10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got a Family Dog

We recently took the plunge and got a family dog – a cockapoo puppy. It was a bit of a shock to the system so I thought it might be useful to give you my insights into the experience. Here are 10 things I wish I’d known before we got a family dog:

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We chose a cockapoo puppy for 2 reasons. Firstly we have 2 allergy-prone family members and we needed a dog that wouldn’t cause too many allergy problems. Secondly cockapoos are a good mix of cleverness plus sociability, and a close relative had a cockapoo so we could see first hand what the breed was like.

Scout is a male puppy, we had the choice between a female or male and we feel in love with him. Having grown up with dogs,both my husband and I thought we knew the score but guess what, we didn’t! Here are 10 things I wish I’d known.

#1. It’s like having a baby again

Our kids are 11 and 14 so we had completely forgotten baby-time but when you have a new puppy you have to remember it’s a baby and it needs extra attention. The first few nights you have the puppy, it will howl and bark during the night and the best thing to do is to leave it so it gets used to being by itself at night.

My tip: You can try leaving some music or the radio on but it is literally the first few nights of pain that you need to get through and it does stop.

#2. Your kids want the nice bits

Despite promises they make before you get the dog that they will absolutely help with the dog and take care of it, your children will want all the cuddles and pats but they won’t want to do poop patrol or go out walking without a groan and a moan. You will end up doing the bulk of the caring for the pet, so just be prepared for that.

Tip: Incentivise your kids to do poop patrol and walking duty.

kids and family dog#3. Someone has to get up at weekends

Yep, it’s back to taking it in turns to get up at weekends as we are out of the young kids age stage and had got used to at least being able to sleep in a bit. And during holidays we ended up having a rota so everyone took their turn so it was fair.

#4. You will need pet training help

Unless you’re already a dog trainer, don’t think you can train the dog yourself as you won’t manage. It’s really worth paying for either a trainer to come to your house or go to dog classes. We did the former because there were no classes running near us when we needed to get him started. And the earlier the better.

According to our trainer, most dogs settle into their habits by 16 weeks of age, so if you can train them on some of the key things before then that makes your life a lot easier. Before training, we were starting to get frustrated and we also didn’t understand how dogs’ minds work, so having that explained really changed things for the better for us.

#5. Your vacations will change

You now have to think about

  • where you are going to spend your holidays near or far
  • are you going to take the dog in which case you need to research pet-friendly options
  • are you going to leave them behind in which case you need to organise care and factor in the cost to your holiday budget.
  • If it’s a male dog then most kennels and dog care require them to be neutered with all their injections including kennel cough in place. So you need to organise the timing in the first year so the neutering has taken place in time.

family dog#6. You need some back up

Kind of like having back up for your kids in case you can’t get to school in time or need to spend a night away with work, you may need some back up for your dog. You might need to find a dog sitter who is flexible and willing to take the dog for you on an ad-hoc short term basis, or ask friends or family if they can be your back up for a night or so if required.

I am speaking at the Social Media Summit Ireland conference next week as I write this and my husband has to travel with work and at first I was thinking OK so I have to find someone to take my kids for a night as we are both away, then suddenly I realised I needed to find someone for the dog too!

#7. You will find yourself out in all weathers

Yes all weathers. Dogs need walking and you can’t really use the poor weather as an excuse. Just wrap up warmly and in suitable clothes, and once you get over the initial blast as you go outside, I guarantee you will end up feeling better because as you start walking you end up warmer and feeling really good by the time you get back inside. I really didn’t expect that!

8. Puppies chew stuff

I thought this was a cliché but it’s true. Puppies chew stuff. You have to get used to putting things up out the way not leaving things lying around as you used to. Apart from slippers, our puppy loves sneaking a sock or a pair of underpants off the drying rack.

#9. They get bored

All dogs need a bit of stimulation especially when most of the family is out all day. They end up chewing things out of boredom.

Our vet recommended the Kong toys which you fill with a few bits of kibble and some peanut butter, freeze and then the dog will spend a good while trying to lick the treats out of the toy.

You can find the Kong toys on and

kong toy

#10. The cheapest dog equipment is not always the best

We bought a collar and lead to start with that were the cheapest and they just didn’t last. Puppy chewed the clip on the collar and the lead was not the tape type but the cord type and it just didn’t work properly as it was cheap.

So buy at least the medium cost items in the range as the cheap stuff just won’t last and is a waste of money. The only exception to this is dog toys which they are going to chew up anyway so don’t spend too much on those!

But before you think this has all been a negative experience, here are some of the wonderful things about our new puppy and how the family has reacted:

  • Puppy family dogThe children are learning to be more responsible about their pet;
  • We are definitely more active as a family and I am so much more active myself as the primary walker!
  • The greeting from our dog when you walk in the door is so delightful it makes you smile every time.
  • When he cuddles up and snoozes on your lap and is so sweet it makes you feel so good.
  • If anyone has an argument then they head straight to bury their nose in the dog’s fur and calm down.

Over to you now. Have you any experiences of getting a dog or tips that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below.

family dog

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls