I’ve had a love/terrified relationship with dogs for most of my life. As a young child I LOVED them…until I had a traumatic experience at 2 years old. For the next decade of my life I spent my time terrified of all dogs, no matter what size, shape or age. Put me near a dog and I would stand paralyzed. After years of working on my fear, my family finally decided to get a dog when I was around 14 and I’ve had a dog in my life ever since.

This week we celebrate National Dog Appreciation Day, so I thought I’d talk about the things that you and your family should consider when deciding whether or not to bring a dog, or any pet for that matter, into your lives.

Does everyone in the household want a pet?

If your children or partner want the pet and love to see and play with dogs when you’re at the park or other people’s homes, great. But what if one of your children has a fear like I did? Now my fear was not just a small little, hide behind my mother until I felt comfortable fear. I literally froze anytime I was around ANY kind of animal. In fact, my great grandfather and his toy poodle, Tootsie, had to move in with us just to help me through my trauma.

But I was a unique situation, having dealt with a traumatic experience. There are some people that just don’t like pets. Is there someone in your household that isn’t on board with getting an animal? Animals are a big responsibility…it sure makes it a lot easier on the family if everyone wants to bring a pet home.

Are you a dog person?

Some people are dog people, others are cat people. The first thing to know about dogs is that they are social. They love to be around you. They depend on you. And they communicate with you…yes, whether it’s through vocalization or urination, they will let you know exactly how they are feeling.

If you want a pet, but maybe not so much responsibility, then a dog may not be the right choice for you and your family. Maybe start of with a fish. Something that requires a little less of a commitment.

Do you like to sleep?

Puppies are just like babies. They are up at all hours of the night, needing to pee, or just be reassured that you are there. They cry, they want to be held and they will inevitably wake up several times throughout the night for the first couple of months.

If you are past that stage with your children and are not looking to go back to those sleepless night, you may want to rethink the puppy. I will tell you that those sleepless nights typically last for a significantly shorter period of time with a dog then with a human, but they still happen.

Are you an early riser?

Some children, once they sleep through the night, sleep until 7ish or even 8ish. Some kids wake up early…around 5ish. Puppies are like the early rising children…because they have to go to the bathroom.

If you like to get up early, great! If you’ve decided to crate train your dog then it’s pretty easy for you to get them from the crate and take them out first thing in the morning. Unlike babies, puppies don’t wear diapers. So not only are they waking you up, but then you have to hurry them outside to make sure they don’t pee in your house…not always something that can be done half asleep.

Are you ready to train and be consistent?

Having a new dog takes time and commitment. Dogs need to be fed several times a day, need to be taken out to pee and poop (like every 3-4 hours) and need to be walked several times a day. It takes time and dedication to properly bring a dog into your life.

Dogs need to be trained. Unfortunately, they don’t just come home able to sit and stay on command, walk nicely on a leash and not chew anything and everything in your home. Before I met my husband I already had a dog, Addie. Addie is a wonderful labradoodle that I had trained to be a therapy dog. Before my husband and children, I had plenty of time to dedicate to Addie, to ensure that she was trained properly. I used to bring her to my office and clients used to love to play with her.

I often say having a puppy is like dealing with a toddler. Consistency and follow through is key. If you want a dog to learn a new command it will take time, practice and commitment. You will need to adhere to these new commands and make sure you follow through with them otherwise the puppy will not learn.

Even dogs need help with transitions

My husband moving in was one change that made small alteration in Addie’s behavior and training. Suddenly there were 2 people to play with, 2 people walking her and 2 people that had different ways of training her.

When I was pregnant with P I called my trainer again because I wanted to make sure that Addie was going to be ok with another new person joining the family. We started implementing some new commands, like “bed” where whenever I say that, Addie runs to her dog bed and stays there. Addie was amazing with P when I brought her home, but I was still worried due to my own experiences.

Dogs are tricky little things…they can and most likely will chew your child’s favorite toy or finish their meal for them. Addie sits right under T when he’s eating, just waiting for him to drop food. And dogs have to contend with your growing children moving through several phases…like the pulling everything phase, or the hitting phase. Your family dog will inevitably become a target…

My dog trainer was great and helped my husband and I create an environment with Addie where we all felt safe and loved. But it took time and practice. We had to practice the new commands, practice walking Addie on a leash while also pushing a stroller and continue to reinforce commands like ‘gentle’ and ‘stay’.

Making the right choice

Once thing to really consider is what kind of family you are. If your family is extremely athletic and loves to hike and swim and ride bikes, then you might want to think about getting a dog that will be able to keep up with you. For example, a small teacup poodle may not be the right fit, while a golden retriever may be perfect. Also, if you have a family member that has allergies, you may need to think about getting a hypoallergenic dog, or one that doesn’t shed.

Do your research and really think about what animal will fit best with your lifestyle. If you travel a lot and cannot bring pets with you when you travel, maybe now is not the time to get a pet. If you are homebodies that enjoy quiet times indoors, don’t get a dog that requires a lot of exercise and stimulation. There are plenty of website and information out there to help you in making your selection.

Do you know how much this will cost?

Dogs are expensive. Trips to the vet, shots, food, treats, trainers, groomers. You don’t just get a dog and call it a day. As a lifelong member of your family, they too will add cost to your everyday financial responsibilities.

If it’s just not in the cards for you financially at this time, that’s ok. Its better to know beforehand then wind up spending more than you can afford. Pets are not for everyone. Again…that’s OK!

It’s a go!

If you’ve done all the thinking and planning and are ready to get a dog, great! Whether you get a dog from a breeder or a shelter, remember to visit the facility and select the dog that you feel fits with your household the best. Ultimately you want to get the dog that has the right personality for you and your family. Don’t worry, when you get there, you’ll know. 😉