A child needs a dog. How can you go through childhood without a furry, drooly best friend to keep you company for your early years? If you're thinking about adopting a four-legged friend for your young family, you probably have questions. Can you take proper care of a dog? What should you feed it? Are there some breeds that are better than others when you have young children? These are all fantastic, legitimate questions that you should be asking; the last thing you want is to break your kids' hearts by getting a dog, then being forced to get rid of it because it was not a good fit. Like any big purchase, you need to do your research and understand your options. Which dog breeds work best with families, and what do you need to consider before bringing one into your house?
Care and Keeping of Your Pet
Since you're a parent, you already understand the concept of taking good care of something other than yourself. A pet can be a fantastic way to teach kids this idea early on, but remember that you and the rest of the family need to be adequately prepared to take on the additional responsibility if you're adopting a dog. There is so much to think about beyond who will take Fido for a walk. If the kids are begging you to let them get a dog, sit down with them and list out the duties that taking care of one requires.
Vet Visits, Health and Grooming
A yearly checkup is essential for humans, and so it goes with pets too. If you're going to own a dog, then you need to be as diligent about keeping it healthy as you would any other member of the family. Research veterinarians in the area and call around to check costs. Don't just ask about things like costs of vaccines, but about other, equally important services as well:
Spaying/neutering. It's the responsible thing to do when you're in charge of a dog's health. Avoid accidental litters of puppies by getting your dog fixed, but understand the cost involved. Neutering is usually a little cheaper than spaying; a basic snip-snip operation versus an in-depth surgery can be a significant price difference. Even if you don't know what gender you want to get yet, it's worth asking about pricing and healing time for both. It could impact your decision.
Bathing, nail clipping and anything else that is part of grooming. Do you have enough space to install a dog bath in your home, or even a regular bathtub for bathing? Would you know how to clip the many toenails on your dog, or would you feel more comfortable sending them to a groomer?
Emergencies happen quickly and they can be expensive. What if Rover gets into lighter fluid without you knowing? Swallows a dish towel that gets stuck in his belly? These are realities that you might or might not think of ahead of time, but they add up quickly. Do you have an emergency fund, and if so, are you willing to spend it on an animal if the time comes?
What to Feed Them
It's no secret that dogs are hungry animals; the word "food" is often enough to get feet tippy-tapping and tails a-wagging. With so many options, especially these days, it's important to pick the right kind of food for your dog. This is another question to ask when you're researching vets: What kind of dog food is best for your potential pet?
Grain-free dog food is all the rage right now. There are plenty of benefits to the grain-free variety: A shiny coat and healthy skin, possible reduction of food allergies and more energy, since the grains are supplemented with extra protein sources and other kinds of carbohydrates (like potatoes, for instance). However, some reports are beginning to surface that there may be a link between grain-free food and heart disease in canines, which is another reason why it's important to consult a veterinarian before choosing a dog food.
Wet dog food might be considered a luxury, but some people prefer it to dry kibble for their dog. Why? Well, there are many reasons, but one of the most notable includes higher protein levels, which keep Fido fuller for longer. Another great benefit is that canned dog food contains fewer preservatives and is "fresher" than dry dog food.
The brand that you choose is another important feature — not all dog foods are created equal, just like not all human foods are. It's individual to what you can afford and what you value in a brand, but please, for the sake of your future dog, do plenty of research on what brands to avoid in dog food. Understand the recalls that have been made recently and educate yourself on why there have been recalls.
Where They Will Sleep, Live and Be When You're There and Not There
You might think this is a no-brainer: "Well of course Rover will wander the house while we're at work and school, duh!" This is a nice idea and definitely a personal decision, but think about things in terms of how your dog does. Will he be comfortable with an entire house to himself while everyone is out for the day? Will you? Consider the risks of letting your dog roam free inside the house and think about alternatives.
Remember: Puppies chew everything. If you're thinking about allowing a pup to go wherever they want while you're out and about, think also about anything their little needle teeth can sink into. Nothing is sacred to a teething puppy, which means that everything from electrical cords, table legs and window shades are at risk for getting shredded in your absence.
Crate training is becoming an increasingly popular method for dog owners. Don't assume that it's "mean" to "lock up" your dog while you're not around; dogs are denning creatures by nature and love to have a safe, secure place to call their own. If you're not totally sold on the idea, set up a small area for the dog, like a room with the crate door open. This way you can feel better knowing that he's free to have some space to walk around in, but can hide in his safe spot if he needs to.
If all else fails, consider doggie daycare. This is a great option for pet parents and for their dogs: You can rest assured that they're getting socialized in a safe, caring environment, and your dog will love having fun and playing with other dogs.
Best Breeds For Families
Remember the golden rule before you even start searching for a breed: There is no such thing as an inherently bad dog, only bad owners and bad publicity. As with everything else, educate yourself before deciding to go with a specific breed because all of them — even the most popular ones — have their perks and drawbacks. It all depends on what you are the family are looking for.
Are you surprised to read that? You shouldn't be. Although they've gotten some negative press in the past, don't be fooled: Pits are super smart and loyal, and are gentle giants when hanging out with little kids. They have enough energy to motivate you to get moving and outside playing, and have you ever seen a pitbull's smile? There's nothing like the happy face of a pit that stretches from ear to ear!
Come on, you really didn't think you'd make it through this list without seeing that, did you? Labradors, goldens and any of the remaining four types of retrievers are some of the best dogs for the family. They are beautiful, majestic-looking dogs that are easy to train because they're so eager to please their humans. Not only that, but they're energetic and can spend happy hours outside playing fetch, hiking the woods or swimming in any body of water they find (even if it's just a mud puddle on the ground).
Chances are you know at least one person who owns a doodle, which is a term for any kind of dog mixed with a poodle (miniature or standard). The most common types of doodles are usually retriever mixes: Labradoodles (Labrador and standard poodle) or Goldendoodles (golden retriever and poodle). Doodles are increasing in popularity in the United States thanks to their unique mixture: The above-average intelligence of a poodle, but the goofiness and sense of humor as a retriever. Be warned, though: These dogs can often be so smart that you might wonder if their DNA was shipped to a lab in a can of Barbasol.
As you already know, it's a labor of love to bring a dog into your home. Sit down with your family and talk about everything that you need to do together to make your future dog's life a happy and healthy one. There is a lot of work that goes into owning a dog, but you know that every ounce of work pays for itself in sloppy kisses and belly rubs.