A dog might be man’s best friend, but what could make for a better friendship than a child and a puppy? Uh, a lot, actually. Having puppies and small children is not as romantic and precious as it sounds.
Earlier this year, my husband and I, along with our two boys welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our family. An eight-week old yellow lab mix with the sweetest face and the happiest of tails came into our hearts on an overcast February day. We instantly fell in love with her as our hearts melted into puddles of goo on the floor over her cute puppy ways.
On the way home there was some arguing over who was going to hold the puppy in the car. I let our 5-year old hold her for part of the way. It was on that car ride that the first innocent nip from those razor-sharp daggers, aka teeth, occurred. In the next coming months, there would be roughly about 850 million more innocent puppy nips. Each nip resulted in wails of terror, anger and frustration not understanding why his new best friend would treat him this way.
We named our new puppy Bonnie, a name that means beautiful, and she sure does live up to her name. Bonnie has the prettiest brown eyes and the longest golden eyelashes you ever saw. I swear she gets extensions! She has the sweetest disposition and doesn’t mind one bit to have little boys laying on her, trying to ride her like a pony, or feed her an exuberant number of cookies. But she often steals food, counter surfs, desperately wants to join in on a game of chase and outruns them, taking down a kid in the process, knocks over Lego structures painstakingly constructed because she doesn’t know her own size, or whacks a kid in the head with her excited tail, not to mention the eaten shoes and library books. The number of times a kid cries per day because of what the dog did is too high for me to keep track of. The number of times per day I secretly wished we had waited on an older (read: calm/chill, trained, well-mannered) dog from the Labrador rescue is about 3. Usually equal to the number of times I clean up a puddle of tinkle. But my husband and I both wanted a puppy to grow up with our boys. We wanted puppy breath and a dog who would know the hierarchy of our pack, with our senior citizen Yorkie being at the top. We didn’t realize that a puppy would challenge her position as top dog.
Let me be clear, we all absolutely love our puppy. At the end of the day, we wouldn’t trade her for any dog in the world. She is a treasured and valued member of our family and we are fully committed to her training and upbringing. We recently invested in a training program to get some of her behavior issues under control and it has been worth every penny. In the few short weeks of training, she is a changed animal. I’ve learned that a big part of dog training includes human training as well.
My husband and I both grew up with dogs. There was never a time in my own childhood that we did not have a dog; big dogs at that. We had a black lab who was so naughty but turned out to be the greatest dog I’ve ever known. In my adult life, I have had two puppies prior to Bonnie. They were both little dogs and managing them in the early stages was a lot different than what needs to be done with Bonnie. I don’t know if it had to do with their size, breed, personalities, or because I didn’t have kids when they were puppies.
Puppies require a lot of time, attention, and dedication and it’s not fair to resent the puppy for requiring it. Puppies are also a big expense. Everything from basic supplies to veterinary care, to grooming, and more. Be realistic with what you can afford in terms of both time, energy and monetary resources. While I did consider those things, what I didn’t think too much about was how bringing a puppy into our home would completely shift the dynamic of our family. Very quickly, it was less about what we wanted to do and when, and more about what the puppy needed and when.
The seasons of toddler and preschool age is difficult. No mom will dispute that.
Raising a puppy is also hard. No dog owner will dispute that.
Raising them together is absolute chaos. You either have it in you or you don’t. You might think you have it in you and it is OK if you find out that you don’t. It doesn’t make your love for your family and your dog any less powerful. Find someone to help you with training. Be clear with your family that you cannot do the work alone and that everyone needs to pitch in to help with the puppy and the mundane jobs involved with having a puppy. Of course, bringing a puppy into your family is a very big decision and one that should be made with much consideration. If it’s just too much chaos, let me speak a truth to you. It’s OK. Rehoming a dog is a heavy decision to make and much consideration should be placed in it. But if it has to happen for the happiness of your home, the sanity of your life, and above all, the well-being for the puppy, it’s OK. You’re still a good dog owner. (Although I would encourage you not just take the dog to a reputable rescue who will find the right fur-ever home and not to take the dog to a shelter.)
As for Bonnie, we had a family meeting where we all made a re-commitment to her. We are able to see that with hard work ahead of us, our lives will be so much better because of her. She doesn’t just live in our house, but in our hearts. I’m just glad that she finally lost those puppy teeth!