Having a family dog can be one of the best decisions you can make. But it also can turn into a very stressful situation if you aren’t fully prepared for everything that owning a dog entails. Even though your kids might beg you for a puppy every chance they get, are you really ready to have a puppy join your family? It can be a very hard decision and one that should not be taken lightly.
Is your family ready for a puppy? Here are 8 questions to help you decide.
Do you have the time to devote to this new family member?
Puppies take up a lot of time. Between potty training, general training, keeping them out of trouble, walks, and general care, be prepared to spend a lot of time with your new pup, especially in the first weeks and months as you all adjust. Once the puppy is trained, you will still want to be sure you have enough time to spend with him/her.
Dogs are pack animals, and they crave attention from their owners. If you don’t spend a lot of time with your pup, he/she can become lonely and anxious and that can lead to destructive behavior. So be honest about how much time your family actually has to spend with your puppy and how many hours a day your puppy will need to be alone.
Having a puppy can often feel like having another baby or toddler in your house, so make sure you have some extra time in your family schedule to devote to this new addition!
Have you thought through which breed you would like to get?
Dog breeds vary greatly. From full-grown size, to personality traits, to potential health problems, there are so many things to think about when choosing the right puppy for your family! Some puppies tend to be more energetic and need to consistently be provided ways to get their energy out. Others tend to be more laid back. Some or more prone to separation anxiety. Some are more prone to different health conditions, like eye or joint problems.
Do your research to see which breed best fits your family situation. Take into account how much time you will be able to interact with them, how old your kids are, what size you are hoping your full-size dog to end up as, and what their living space will be like. If you live in tiny apartment, a large dog probably won’t be the best fit.
Also, you might consider adopting from a shelter or animal rescue. There are so many dogs out there that need a good home! While you might not be able to find a specific breed at a shelter, there are so many mixed breeds that end up in shelters that make great family pets. On a side note, if you adopt an older puppy or dog, it might already come with some basic obedience and house training skills.
Is your house and yard set up for a puppy?
Do you have a fenced yard or are you willing to put in an underground fence? Will the puppy have adequate room to run and play? Are there any areas in your house that will be off-limits to your new family member and if so, how will you prevent them from accessing those areas?
Do you have an area (preferably uncarpeted) where you can keep the puppy until it fairly accident free?
What will you do with your dog when you have to be away from the house?
Will you leave them inside all day? Will they be in a crate or loose? Are you able to come home at lunch to let them out for a little bit? Do you have a neighbor that can let them out if you are running behind? Or do you plan to set up a kennel for them to be outside or leave them loose in your yard?
What will you do with your dog when you have to travel?
Will you plan to bring the dog with you when you travel? If so, how do your hosts feel about also hosting your dog? You can’t assume other people will want your dog to come along, even if they are dog owners themselves. If you need to leave your dog behind, is there a reputable kennel nearby or can you find a reliable dog sitter to come stay at your house while you are gone?
Is there room in your budget for pet expenses?
Do you have the money in your budget for the initial costs (the dog itself, a crate, feeding supplies, training supplies, toys etc.,) and then ongoing costs like food, treats, and vet care? Vet bills can really add up and your pup will need several vaccines the first year of life and then routine vaccines after that. And of course, an unexpected trip to the vet can happen at any time. Do you want to spend money on pet health insurance? Whether or not you can afford a dog is an important question to ask before deciding if you are ready for a puppy.
Who will be the primary caregiver(s)?
Who will be in charge of feeding the puppy? Training it? Taking it for walks? Playing with it? Bathing it? If you have kids that can help out in these roles, I suggest having a plan in place ahead of time before you get the puppy, so everyone is on the same page from the start. Maybe your kids can rotate responsibilities with each other. If it is family pet, it’s good for the kids to help care for it.
How will you socialize your new pup?
Are you willing to spend the time and money for puppy classes so it can socialize with other dogs and people? Will you have guests to your house to interact with your puppy? Take him/her to local dog parks? There is a window of time with a puppy when socialization is most effective and after that, it can become harder for them to be properly socialized, so make sure you are able to dedicate time to this when they are young.
I hope that these questions will help you move forward in your decision about whether it is the right time to add a new addition to your family. If you feel ready for a puppy, you will never regret it!