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Things to Consider Before Getting A Dog

Parent Category: Dog Talk
Created: 28 October 2014

A lot of people and children in particular are influenced by what they see or hear about dogs in the media and then decide that they want to have a dog of their own. In particular watching a film with a dog as a key character can be very compelling!

Unfortunately watching a film you don’t really get a sense of what the needs of the dog are and how much time, cost and energy it takes to properly look after one. A great deal of commitment is needed to understand and fulfil the responsibilities of dog ownership.

On the upside, of course a dog can be a wonderful companion for a child and owning a dog can teach them important lessons like responsibility, self-​control, caring, compassion and loyalty.

Generally dogs are very loving pets and provide the family with a joint sense of purpose: for example, everyone can have a share in fulfilling the needs of your dog, taking turns to feed it, train it and you can go out for a walk together to exercise the dog as well as taking pleasure in finding different places to visit or new things you can do together with the dog.

For adults having a dog can also help counter the stress of a high-​powered job enhance our self-​esteem, and alleviate life stresses — so long as the dog is well-​trained and balanced.

If you are faced with a child who wants a dog or puppy of their own, apart from reminding them that puppies quickly grow into adults that may not be quite so cute, they need to know that puppies don’t arrive understanding how to behave in our home environment; they need training and socialisation which means almost constant attention in the early months.

What’s more it is often unsafe to allow a young child to walk a dog on their own — you are always going to have to take charge other than when you are in a park or field away from the potential hazards of traffic or other dogs!

Even once a dog has had initial training, it is unfair (and potentially unsafe) for then to be left on their own for very long otherwise accidents and ‘unacceptable’ behaviour can be the result. It would be unacceptable to bring any dog, let alone a puppy, into a home where they would be regularly left on their own for long periods each day while everyone is out at school or work. Indeed any reputable breeder, shelter or rescue centre will refuse to allow you to take a dog if this is your lifestyle.

Add to this the fact that some people who get a dog find that once the initial excitement has worn off, the dog’s routine can become a tedious duty and the other responsibilities and costs are too much to tolerate! Many dogs end up being abandoned and need re-​homing, which is not at all fair on the animals.

Sadly too, it can be the case that children all too often promise to help look after a dog and then get distracted with the next fashion fad, leaving their parents to do much or all of the work! So parents need to be sure it is what they want to commit to too.

There is another issue about dogs and families which is very difficult to get right and that is the consistency of training. Ideally all family members should be consistently using the same methods and words — otherwise your dog will get confused and not learn what you are trying to teach!

So What Is The Best Course Of Action If Your Children Are Dead Set On A Dog Of Their Own?

As a first step, perhaps you might suggest that your children experiment with a technology pet like a Nintendog (or a Furby or Tamagotchi) first, so that they can learn more about what is really involved in looking after a living pet.

These technology pets simulate what it is like to look after a pet; children can feed, talk to, pet, groom, train, walk and play games with their virtual dog and so gain an understanding of the demands of owning a real pet. Of course you may need to sell this idea a little, but if they are really, really, really serious and it is not a ‘fad’ then it is likely they will agree, eager to prove that they have what it takes and you should comply with their wishes!

If your child does this and still wants a dog, and it looks like they understand what is involved, perhaps you can initially find a way for your child to look after someone else’s dog for a little while to show that they can keep the commitment with a living pet.

Do you have a family member nearby with a dog or a close neighbour who would assist with this? If not, there are people with businesses who specialise in looking after other people’s dogs while they are busy or away — this can be ‘day hosting’ or more, a few days or a week or more (for example the one we are associated with is Animal Ark which is an extremely well run organisation where every aspect of dog care has been considered and covered).

Dog hosting is a great way to have a dog for a little while and see if it would suit you… in fact being assessed as a prospective host can give you an insight into what is required in order to be a responsible dog owner! In fact you may find that becoming a host is enough and being able to choose to have a dog at home or not, and decide when, is enough rather than having a full-​time dog. Some families are content with this arrangement.

However, after trying it out either with an electronic dog and preferably with a real one, if it seems that your child still really wants to have a dog of their own and you believe they are likely to take the responsibility seriously, then go ahead and take the next step. Make contact with your local dog shelter, rescue centre or breeder. As mentioned above, the good ones will make sure that it is the right decision for you AND the dog.

If it appears that your lifestyle is not suitable or you and your family members would not be willing or able to do what it takes to care for a dog, or you feel that a dog is just not the right pet, then you can always look at all ‘pet’ options and consider other pets that suit your home and lifestyle…

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Be Safe With Your Dogs!