“Can We Get a Dog?!”

Jacob and Louis ManleyThere are bound to be lots of parents who will hear the plea ‘can we get a dog?!’ on many an occasion from children desperate to have a dog in the family, but should you give in?  Many people do relent and acquire a four legged family member and while for some people it enriches family life, for others the realization that the dog was a big mistake quickly dawns on the exasperated parents.

Holidays 4 Dogs have other articles about living with children and dogs, but this article is intended as advice for, primarily first time dog owners, who may be feeling under pressure from their children (or other family members), to get a family dog!

Black and white puppy and cute boy in bluebell woodFor children especially, a dog in the family can be a wonderful thing and research has proven that dogs can provide all sorts of benefits to families, especially those with children.  Having a pet isn’t just about coaching children to be responsible; dogs in particular can teach children skills they need for social interaction with other human beings as well as having a calming effect and providing children with a sense of ‘self’.  Children who suffer from anxieties can gain much from having a dog around the house and as such, the charities that train support dogs are now providing dogs specifically trained to assist children with autism, and with successful results.

However, despite the obvious benefits, taking on a dog is a huge responsibility that I am sure any dog owner would agree with.  Dogs are one of the most rewarding pets you can have in your life, but they are also quite time consuming and can take up a great deal of energy and commitment.

Tiny black puppy with cute boyPuppies, especially, will require a great deal of time and work and they can be destructive and messy as well as needing a lot of training and socialising throughout what can seem like a long puppy hood period that may not always be practical if you have small children, particularly if they are pre-schoolers.

Ultimately, if you decide to add a dog to your family he will be your responsibility; the children may very well promise to take care of the dog, but the novelty will soon wear off!  Acquiring a dog should be a unanimous decision by the whole family, but pet care has to fall strictly with the adults in the family and if you feel doubtful about this task, then getting a dog is probably not a good idea.  That said, you should include children who are old enough and ensure they do take some responsibility by drawing up a chore list that is appropriate to the child’s age.  Very often children want something so badly but if they are handed a poop bag while walking the dog, suddenly they realise its going to be much harder and less attractive than they thought it would be!

If you work long hours and have children too, getting a dog is going to be difficult unless you work from home or are able to employ a reliable dog sitter or walker.  Dogs do not reason or comprehend things in the same way as children and as such they simply take up more time and can be even more exasperating!  If you expect every family member to be able to follow simple instructions as well as having impeccable bladder control, adding a puppy to the mix is not going to live up to your expectations!

IMGP7658Children communicate very differently than adults and this is where conflict can arise in families that have taken on a dog when they have small children.  Children will shriek, yell, cry, crawl, run around and flap their arms and while this is perfectly natural – dogs can often find this confusing and upsetting.  On top of this, younger children tend to treat dogs as their peers, wanting to hug, cuddle and kiss them.  Unfortunately, some dogs can find this threatening and this is why research has shown that children are the most likely group of people to be bitten by dogs.  However, there are lots of things you can do to make sure that your children and your dog can live together safely and happily and of course, the majority of kids and dogs do just that.Dexter 1

Once you have considered the time required for walking, grooming, poop scooping, feeding, cleaning and training and decided you, as a family, can meet the needs of a dog, you then need to do decide on what sort of dog.  You can read our other Holidays 4 Dogs articles about choosing the right dog for your circumstances, or have a look at one of our many breed articles.  You may also like to seriously consider an older rescue dog who may well adapt better to your family than a young demanding puppy would do.  There are some wonderful dogs in shelters around the country in desperate need of loving new families.

A dog can add enormous pleasure to a family and can become a child’s friend for life, but do make sure you are not entering into a bargain with your children that may very well fall apart as soon as the novelty wears off.

Other related Holidays 4 Dogs articles:

Breed types

What influences people’s dog owning choices

Children and dogs

Choosing the most suitable breed of dog

Give a dog a second chance