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 fell 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!
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What I Wish I Had Known Before Getting a Family Dog
#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 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! You will end up doing the bulk of the caring for the pet, so be prepared for that.
#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 stage and had got used to being able to sleep in a bit. During holidays we ended up having a rota to make it fair so everyone took their turn.
#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 will make 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.
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#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, 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.
#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.
#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 for the fresh air.
#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 and 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.
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#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 or 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 Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com)
#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 the cord type and it just didn’t work properly.
While you don’t need to go for the most expensive items either, beware of the false economy of buying cheap items and needing to replace them regularly.
Final Tips on Getting a Family Dog
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:
- The 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, it’s very sweet and makes you feel so good.
- Burying your nose in the dog’s fur is a great way to calm down!
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What are your experiences of getting a family dog, or tips that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!