Adding a dog into the family is a decision that requires enthusiastic agreement from all parties. While it’s typically children who campaign for a dog, it’s important to note that some kids might not be ready for the responsibility and change in lifestyle a new pup brings. Is your child truly ready for a dog? Any combination of items from the following list should give you pause.
1. Your child shows no interest in the decision-making process. A child that wants to welcome a dog into the household usually has opinions about everything-the color of the dog, the kind of fur it should have, the dog’s possible names, the toys it will play with and where it will sleep. A child that doesn’t chime in about a fuzzy new friend probably isn’t excited by the prospect of bringing one home.
2. Your child tolerates dogs but doesn’t seem to like them. If your child isn’t drawn to dogs, and doesn’t seem to appreciate when dogs come close (or doesn’t like the fur and drool that come along with a dog), you might want to talk about their feelings before you jump into getting a pet.
3. You’re getting a dog to teach your child “responsibility.” This often-repeated concept almost always implodes within the first few weeks of bringing a new dog home. Adding a dog to your household won’t instill values in your child that weren’t there to begin with. It will simply give your child a new list of chores to shirk with a participant who can’t afford to be ignored.
4. Your child doesn’t pitch in around house. If you have to nag your child to clear the table or put the laundry in the hamper, adding a dog might compound your frustrations. Many parents convince themselves that the child’s love for the dog will override their typical unwillingness to do chores, but it rarely happens. Mom ends up doing all of the work that Junior agreed to do before the dog came home.
5. Your child has a hard time following instructions. There are many steps to having a well-trained dog, and nearly all of them require family members to be on the same page about the process. If your child ignores you when you ask her not to feed the dog from the table, or she won’t put her shoes out of the puppy’s reach, you’re going to find yourself frustrated by both your child’s inability to listen and your dog’s begging and shoe chewing.
6. Your child is already overscheduled. If your child is like most, a typical day is not only filled with school and homework, but also brimming with a daunting list of after school activities. Adding a dog to a household with overbooked family members who can’t give it the time and attention it needs can lead to problems like destructiveness and uncontrollable behavior.
7. Your child is a baby. Bringing home a new baby to meet the family dog is a typical rite of passage, but bringing home a brand new dog when you have a brand new baby is something else completely. Both beings require a great deal of attention, and the being who suffers the most is usually the Mom in the middle of the equation.
8. Your child lacks empathy or is a bully. It’s not easy to take a step back and label your own child a bully, but if he’s unable to demonstrate compassion it’s possible that your dog could end up an accidental target.
9. You’re getting a dog to help your child transition during a difficult time. Everyone needs a friend during challenging life changes like dealing with death, divorce or moving. While the movies portray dogs as the ultimate best friend in times of trouble, the truth is a new dog might not be the best way to help a child deal with a scary upheaval. Processing the life change in combination with getting to know a new dog might be overwhelming for the child.
10. Your child is afraid. Some children are afraid of any dog-be it a two-pound Yorkie puppy or a sleepy senior Bernese Mountain Dog. Adding a pooch to your household won’t automatically eliminate the fear, and in some cases (like an energetic puppy that nips), it might exacerbate it.
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