Dogs have been part of our families for thousands of years, and there’s a great deal of science out there to explain why. Here is an interesting article by Smithsonian Magazine (2020) that delves into what and why dog’s choose as they do. They keep us company and help us become healthier and more active. They build our confidence, teach us responsibility, make us laugh and remind us how to have fun in abundance and live in the moment.
There’s no doubt that welcoming a dog into your home can be hugely beneficial, but… and there is a but, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether the time is right to add a canine companion to your family.
The Dog Knows that this is a big decision and not one that should never be taken lightly or too quickly, without weighing up all the pros and cons. So, let’s talk about some things you’ll need to consider if you are thinking about welcoming a dog into your family.
Every family member should have their say
Getting a dog is a huge change to the household dynamics. It’s essential that every member of the family feels involved and that their views and opinions are listened to and respected at each stage of the process. After all, everyone has their own feelings about whether they want to share their home with a dog for what could be anything up to fifteen years – sometimes even longer! Recent studies are disputing the old well known of comparing dogs ages to that of humans interested in finding our more.
Consider the impact on family life
You’ll need to think about questions like:
- What impact will a new dog have on family life overall?
- Is everyone willing to play an active role in taking care of the dog’s overall wellbeing?
- Can the family afford to care for a dog not only now but into the future? (A very important question, as aside from the obvious food bills, if your dog gets ill, vet bills can quickly mount up.)
- What about holiday times, and when people need to go out to work, college and school?
Which breed suits your family best?
Then there are questions about which breed of dog is right for your family. Should you choose a dog with lots of energy, or would it be better to opt for one that just needs a couple of short walks a day and is happy to chill for the rest of the time?
Should it be a small breed, a large breed, or something in-between? Would it be best to buy from a breeder, or would you like to give a shelter dog a second chance?
Children and dogs: growing up together
Children can benefit greatly from having a dog in their life. Someone to talk to and share secrets and thoughts with, without fear of being criticised or laughed at. A friend to play with and a companion to spend time with. Having pets during childhood years is a wonderful chance to learn about loss, caring, responsibility, empathy, and love in a very natural way.
But often, the timing is not right. Parents can be worn down by the emotional demands of a child begging to get a puppy, full of promises that they may not be mature enough to keep. Unfortunately, this can end in tears and sadness for both parents and children - and the outcome for the dog can be much worse.
Shared responsibility for your pet
But if, after careful consideration, you are sure it’s the right time, that’s even more reason to get everyone involved, children included. Start talking about the responsibility of pet ownership - what this looks like for them and what it means for the dog. A family discussion is a great time to discuss commitment and decide who will do what.
Take the opportunity to sit down around the table together and put together a simple contract with no more than half a dozen bullet points covering who will be responsible for each part of the dog’s care. This acts as a nice gentle reminder of who said they would do what and makes it so much easier to restart the conversation if things don’t go…. according to plan, shall we say.
A decision this big, should be a joint one
Before you make the final decision, give everyone the chance to discuss their opinions and objections openly and amicably. You may be surprised to learn that not everyone feels the same way about having a new family member, and without an honest discussion, this can cause conflict and frustration. Keep it neutral, and don’t let emotional blackmail creep into the decision-making process. Otherwise, you’re potentially sowing the seeds for discontent and fallouts down the road when everyone, including the animal, will suffer. This article from RTE Brainstorm discusses thoughts on not only the benefits but also some of the realities.
Be fair, and ask questions without judgement, guilt, or criticism. This will build and strengthen family relationships and remember, as The Dog Knows, saying no now is not saying no forever.
Let's get social
Did you grow up with pets in your house? Can you remember what it felt like? Did they make you feel safe or like you had someone to talk to who you could trust without judgement? I know I did!
Why do we do the things we do?
I was recently asked how I came to be doing what I’m doing (working with families and dogs). This really made me smile. As, over the last three years I have asked this question of myself many times.