How do you know if your family is ready for a puppy?
In 2017, our dog Lucy passed away from a painful degenerative bone disease. She was an amazing dog but, to be honest, we weren’t sure we would ever bring another dog home while the kids are still young.
We have five children in our house, and several of them have special needs. They are also spread out between four different schools and between doctors, therapy, caseworker visits, court, etc, we are busy. As much as we missed Lucy, I have to admit we were enjoying the freedom of being able to pick up and go on vacations and not needing to worry about who would come home in the middle of the day to let the dog out if we had plans.
We looked into the possibility of a therapy dog for Nicholas, but we wanted a dog the entire family could enjoy as a pet. We weren’t sure a dog who would be working with only one of our children the majority of the time was the best option. (Although we still love the possibility of a therapy dog.)
We did not plan to get a puppy, but that’s what happened. We were at a local food festival one weekend and there were a few animal shelters with booths. Naturally, our kids fell in love. Our foster son lit up happier than we had ever seen him while he was snuggling the dogs. He even exclaimed several times, “This is the best day of my life!” One shelter had a beagle in their care who was pregnant when she was brought in off the street. She delivered a litter of puppies in the shelter. Our dog, Frankie, was one of those puppies. Here she is with our youngest daughter, Penny. You can’t put a price on joy like that.
Bringing Frankie home has been…challenging. She is a high-energy dog and with five kids to take care of, I don’t have that much extra energy myself. But of course we love her and we love that the kids are continuing to grow up with a dog. Having a pet teaches so much about unconditional love and responsibility. Today I wanted to share a few tips about how to know if your family is ready for a puppy.
Before bringing a puppy home, be sure to consider:
It’s Expensive. I didn’t realize that adopting a dog from a shelter costs as much as it does, especially if that dog is a new puppy. Budget several hundred dollars. Then of course you need to add fees for a new license, vaccinations, spaying or neutering, vet visits, etc.
They are babies. Just like human babies, puppies are fragile and they need constant attention, plus they don’t always sleep through the night. Frankie was only eleven weeks old when we brought her home and the shelter had just had her spayed a few days before. It was very hard to keep five excited kids from picking her up or petting her belly for the first few weeks. And it was even harder to keep a high-energy puppy from jumping or going on steps. I had a full-time job for the first few weeks just chasing the dog around and policing all the kids.
They come with a lot of stuff. In addition to the adoption fees and medical costs, be sure to budget for a crate, bedding, toys, food, a leash, collar, dog shampoo, flea and tick medication, heart worm medicine, etc. Think about where you are going to put all those things. We ended up converting a closet under our stairwell into a “dog condo.” We’ve also needed to install a baby gate to keep Frankie out of the kids bathroom and bedrooms.
They need to be trained. Frankie is seven months old now and is getting much better, but she is still a jumper and a barker and a BIG chewer. Plus she still has occasional potty accidents. I feel like training is taking forever. I do work with her every day, and she’s getting better. She can sit and drop something and responds to her name, and she generally goes to the door if she has to potty. We do have her enrolled in a local puppy kindergarten training class. Of course, that is another expense to consider.
Stuff will get ruined. I did not consider how much more challenging it would be to keep things out of the dog’s reach when there are kids in the house. The last time we adopted a dog Eddie and I were just married and did not have kids. There just wasn’t that much left out for her to get into. But with kids who constantly forget to put away toys or shoes or gloves, etc. I have to admit it’s been a losing battle. Also, be very, very careful with toys that have batteries. We are always nagging the kids to put things away higher or find a different spot. It’s very dangerous if the dog eats one.
How will the kids help? We haven’t made our kids pick up her poop, but they do let her out in the back yard when she goes to the door and they help to feed her and make sure her water bowl stays full. And it is their job to make sure the living room floor stays clean so that Frankie doesn’t eat anything she shouldn’t.
There are lots of small jobs kids of all ages can do to help take care of a family pet! How do your kids help?
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