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When are Kids the "Right Age" to add a Puppy?

Here are a few questions to consider, to help you decide.

“I cannot wait for Braxton to be 5, because then we can get a puppy!”, announced Wendy. According to Google, 5 is the right age to add a dog to a family with children. I think that there is more to the idea of getting a family dog than the age of the children. We all know young kids that are wonderful around dogs of all ages, and I think just as many of us know some 14-year-olds who are not.

The decision of whether to grow the family with a puppy needs to come down to whether the adults in the home want to add this responsibility to their plates. If the adults are fully on board, then any age/situation within the family can be managed and enjoyed. Is this the time to add a 4-legged friend to your family? Here are five questions to ask yourself:

Is at least one adult in the household truly excited about getting a puppy? If you are doing it simply “for the kids,” PLEASE DON’T. For busy parents who do not really want a dog, the tasks of raising a puppy can quickly become overwhelming.

Is the dog lover in the family the one who is home and available most? If the canine enthusiast in the family works 70 hours a week but promises to handle the dog care, this is not the time to get a dog. Even very smart dogs cannot be trained to only poop on the carpet when Daddy is home.

Who will train the puppy? The puppy/kiddo combo can be an awesome experience when the pup is nicely integrated into the household through proper planning and training – and exceedingly difficult to cope with otherwise. Will you be able to find the focus and energy necessary to teach the pup the things that make dog ownership rewarding and fun? Will you be ready to deal with – “He tore apart Mr. Bunny!” – dealing with the what ifs, and planning out of schedules to include training, exercise, gates for puppy proofed areas, storage of tempting treats, trips to the vet for check-ups and vaccines, grooming appointments, and the like?

Who will train the children? No matter how much you work with your new puppy, if he is constantly chased after by kids insistent upon pulling his tail, trying to ride him, and putting him in outfits, he is going to have no choice but tell the kids that he’s had enough. What might this look like? You will most likely not be happy to find out. Even the absolute best puppies from the absolute best breeders who have taken the time to socialize puppies to these kinds of things, are going to have their limits, and it won’t be the dog’s fault. Training your kids, and their friends, to be respectful of puppy and his boundaries, is imperative for everyone’s safety.

How do you feel about chaos? I You are imagining an adorable puppy, curled up on the couch between your children, but what about when puppy is awake? Your mother-in-law popped by for coffee and she just stepped in fresh poop. She is screaming in horror, but you cannot hear her because puppy just ate the foot of Captain America and your child is bawling. As you are taking in the view around you and apologizing to your mother-in-law, while reaching for paper towel and Gorilla Glue, the puppy just raced past grandma and is now running down the street and you’re not even out of your pajamas yet. So, how do you feel about getting a puppy?

Listen, getting a puppy can be such a great thing. They are sweet and loyal and so much fun. They can bring so much joy to everyone in the family. But, dogs always bring a certain amount of chaos to a home. I cannot imagine my life, our family, without our dogs. It’s been 14 years now with dogs. Our kids were 3, 5 and 6 when we began our doggie journey. The last 14 years have been filled with love, laughter and, yup, chaos. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Despite the loss of a gazillion pears of flip-flops, a few leather watch straps, a leather belt, the corner of the bed frame). Having dogs share our home has definitely helped us to learn to go with the flow, take it all in stride and learning to laugh! Wait, this is all great stuff for the kids to learn!

The key in this whole thing is truly that the adults in the home must embrace the experience, all of it. So, what is comes down to is, Hey, mom and dad, are you ready for a puppy? Are you ready for grandma stepping in dog poop, children screaming over chewed toys and running down the street in your pjs? Are you ready for thinking on your feet, a lot of laughter and making room in your schedule for what it takes to create a great dog? If so – you are the right age for a puppy!

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