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Are you considering buying a dog for your child or children?
Before you do, take a moment to evaluate your family and determine if your children are ready for a dog. Here are some questions you might use to help you decide if buying a dog is right for your family.
Babies and Toddlers
Is this your first dog? Do you have older children as well? Why are you getting a dog now?
These three questions will help you to consider whether you have the knowledge concerning the time and effort required to care for a dog. Dogs are a big responsibility and if you have not been solely responsible for a dog previously you may find the work and time involved in training, feeding, grooming and playing to be more than you can handle while caring for a young baby or toddler.
Your young children may benefit from having a dog from a young age. They will certainly develop very strong attachments to the family pet. But young children are not very trustworthy to be left alone around a dog and they are not aware enough to desire a pet. Not only will they do just as well without a dog, but the extra caution needed while young children are present may cause you more stress and frustration than waiting until they are older.
If you are deciding to get a dog because you feel it is a normal part of family life and you want to 'complete' the package while your child is young, do not rush into purchasing a dog right away. For the various reasons above, a dog should be considered a major decision and waiting one year or more may be best for your situation.
If the dog is to be a companion to a mom who will now be home alone with her child for long periods of time, maybe an older dog will provide the needed company while avoiding the extra work of training a puppy.
Preschoolers and Young Children
If your family is established and you are not expecting to add a baby into the mix, you still need to consider a few things before getting a dog.
Are you aware of the time required? Can you afford a dog? Will your children be safe?
The work of training (especially house training) and caring for a puppy can easily take several hours of your day. Depending on your method of obedience and house training you should consider if you have the energy to deal with a puppy consistently and with urgency while implementing house rules at this crucial stage.
Young children and preschoolers may find it exciting to help you feed, wash and walk the dog. However, children this young are still likely to startle or maul a puppy which may lead to accidental injuries - harming both the puppy and the child.
The cost of owning a dog must also be considered. Vet fees, adoption or purchase costs, licensing, food and grooming should be accounted for before going to pick the dog out. Doing your homework now will avoid unpleasant disappointment in the future.
If you feel that your life is free enough of distractions that you will look forward to the temporary unsettling of bringing a puppy home, you may well find this a wonderful, curious age that will be delighted with a puppy. You will need diligence in watching both the puppy and children until training has been established. You will also need to give your children reminders about how they must treat the puppy to prevent accidents.
Older Children and Teens
Some families choose to wait until children are older before bringing a dog home. In many cases they feel this will be an aid in teaching their children responsibility. But what questions should parents of older children ask before getting a dog?
Who is responsible for the dog? How long will the dog be with you?
In all cases the parents must ultimately accept the responsibility of caring for the dog, both financially and physically. Although your pre-teen may insist on his or her desire to take full responsibility for walking, feeding and playing with the dog, you as a parent must be willing to take this on if your child fails to keep to his or her word.
It is a big responsibility to take on a pet like a dog. They are far more demanding on your attention than cats or other pets. They are social animals and you will be doing great harm if you leave your dog tied up outside for days at a time, ignored and unhappy.
If you still choose to get a dog as a family pet you should consider the future care of the dog. A dog generally has a life span of 10 - 15 years, depending on the breed. If you are getting a dog as a companion for an older child or a teenager who will ultimately care for the dog during the years to come when your child leaves home, goes to college or gets married?
While all of these questions should assist you in determining if your family should get a dog right now, it is also wise to find out more about the kind of dog that would best suit your family. All the work you do beforehand will help you make a choice that everyone will be able to enjoy!
Shannon Emmanuel is a freelancer writer and the author of "How to Select the Best Dog or Puppy for Your Children". Find out more about choosing a family dog at http://best-dog-breed-for-children.com
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