Dogs are part of the family. We have two dogs a Golden Retriever & a Norfolk Terrier and they are like additional children but as the saying goes "A dog is for life & not just for Christmas". The following tips are to help you decide if you are ready to bring a dog into your household and the considerations that you need to make.
When you acquire a dog in reality it is no different from having a new member in your household but unlike children they will never be able to effectively communicate with you, whatever their age. A dog will love you, worship you, be faithful to you & be happy to see you at whatever time as long as you give them respect.
- Am I ready to have a dog in the family? Dogs need attention and care as much as a child & if there is nobody at home during the day then even though the thought of having a dog as a pet may be attractive, it will cause major problems. An unattended dog will destroy your house & furniture & therefore it is essential that somebody is at home for the majority of the day.
- Dogs before children or vice-versa? Dogs will become very protective of their master or mistress and a new addition into the family may cause issues; my personal advice is to have the children that you want & when the youngest is about two years introduce a dog into the household. Dogs do need to understand their level in the pecking order though and children should always be put first. Obviously the biggest concern with a dog and a child is whether the dog could attack/bite the child. There are no hard and fast rules here but some breeds are more docile than others and it will also depend on the dog's pedigree and early days with the breeder. Do your research thoroughly on the breed before selecting. We have had a golden retriever and I can honestly say that she adores our children and has never hurt a fly but that is to say it could not happen with another golden retriever.
- What a dog needs. Apart from love and attention there are a number of basic guidelines that one needs to think about.
- Space - dogs need somewhere to go out during the day to exercise and do their business. Whilst it is possible to have a small dog in an apartment with no garden, it will mean that the owner will diligently have to take them outside to prevent accidents. A home with an enclosed garden is a definite preference.
- Exercise - a dog without regular exercise is going to get frustrated, bored & overweight and, depending on the size & breed of the dog, you should plan for a minimum of 45 minutes walking each day - can you fit this time into your schedule?
- Healthy diet - you need to check what food requirements (daily intake) are appropriate for the breed. As you can see from the difference in size between my two dogs they have a very different recommended daily allowance. Top Tip - do not be tempted to feed your dog at the dining table or when you are preparing food as they will become a pest forever.
- House Proud? Are you proud of your house & know you can invite somebody back at anytime & the house will be perfect; if so go for a cat? Dogs will bring dirt in from the garden, have accidents before they are fully trained, be ill sometimes and shred their toys to tiny pieces. Oh yes and a long-haired dog like the golden retriever will continuously molt throughout the year and the hair will creep into places you would not think possible!
Our dogs are part of the family and we and the children adore them and vice-versa. They cheer you up when you are sad, are always pleased to see you and never complain. The above points need to be thought about carefully though as if you are a full-time working couple who live in a 7th storey apartment and plan to have children in the future I would seriously think about getting a dog at that time in your life.