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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Should You Get a Dog?

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Oliver's First Days
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The holidays are coming and many a child is already pressing Mom and Dad to get them a puppy. Puppies, and their resultant dogs, are a big responsibility--much more than any child can comprehend. They have no clue how many thousands of dogs end up in humane societies and pounds across the country, just a few short months after the holidays.

Taking on a dog is akin to adopting a child and should be contemplated with the same concern, research, dedication to quality, and vigor that a couple should decide on the time to start a family.

Children will often beg with many enticing reasons why it is time to bring a puppy into the home. Some of the most common that my kids used are:

  1. My kids promised to walk the dog every day. 
  2. They assured me they would feed them every morning and every night without fail.
  3. My children agreed to attend training classes, along with me, to learn how to properly raise our furry friend.
  4. They understood, up-front, that crate training was expected, and no puppies would be sleeping in their beds for a very long time.
  5. My kids promised not to give the puppy food from the dinner table, no matter how much the dog seemed to want it.
  6. They agreed to follow the rules that I established, based on "best practices" for raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted dog.
  7. My children helped me recruit a few of their more trustworthy friends to act as puppy sitters when we were gone for more than a few hours.
  8. They agreed to help keep the yard clean of doggie droppings.
  9. They offered to bathe the dog when needed.
  10. They assured to me they would be involved in socializing the puppy.

Well, you get the idea. Looking back, I believe we hit pay dirt consistently on 4 of the 9 items I listed, which, I suppose is not bad for children. Let's face it; they just were not mature enough to really understand that they were taking on the needs of another living creature.

What made it work for us was one thing; I knew that their commitment would wane along with the enthusiasm of having a puppy. I was prepared to take on the responsibility myself, but thought it would be a good lesson to get them involved to each of their abilities.

All of that has come full circle now, as the 3 dogs are doted over by my now adult "kids" quite thoroughly. It's a proud day for me when one bathes the dogs, another walks them, and still another feeds them. They request that I bring the dogs along to airport pickups, and enjoy the enthusiastic greetings they get each time we re-enter the house.

Me? I enjoy watching how seemlessly the dogs and the kids fall into family life as if nothing ever changed; no one went off to college or moved away to take on a law practice. We are all a family--committed, caring and looking out for one another.

That is what you must look at when you consider bringing a pet into your home. Are you ready for complete commitment? If not, please wait. The dog deserves a home where her needs are met regularly: exercise, discipline and affection, in that order. It is critical that you be dedicated to these, and that you enjoy them.

Yeah, I know. I sound like Cesar Millan. We're on the same page. Consider your decision carefully, with more thought to the dog's needs than to your own. If you do it this way, you will be much more successful.

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