Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Should we get a DOG?

If you're a childfree couple, you may be wondering if you should get a DOG. You feel that maybe people expect you to, like it's the next logical step, but then you wonder: is it right for YOU?

I'm not sure if this post will ever be useful to anyone - most people know what they want and they know when they want it. But sometimes, you just don't know - and if someone in that position ever comes across this post in a briefly ponderous Google search, maybe it will help.

Before we got Bo, Brian and I deliberated quite a bit about whether or not it was a good step for us to take. I work from home (so I was lonely) and I had baby fever (I wanted something to take care of), and I really, really wanted a dog - a miniature schnauzer, actually. I thought a smaller dog that didn't shed would be a good choice for Brian (who did not want a dog). We bounced back and forth between whether or not a dog would be a good addition to our family.

As it turned out, God had already picked out a dog for us. We brought Bo home on December 7th, 2008, when he was ten months old. He was a big, shedding ball of energy and he had absolutely no housetraining whatsoever. Of course, he was the perfect addition to our family and we love him more than anything - but getting a dog was a huge adjustment. I was not prepared for it. Every morning, during those first few weeks, I'd wake up to the sound of Bo whining and carrying on inside his crate, scratching and slamming against the door to get out. I knew that the rest of the day would merely be a struggle to expend some of his energy. I thought, "Lord, what have we done?"

It really bothers me when people get a dog that they are not prepared for, then mistreat it (by not giving it the attention and training it needs) or just 'rehome' it and hope that someone else will take care of the problems they're not willing to train out. If you're on the verge of bringing home a 'cute little puppy', please don't underestimate what an adjustment he will be!

It's tempting to want to bring home a furry baby before having a human baby. But personally, I don't think it's always the right time in life to get a dog when it's just the two of you. With that, here are some things to consider if you are a young couple thinking about getting a dog:

Is your schedule packed with outings and events (either social or work-related)? Do you both work long days outside the home? I don't mean to imply that you must never leave the house when you get a dog, but you have to understand that dogs are SOCIAL animals. (They are not cats.) When people fuss about their dogs going crazy and tearing up the house, I believe it stems from their assumption that they should be able to leave their dog indefinitely like they would a cat. Initially, at ten months old, Bo needed three walks a day - maybe four. He loved to chew on things and if we left him crated for more than three hours during the day he'd go insane and tear up everything inside his crate. He needed LOTS of exercise, LOTS of training... but most of all, he needed to grow up! He wasn't a bad dog. He was a normal dog with normal dog needs. Don't get a dog if you spend more time outside the house than in. (Of course, if you're fine with letting your home be a chew toy, then go for it.)

Do you travel often? Unless you're going to take your dog with you on trips, be aware that getting a dog will really put the squash on your 'pick up and go' freedom. One of the reasons we wanted to wait a few years before having kids was because we wanted freedom to do what we wanted when we wanted to. With a dog, that changed. I held off accompanying Brian on business trips, and we stopped going to the beach for a couple summers because we couldn't find a decent boarding place that would cost less than $45 per day. Finally, we found a great family to watch him for much less, and I don't feel bad about leaving him with people he loves. Still, the added expense always makes us consider a 'pick-up-and-go' trip a little more seriously.

Will you both be on the same page when it comes to training? Or at least be willing to let one of you make the final call? Take it from me, as a softie married to a hard-head: we were not on the same page when it came to training Bo. But you know what? Bo needed a heavier hand in his training. I learned (or tried to learn) to trust Brian's judgment - but if you both love fighting and vying for top-dog position (ha, ha) you might not be a successful dog-owning team. (For that matter, it actually might be good practice for kids.)

Now, we come and go as we please (so we have regained our freedom!), we travel (since we've found such a great sitter), we have an obedient dog (for the most part), and I couldn't imagine life without him for a second! And neither could Brian, who's found his best friend in our dog.

Ultimately, I say: go for it! If you're prepared for the changes, you'll do fine. And most importantly, your dog will have the life he deserves.



  1. Good post! I want a dog so I can have something to take care of, but we're waiting to see if God blesses us with a child first, because newborn + puppy would be a lot to handle!

  2. Sky - one (pregnant) couple told us, "Every couple that gets a dog gets pregnant within a year!" This was in April '09 and apparently we have been an exception to that tried-and-true advice. Ha ha. Anyway, it might work for you guys. (There's your bizarre fertility tip for the day.)

  3. Haha, well that's somewhat encouraging - maybe it will work for us!