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A dog can be a fantastic addition to a family bringing joy, laughter, affection, and plenty of fun and activity. A dog can also be a big mistake for a family if they are not able to provide the right environment.
Children may beg and plead for a dog, but they do not understand the weight of the responsibility involved, so as the parent, you need to take the lead on the decision and ensure everyone is ready for what a dog needs. Here are some key factors to keep in mind before you commit to bringing a dog into your family.
Are you prepared for the responsibility?
Whether you intend to get a dog as a gift for a child, your partner, or to belong to everyone equally, the truth is that the adults in the home are responsible for the dog. This means that you can encourage your children to take on the caring role and be responsible, but you always need to be there as a safety net and to step in when needed. This means a big investment in terms of time, energy, and money.
For example, if the adults in the home are out at work and the children are at school, clubs or with friends most of the time, the dog will be lonely and bored. This is unfair for the dog and spells big trouble for its behavior. Some dog owners choose to place their dogs in doggy daycare when they are likely to be alone for a significant length of time. Visit heartandpaw.com for more information on what doggy daycare involves.
Is/are your child/children comfortable with animals?
If a child is fearful of animals, bringing one into the home is probably not a great move. You may want to help your child get over their fear, but this is best done gradually with friendly pets of others or by visiting an animal shelter. If a child is frightened of an animal, their behavior will be unpredictable, which is dangerous for both them and the dog.
Do the children have respect for animals?
Your children need to understand that a dog is not for hitting, pulling, or forcing into situations they resist. The dog needs to be left alone when eating and be able to retreat to a safe place when it wants to. Just because the child wants to play does not mean they have the right to force the dog to join in.
Can your child manage their current responsibilities?
This will depend on the age of the child, but if they already struggle to do as they are asked in terms of household chores or behavior, they are unlikely to be ready to take on a role in caring for the dog. Can they do chores when asked? Do they remember to brush their teeth without needing to be reminded?
Do the children understand the commitment?
Having a dog for a few days could be fun, but children may not understand that once the novelty has worn off, they can’t send them back (or shouldn’t). Make sure they grasp that getting a dog is adding a new member to the family for better or for worse.