‘Can we get a puppy?’, this question is where it all begins. Your children have been pestering you for months, may be years, with promises like, ‘I promise to take care of it’ or ‘I’ll walk and train it every day’. Let me tell you something…. that’s unlikely to happen. Children (even in to their teens) have little concept of the commitment that is required to keep a dog and their life will change over the next ten years so eventually the responsibility will fall on your shoulders.
If your children are pestering you for a dog, and you really do not want one, do not give in. Alternatives include, having your child volunteer at the local dog shelter, offering to look after friends or neighbours dogs, and fostering dogs. You might even like to borrow a neighbours dog that your child takes to dog school. This would be a great lesson for your child, and your neighbours will be having their dog trained for free! Each of these activities allows your child to have dogs in their life but without the continual commitment.
When you feel comfortable with the fact that you will be the primary carer of your dog, you should include the children in the decision making process and preparation for the arrival of a new dog. This is where you can buy some time, have the children do the research and by research I don’t mean one or two days of Googling ‘dogs’ but much more in depth research. Talk to the children about all of the decisions that need to be made in relation to this new dog. These may include…
Adopting an older dog or a baby puppy? Breeder or shelter? Which breeder or shelter? What breed? Local council registration cost? Initial costs, outlay and ongoing? Worming and flea treatment costs/brands? Pet Insurance? Training school? Which veterinarian? Food, including treats? Equipment needed, including toys? Walking destinations? Sleeping and living arrangements of the new dog/puppy? Pet minders if you go away? Other household pets’ needs?
This is just the beginning, the list could go on with your own questions particular to your family situation. You can hopefully see why this could buy you some time. It should take your children months and months to properly research all of this.
Having your children do this research is good for a couple of reasons. First, your children will realise that adopting a puppy or dog is a serious matter that requires thorough planning. It also gives you an opportunity to find out how committed they are, this will help you measure your expectations for them when the dog arrives. It also opens discussion on the topic, and gives all family members a voice about what they want and expect from a pet dog.
Sometimes people want a dog for their child to overcome dog related fears. Involving the children in the adoption process is a great idea to help them feel more control over the situation. If you or your children are scared of dogs it is best to adopt an older dog who is calm, rather than a jumping, biting puppy with sharp teeth. Adopted older Greyhounds are wonderful for this situation, they are very quiet and only require on lead walking which would suit a family that is too scared to socialise at the local dog park.
Children and dogs can learn so much from one another and it can give your child some wonderful memories for the rest of their life. The decision to adopt a dog should involve the children, but in the end, no matter how old your children are, the responsibility will fall on you. First and foremost you, the adult, should be ready to have a dog.