The 11 questions you need to ask yourself before you get a dog.

Bringing a dog up with children is truly magical. BUT it can also come with lots of challenges, chaos, hard work, training, and lots of planning ahead of time. 

If you are thinking about bringing a puppy or a dog into your family home and are wondering if now is the right time, keep reading!

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As adorable and divine as puppies, babies and toddlers are, they require SO much time, love and attention from us. As a dog trainer, when I advise my clients about when the right time to get a dog is, what I am really trying to do is to help set them up for success. 

I never want to be the bad one to tell you not to get a dog. Rather, I want to be able to help you give your puppy the best possible start to life. Because a puppy that has the best start to life should grow up to be a beautiful family dog. 

My goal is to make things as easy and stress free as possible for you and your family. Having a puppy in the house is pretty much like having another toddler. You need to watch them, teach them, sleep train them, toilet train them, feed them, exercise them, the list goes on and on.

People need to be aware of this before making the commitment, rather than realising they can’t manage and then the puppy ends up in a shelter.

So - are you thinking about getting a dog?

There are SO many positives that come with owning a dog for both parents and kids. It is a proven fact that dogs make people happier. They teach you how to care for something other than yourself, they keep you fit and healthy, they always get excited when you come home, they keep you company and they give you unconditional love. They can also help our kids in so many ways.

Image: Supplied. 


In saying that, a dog is certainly not for everyone. And I have seen firsthand what can happen when someone takes on a dog and it doesn’t work out. It can be heartbreaking for both the dog and the owner.

The timing of when you decide to get a dog is incredibly important. My advice: ideally any family looking to get a dog should wait until your youngest child is around five years old. The older your kids the better.

Why? Because they listen, follow instructions, take directions, and can actually get involved with the training, daily activities and fun games that come with owning a new puppy/dog. Plus, a child of this age is more predictable and able to engage safely with the new puppy/dog. 

If your children are younger than five and you’re reading this, don’t feel disheartened - I am coming from a good place, I promise! I want you to be able to love and care for your child and give them the undivided attention that they want and need. 

Bringing a puppy into a home when you have a baby or a toddler is going to be hard work, and you may not be able to get the most and the best out of both of them. 

I’m not saying it will be a disaster, but it is something to think about. Trust me, I have seen some of my clients really struggle with this. 

Cooper and the family. Image: Supplied. 


Our dog Cooper was two when we had our daughter Harper and it was perfect for us. Waiting until your puppy is 1.5-2 (or older) before bringing a new baby home is ideal.

I know this is easier said than done, and things happen. The first year or two of a dog’s life is really all about getting through that puppy stage; they require a lot of hard work, training, and socialisation in order to become a beautiful family dog. 

Dogs are social beings, and they require plenty of attention, affection and mental stimulation too. If they become bored, they may get destructive. 

Dog can also be incredibly costly! You’ve got the initial adoption or purchase fee, dog food and treats, pet insurance, vet bills, equipment, bedding and toys, plus holiday care for your dog when you go away. And trust me, it all adds up. 

Then you put children in the mix too and yes it can be beautiful, but it can also be total chaos. So, waiting until your kids are the right age and/or waiting until your dog is the right age, will just help to make things easier on you.

Cooper as a puppy. Image: Supplied. 

Before getting a dog, ask yourself these 11 questions.

1. Is your lifestyle suitable for a dog? 

Do you work full time, and very long hours? What will you do with the dog all day? Do you go away often? 

2. Is the whole family committed to this dog?

For at least 15 years (sometimes more if you are lucky!) and helping to train it? 

3. Is your house set up for a dog? 

Do you have space, the right rental agreements and a safe yard? 


4. Are you able to take some time off when you get the dog to help it settle in? 

As a trainer, I think this is important. 

5. Do you have the time and patience to invest in training? 

This is an everyday commitment for the first few years and requires ongoing attention to set yourselves up for a successful life together. 

6. Do you have the budget for a dog? 

Dogs are expensive! 

7. If you have children already, is your youngest child five? 

Waiting till your youngest is five will make the whole process so much easier.

8. If you don’t have children already, are you planning on having kids? 

Plan wisely. A dog aged over two will be easier to manage with a baby than a younger dog. 

9. Do you have the time to exercise your dog? 

Dogs need daily exercise. A tired dog is more likely to be a well-behaved dog, so this is important. Not just on those warm sunny days, but also throughout winter. So you need to be prepared for this.

10. Are you prepared for the mistakes your dog might make? 

i.e. chewing your favourite shoes. Puppies are just learning, so we need to be patient with them. Set them up for success. But there’s sure to be a few accidents along the way. Don’t be fooled, adult dogs can also get bored if not exercised or stimulated enough and become destructive too.

11. Do you really want a dog? 

Are you doing this for you or for your family? If you are going to be the one looking after the dog, you have to want it too. 

If you can’t answer yes to majority of these questions, then maybe right now is not the right time for you and your family to get a dog. 

Don’t get me wrong - the joy a dog brings to a family is truly magical. But so much hard work needs to go in first to ensuring this happens. Supervision and management will be essential when kids and dogs are in the mix. If you have decided that you’re up for the challenge and ready to put in the hard work then go for it. 

Mel Ritterman is a qualified dog trainer and mum-of-three. You can see more from Mel on her website Cooper and Kids, or follow her on  Instagram or Facebook

Disclaimer: Cooper and Kids will not be liable for anything that happens to you, your dog or children by following the advice and tips in this article. If you have real concerns or worries about your dog and/or safety of your children, please seek out a professional to come and assess the situation ASAP.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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