Have you been noticing all of the wagging tails walking down the street with their humans lately? Do you see pups and their people playing fetch at the dog park and think it looks like so much fun? Or, have your kids been asking you for a dog? However you have come to this point, it is an exciting one to be at. Bringing a dog into your family is an opportunity to grow and experience new things together while teaching your kids new responsibilities. But, the biggest thing you will feel when you have a dog in your life is love – unconditional love.
Select a Breed
Choosing a dog breed is a personal decision that is unique to each person or family. You may have grown up with a specific breed, such as a chocolate lab, and long for those beautiful eyes and gorgeous brown coats. Or maybe you had a small dog that could fit in your backpack that you loved to carry around as a kid. Whatever your memory and sentimental breed attachment may be, you are sure to find something special.
Back to the lab example, look to qualified and reputable breeders, such as those at Lucky Labs, to find exactly what you are looking for. Always ask the breeders about the pup’s parents, potential health issues, any vaccinations or veterinary exams that will occur before adoption, and how long they have been in business. Discuss their expectations and experience with the breed so you can learn more and understand exactly what you are getting into.
Another option is to go to a local animal shelter. You will have a vastly different experience with this route than with a breeder. Breeders have exact pedigree information and birthdates available. A shelter tends to have a lot more unknowns, so you need to be comfortable with that level of ambiguity.
Ask shelter staff the same questions that you would ask a breeder, including whether they know where the dog came from and any information on their health and behavior history. Also, ask if they know if the dog is well-socialized with other dogs, cats, adults, and especially kids. Finally, inquire if they know why the dog ended up in the shelter. Any information you can get will help you make an informed decision for everyone in your home.
Commit to Training
Training your dog is an essential component of any functional and successful dog and family integration story. It starts with a commitment on you and your family’s part in terms of time and devotion to the repetition required of training a dog. Even if you adopt an older dog, they will still need to learn the rules in your home and perhaps also unlearn some unfortunate behaviors that caused them to be rehomed in the first place.
If you have never had a dog before or are unsure of how to go about training a dog, rest assured there are plenty of resources available. Try to schedule a class or session before your dog comes home. This way, you can set the stage for encouraging wanted behaviors and routines immediately.
Regardless of your dog training skill set, there is always more to learn and reinforcement for you and your family members. It is also a good idea to revisit training techniques after you have returned from a vacation or if you intend to host houseguests. Watch this video for gentle guidance on how to train a new puppy.
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Ensure you Have Time
Pets of any type are a major commitment in time. They require lots of love and attention beyond quiet cuddles on the couch, which are quite wonderful, of course. Pets, especially dogs, need daily exercise. You and your family will need to work out a schedule for who will take your dog for a walk, when it will happen, and for how long. Walks are essential for dogs as they help release extra energy and keep them healthy, just as it is for humans.
The other thing about dogs is that they need exercise regardless of the weather or outdoor temperature. Sometimes walks will be shorter if it is raining or below zero outside, but they still need to happen because that is also your dog’s time to go to the bathroom. Dogs, by their good nature, do not want to use their home as a bathroom. They would much rather go outside. They need you to make that happen.
Take a good look at everyone in your household’s daily activities, jobs, commute times, and any other responsibilities they may have. Depending on their ages, you can expect and encourage help from them. Older kids can walk the dog before and after school. You and your partner can come home at lunch for a quick bathroom walk. As time passes, the lunchtime break will no longer be necessary.
Another part of ensuring you have time for a dog is making sure the dog will not be alone all of the time. It is understandable that the adults work during the day and kids go to school. There are after-school activities to be sure, but there needs to be a collective awareness that your dog still needs to spend time with you. If everyone’s schedule is too busy right now to incorporate a dog into their lives, then perhaps this is not the best time to adopt a dog. That is a difficult decision to make, but it will be best for everyone if that is what you decide.
If you and your family feel it is time to bring a wonderful dog into your family, be confident in your abilities to care for your new family member. You will reap so many benefits from having a dog in your life, from being more active to always having a special friend to cuddle with, your dog will be there for you with unbounded love and affection. It is time to get back to a simpler life with a new furry best friend to spend your days with.