in! oh, and out again!), and of course cuddling. Have you ever had a 105 lb dog cuddle you? He thinks he’s a lap dog. Seriously. He’s insane.
I will probably always have a dog. I’m a dog person. But once you have kids, there are more variables in adding a pet in to the mix. The biggest concerns I hear people mention is the animal’s history or finding the right dog. So, here are my tips for success if you decide that adding Rover to the mix is right for your family.
1. Learn about different breeds.
The picture in your head of the perfect dog may not be what’s really perfect for your family. Each breed has some very specific personality traits that may or may not mix well with your family. In my case, Rotties are great family pets, but they are stubborn and they like to rule the roost. So, I have to know that I’m going to have to be the boss and make him understand that. He only goes for the throat when I give the “kill” order. Just kidding! But I do have a dog that will sit and allow my toddler to completely maul him, and allow the toddler to command him to sit while he fills the food bowl.
2. I have strong feelings about breeders and “puppy mills.”
I see no need to go to a breeder unless you plan on breeding the dog. With rescue dogs, you are literally saving a life. It’s a huge plus if you can adopt one that has been fostered. You can get a pet someone has lived with, exposed to different environments and can tell you honestly about the dog’s personality. The rescue doesn’t want the animal to end up back with them, they want it to work out with you, so they are very motivated to make sure it’s a good fit. My favorite way of finding these dogs is through www.petfinder.org You can input exactly what you are looking for and read up on the dogs available.
3. Get your dog socialized and into a dog obedience class.
Dogs that are around other kids and dogs, as long as they don’t have issues, are happier and you will feel better with your kids’ friends coming and going if you have a well-socialized dog. They also tend to be welcome more places. Training is important! It’s a good idea to have full control of your dog, no matter the size. I’ve got some strong feelings on this one too. I believe in positive reinforcement, so I like trainer that work with this concept. I’m NOT a fan of beatings or shock collars. I don’t beat my children to get them to behave, I’m not doing that to my pet, either. My favorite place for dog classes is the organization I adopted my dog from. We had a great experience at All Breed Rescue. www.haveanicedog.org
4. Treat dogs like dogs.
They are not children. They do not have a human brain. Love on them, cuddle them, spoil them, but don’t forget they are dogs. They are going to pee on the rug at some point. And get in to the trash, eat through the drywall, ruin your grass, and snitch the birthday cake off the table before you can serve it. It’s not personal, they can’t help themselves. They’re dogs.
In the last 21 years, I’ve only gone about a year and a half without a dog. And while I regret the destroyed shoes, chewed drywall (yes, that actually happened), the stained rugs, the chewed furniture, the endless hair and occasional sky-high vet bill, I’ve never regretted sharing my life, my home, and my family with dogs. I’ve loved each and every one and my life wouldn’t have been the same.