To a lot of people, a family isn’t complete without a dog or two to round it out. These constant companions, four-legged friends, and great snuggle buddies can bring a lot of joy to a household. They can also teach your kids important lessons about responsibility, caring for the needs of others, and the benefits of exercise. However, aside from getting the right dog for your family, you also need to make sure that your family is ready for a dog. Here are a few ways to make sure everyone is prepared to give a pooch a place to live.
Everyone is comfortable with animals
First off, don’t even think about taking a dog into the home until you are sure that everyone is going to feel safe and comfortable with it around. If one of your children has apprehension or a fear of dogs, you can try and get them acclimated to being around them by, for instance, helping out at your local shelter. However, you should not be trying to get a dog if your family doesn’t, to a person, express that they are happy and comfortable with doing so. It doesn’t matter how much any one person might love having a dog, that doesn’t supersede the discomfort that another person might feel and no-one should feel uncomfortable in their own home.
You have enough time to look after a dog
If you are the main proponent of buying a dog for the family, then you need to make sure that you can make time for it. Your family can help take care of core needs like feeding, walking, grooming, and so on, but usually, there is one key decision-maker, one person who should be ready to assume responsibility for the dog when no-one else is able to. Get a good idea of how much time it takes to meet a dog’s needs every day, and understand that your family needs to dedicate even more time to show them the love and bonding that they need, on top of that.
Be ready to share your home
You’re going to have to give your new dog more than just your time. You’re going to have to give up your home for it, as well. A room by room guide to dog proofing your home can help you ensure that the place is made safe, gating the dog off from anywhere necessary, while moving any other hazardous items out of reach of the dog. If it’s a puppy, expect it to be doubly curious about exploring what it can get into. However, you also need to teach your kids about not leaving their toys or food or even their shoes lying around as they might have once done. Otherwise, they’re going to get a lesson in the form of a severely chewed up possession.
What type of pet would suit your kids?
Dogs of almost any breed can learn to get along with children. However, you also need to think about what kind of kids you have and what kind of dog personality might be best suited to them. For instance, American Lab dogs and Saint Bernards are great caretakers, often used as “nanny dogs” and well suited to children of a young age. Beagles are typically much better suited to energetic kids who love to play (but know how to play nice, as we’ll talk about later), while dachshunds are typically better company for children who are more mannered and gentle. Bear in mind that dogs should be supervised with young children at all times.
Make sure everyone respects animals
If your child is confident and friendly around animals, that’s a very good sign. However, it’s worth teaching them two things to balance it out: restraint and caution. For one, they need to know not to go near a dog if it’s showing signs of anxiety or aggression. Secondly, even if they know that the dog is friendly and actively wants to play with them, they have to show that they’re able to be gentle with it, avoiding pulling their ears, their tail, and knowing when the dog wants distance or to stop being touched. Children that aren’t taught to respect a dog’s boundaries can end up thinking of them as a toy, which is not going to foster a good relationship between them.
Learning about their health
Given full reins of their life, most dogs would end up eating garbage, covered in fleas, and otherwise living a pretty rough life. It’s us, the humans of the home, who are responsible for their good health. As such, you should make sure that your family learns about how to keep dogs healthy. This means, for one, knowing what not to feed it. It’s a good idea to generally avoid giving your dog any kind of “human food,” such as table scraps, but your kids should at least be aware of what foods are toxic to the dog. Otherwise, find a good vet and they will educate you on the aspects of a healthy lifestyle you should be trying to satisfy, which you can then teach your kids about.
Are the kids willing to take on chores?
A child who is excited to have a puppy might promise that they’re going to walk them, wash them, feed them, and do backward somersaults if that’s what they need to do to get a dog. They might even mean it, too. However, the novelty of having a dog begins to wear, while the reality of chores remains consistent. If you’re planning on having the kids help with the chores of looking after a dog, then you should make sure that they’re already used to doing chores around the house that they don’t especially enjoy doing.
Living to a routine
You need to make sure that you’re able to free time to take care of your new dog when they need it. However, your whole family can have a much easier time pitching in if you put together a routine that everyone can follow easily enough. Most of the time is going to be allotted to walking, feeding, and bathing the dog, as well as cleaning up after them, whether it’s the hair they might leave around the house or the “surprises” out back in the garden. Put together a dog routine and make sure that everyone in the family gets their turn doing everything. If some people are happier to take on certain duties, you can let them take care of it, so long as others pick up the slack in other regards.
You have the budget for a dog
It’s not right to deprive anyone of the companionship of a dog based on what they can afford, but in order to give them the right level of care that they need, it is crucial to have a budget towards taking care of it. Even a dog that comes free from the local shelter is going to come with a range of costs. Vet fees, pet supplies, food, insurance, all of these can start to add up. What’s more, many of these costs are recurring so you’re going to have to budget for them as they go. What’s more, it’s a good idea to have a pet emergency fund put aside for any sudden costs, too.
Before you make the final decision to welcome a pup into your place, make sure that your family is ready to offer the warm, welcoming, and responsible home that they need.