Many parents of young kids telling me how badly they want to get a puppy. But as soon as I tell them that looking after a puppy is like having another toddler in the house, they often think twice.
I don’t want to scare people off from getting a dog, that’s the last thing I want to do. However, I am very mindful of being open and honest about the amount of work a new puppy takes.
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.
A couple of months ago, I was seriously contemplating another puppy. My daughter Harper was just on three, our little boy Paxton was 18 months and our dog Cooper is 5, so I thought it could be a good time.
As a little test, I borrowed a family member’s new puppy while I had the kids at home to see how I’d go. I really thought I would be able to manage - boy was I wrong! Like most puppies she was overly excitable, loved to chase the kids and nip them (puppies have razor blade sharp teeth), jump on them, steel their toys and their food.
She was also toilet training, so I constantly had to take her outside to avoid accidents in the house. Plus, her and Cooper were playing like mad, to the point where they could have knocked over one of the kids and hurt them quite badly. Very quickly, I changed my mind and realised that now is definitely not the right time, in my chaotic world, to add another puppy in the mix.
As I mentioned, a new puppy is much like a toddler, in fact the similarities are quite amazing and the combination of the two can be quite a handful. So, for those of you with toddles who are thinking about getting a puppy, here is a little something for you to think about...
TODDLER OR PUPPY?
Toddler: Curious of everything, exploring the world, want to touch and feel everything and constantly putting things in their mouths.
Puppy: Exactly the same! They especially love to put things in their mouths! You literally can’t leave anything lying around the house without the puppy wanting to play with it/chew it.
Toddlers: Need to be toilet trained.
Puppies: Also need to be toilet trained.
Toddlers: Need to learn how to sleep through the night (well hopefully by toddler stage they are doing this, but not always).
Puppies: Also need to learn to sleep through the night. Just as you think you’ve gotten there with you toddler, your puppy might cry out throughout the night - especially on their first few nights. Be prepared.
Toddler: Teaching teaching teaching – as a parent, you are constantly teaching your toddler.
Puppy: Training Training Training – from the second you bring them home the training must begin if you want a well-behaved dog. At times, having very young kids in the house can make this quite challenging and frustrating.
Toddler: Learning to walk.
Puppy: Learning to walk on the lead – this doesn’t always come easy.
Toddler: Getting them to listen to you when you call them. Sometimes I wish my kids were as well trained as my dog at this.
Puppy: Teaching them Recall (to come when called), also takes a lot of practice and is very important.
Toddler and puppy: Positive reinforcement works better than punishment.
Toddler: Constantly leaving toys and things all over the floor of the house.
Puppy: Want to play with literally anything that is left on the floor. My tip for preventing your puppy destroying household items (shoes, socks, kids toys, etc) is to not leave them lying around.... Hmmmm not so easy with young kids.
Toddler: You are often housebound for toddler sleeps and having children does mean you are home more.
Puppy: Puppies love company and it’s a great time to focus on early training.
Toddlers: Whether your toddler is still in nappies or going to the toilet, you’re still most likely constantly
Puppy: Someone needs to pick up the dog poo – and I’m guessing, it’s going to be you!
So, you’ve read everything over and even though you’re busting for a puppy you feel that it might not be the right time, don’t feel bad to wait it out a little longer. Give it one more year maybe.
It’s hard work, and putting in the time for training is key in those early puppy days. Having your kids that little bit older so they can be involved and on board in the training process will make it that much easier.
In the meantime, if you know which breed you want, you could put your name down on a few reputable breeders lists and just wait it out. Or start visiting some shelters. Perhaps you would like to rescue an older dog and skip the puppy phase. But if you go down the rescue path, please make sure that you choose a dog that is great with children.
Just remember, when bringing a puppy into the house, it is so important that all family members are on board with the training. Everyone needs to be consistent and doing the same thing so the puppy doesn’t get confused or get mixed messages which can lead to behavioural issues down the track.
Whatever you decide, puppies are the best things ever. I love them and honestly wish I could play with them all day long! Along with endless cuteness, they are hard work so hopefully this post has armed you with the information to make the best decision for you.
If you have decided that you’re up for the challenge, ready to put in the hard work, then go for it. Along with the chaos, a new puppy is guaranteed to bring absolute pleasure and joy into your lives.
Mel is a certified dog trainer, wife, and mother of two humans and one Golden Retriever. For more about the dos and don’ts of living with kids and dogs, visit her blog Cooper and Kids. You can also follow her on Facebookand Instagram.