Thinking about a Dog for Your Family
Whether it’s your first dog ever, or you’re a seasoned pro, adopting a dog becomes a much more complex decision when you have children. From allergies to training to adding more cleaning and more, well, everything, to your plate, a dog is a serious commitment for the entire family to consider seriously.
- Allergies: Have your children (or you) ever been exposed to pets? Allergies are a serious consideration because it can mean having to rehome your furry family member if the allergies are not controllable. Exposing yourselves and kids to a friend or family member’s dog is a good idea beforehand. If you’re pregnant, you may want to wait for this reason alone until after your baby is born before considering adopting a dog. Also, know that the “hypoallergenic” breed mixes that are so popular right now (Poodle mix, anyone?) often are not actually hypoallergenic. It generally takes a third generation or later labradoodle or other doodle to be the non-shedding dogs breeders claim, and the breed cross is so popular right now that few available puppies and dogs fit this criteria.
- Training. A dog often entails house training and other training. This is a pretty hefty time consideration, and one that is especially hard for parents of young children and babies. If you don’t have a fenced yard, you will need to take it on a leash several times a day to potty, kids in tow. If the dog ends up nuisance barking, not only will that require training from you (or a trainer), it could wake up your sleeping baby…which every parent knows is just the worst.
- Care. Dogs require ongoing preventative veterinary care, as well as treating any ailments that come up. This can be expensive, and also can be time consuming for the parent that has to take the dog and kids down to the vet. If the dog requires frequent grooming, this is another added expense and chore.
- Energy level. There are high energy dogs, and there are HIGH ENERGY dogs. Yes, dogs and kids can sometimes cancel out each other's energy, but some dogs need even more attention and exercise than may be possible to provide when caring for small kids, unless you're a regular exerciser and are prepared to work your dog into that routine.
That being said, dogs can be a wonderful addition to a family. I would advise any parent, no matter their dog experience but especially people new to dogs and/or kids, to not adopt while pregnant. Pregnancy hormones can kick your nurturing into overdrive, leaving you wanting to care for a pet. A newborn, however, is hard work and it’s prudent to wait and see how your new lifestyle is before having a dog in the mix.
It’s smart to choose the type of dog carefully as well, and make sure the grooming requirements are compatible with what you're willing to take on. See this video as well from the AKC on the best dog breeds for children. If you think you’re ready for a dog but aren’t comfortable with the training aspects (or the energy levels that come with raising a puppy), parents can look into adopting “career change” dogs -- these are dogs that are trained to be service dogs, but have not met all the requirements at the end of the training period. They are still highly trained and socialized dogs, and are generally breeds that do well in family settings.
Meaghan Howard is a mom to three boys, a dog- and cat-mom, and an experienced pet foster mom. She and her family are currently enjoying living in Japan. See more from her on her beauty blog, www.meaghanrae.com.