Are you ready to add a little puppy to your family? Before you go out and find a breeder or rescue, it is important that all family members are on the same page. You should never acquire a puppy without having your whole family support the decision - or you will have a lot of troubles down the line.
Today we will look at 5 questions you need to ask your spouse and kids before getting a new dog.
Do we all agree on the breed?
With over 360 dog breeds recognized by the FCI (the international kennel club), there is a perfect breed or mix for everyone! Dogs’ behavior is strongly driven by genetics, so make sure that you pick a breed whose character goes well with you and your lifestyle.
If you are social and like to take your dog to many places, do not get a reactive dog breed like an Akita Inu. If you like to spend evenings and weekends on the couch, don’t get a highly athletic dog like a German Shorthair Pointer.
Inform yourself about the breed you have in mind and check with your family members if everyone thinks this is a good fit for you!
Do we agree on rules?
As a dog trainer, I frequently get asked if a dog should be allowed on the couch, allowed to sleep in the bed, allowed to kiss his owners’ faces … my answer is always the same: it does not matter so much what your rule is as long as you are consistent!
If every family member has a different rule, your puppy will be confused and he won’t learn well. He is allowed on the couch when mom is home, but not dad? He can sleep in the kid’s bed, but only during stormy nights? This is unfair for the dog. All family members need to agree on the rules you will have for your dog. Your dog will quickly adapt and learn them as long as you are consistent.
Who will be responsible for what?
Check with your family members who will take over which dog care tasks. Dogs do not just need to be fed and walked. There is also training, grooming, taking them to the vet … ideally you should have set tasks for everyone. Do not underestimate the amount of time it might take to e.g. brush a long-coated dog regularly. Make sure that everyone knows what aspect of the dog’s care they are responsible for and that they are ready to commit to this.
Speaking of commitment:
Are we ready for a 12-15 year commitment?
All new puppy owners are in love with their puppy, but once the puppy is 6-10 months old the novelty wears off and owners often turn their attention to other hobbies and aspects of their life. This is not good! Most behavioral issues start when the dog is between half a year and one year old. It is in that time that the owner’s commitment to training and exercising the dog wanes.
But even past the first and second birthday your dog will need daily interaction, enrichment and activities. Dogs are highly intelligent and social creatures. It is not fair to simply let them “sit around in the yard”. If you cannot commit to spending time with your dog every day for the next decade, do not get a puppy!
Do we have back-ups plans?
Unforeseen incidents happen in every family. Perhaps a child falls and breaks his arm, or (on a happier note) they have to go out of state for a sports tournament. You should have a back-up plan for your puppy. Who will care for him if you have to leave overnight? Who could take him out for a walk if you have to be gone for 12-14 hours during the day? Maybe you find a doggy daycare and boarding center nearby that you can leave your puppy at, or you hire a trusted dog sitter or relative to be your back-up.
It is really important to have these plans in place before getting a puppy.
The Bottom Line
Having a pup join your family should never be a decision you make by yourself. Always consult with all family members and only get a puppy if everyone agrees on key aspects. From choosing the right breed over having the same rules to splitting care tasks, every member of the family should be involved in the decision process.
Keep in mind that a puppy is only a “puppy” for a brief period but your adult dog will require care, training and exercise for 12-15 years. Do not get a new dog if you are not willing to commit to caring for him for a long time. Many new dog owners get a bit tired of their puppy when he is around 6 months old, and then the behavioral problems start.
The best way to set your pup up to become a wonderful companion is to make an informed choice and include the whole family in the planning process. The better you are prepared for your new dog, the better he will do.