Care.com

Jean Marie Bauhaus @JeanMarieB83

Things to Consider Before Getting a Dog for Your Family

Do the kids keep asking for a dog? Here are 11 things parents should consider before adding a dog to the family.

No matter how much the kids beg, there are several important things to consider before getting a dog. These factors will help you determine not only whether your family's truly ready, but also what type of dog is best for both you and the kids. To help ensure a harmonious adoption.

Here are 11 things to consider before getting a dog:
 

  1. Do You Understand the Commitment?
    Dogs are wonderful companions -- loving and loyal and a lot of fun. They can also be whiny and messy and destructive. By adopting a dog, you're promising to care for him for the rest of his life, through thick and thin. Make sure you're ready for the commitment before you take the plunge.
     
  2. Do You Have Little Ones?
    According to The Association of Professional Dog Trainers, very young children are generally not well-suited for either toy breeds or small puppies, both of which are very fragile. If you're considering a rescue, a house with rambunctious young children isn't the best match for a senior dog, either.
     
  3. Will Everyone Get Along?
    Some breeds do better with kids than others. Labrador retrievers, for example, have a reputation for being excellent with children, according to the American Kennel Club. It's important to research breed temperament, and also to keep your child's temperament in mind.
     
  4. Are You Ready for a Change?
    A new dog is likely to disrupt your family's established routine and structure. If your kids are just starting school or are in another situation where it's important to avoid too much disruption, it might be best to wait for a time when the family's routine has more room for flexibility.
     
  5. Is a Dog Really for You?
    Are you outdoorsy? Do you enjoy long walks? Do you travel a lot? Are everyone's schedules so maxed-out that they're hardly ever home? These factors will not only help determine whether a dog realistically fits into your family's lifestyle, but also what type of dog will be the best fit.


     
  6. Is Anyone in the Family Allergic?
    Bringing a dog into a home where one or more members of the family are allergic is a recipe for heartbreak. Before adopting a dog of your own, take the whole family to visit a friend or family member who has dogs, and keep an eye out for any adverse reactions.
     
  7. Who Will Be Responsible for Daily Care?
    Is getting a dog contingent on your child's promises to take responsibility for daily care? What happens if your kid fails to live up to the bargain? While a pet can be a great way to teach children responsibility, it's not fair to the dog to kick him out of the family if little Billy loses interest.
     
  8. Do You Live in a "Doghouse"?
    Breeds of all sizes have different needs. Some large breeds can actually do great in apartments as long as they get walked regularly, while some smaller breeds do best with big yards that allow them to run and burn energy. This is another area where research is key.
     
  9. Have You Considered the Veterinary Costs?
    Much like kids, dogs not only need routine health care, but are also prone to accidents and illnesses. When deciding whether your family can realistically afford a dog, be sure to factor health care into the budget, and consider the cost of canine health insurance.

    If you don't already have a vet in mind, check out Veteranarians: How to Choose a Vet for tips on finding the right doc for your pooch.
     
  10. Are Any Big Changes Coming?
    Changes to routine or environment tend to cause dogs stress, which could lead to anxious behaviors such as whining, excessive barking and forgetting their house training. If you're aware of any major changes in the immediate future, it might be best to wait to get a dog until things are more settled.
     
  11. Will You Be Ready to Say Goodbye?
    It's hard to understand how attached you can get to a dog until you actually experience it. This often goes double for kids. Unfortunately, dogs have much shorter life spans than people do, and there inevitably comes a time when you're forced to say goodbye. As a parent, you should consider whether you're prepared to help your kids cope with loss when tragedy strikes.
     

Still not sure you're ready? Here are 10 Signs Your Family is Ready for A Pet. Do you have a dog? Share how your dog came to be part of the family in the comments!

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a freelance writer and editor whose articles on pet care have appeared on such popular websites as The Nest and The Daily Puppy. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her husband and their family of furbabies.