We got a puppy.
And I knew getting into it that adopting a puppy would be challenging. That it would require some extra time and energy, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the reality of life with a new pup and three kids.
If you are thinking about getting a dog, here are some words of wisdom from a new puppy mom going through it right now.
What to Expect with a Puppy
1. It’s going to take way more time than you think.
Whatever time you think you will need to spend training, walking, feeding, and watching your puppy — triple it.
We decided adopting a puppy was right this summer because we weren’t involved in a ton of activities. So, I naively thought I would have tons of extra time to train and care for a new pet.
But I grossly underestimated the time I needed to spend with our pup.
It is like having a newborn.
Remember those days when your husband would come home from work and say, “What did you do today, honey?” The days when you were busy the entire day, yet got nothing done because you were attached to a baby for the entire eight hours?
That is life with a new puppy.
2. The mental load is exhausting.
My husband left on a work trip during the second week that our new pup was home. I spent three days alone with the three kids and puppy. When he finally returned, I about burst into tears.
We called it “puppy fatigue.”
The mental load of caring for a dog is exhausting. Even when you’re not training or feeding or walking, that puppy is always on your mind.
When did he last eat? Poop? Get outside to go potty? Should he take a nap? Why is he so wild right now?
Concerns about the puppy, along with taking care of three kids and a job and all the other house duties — it’s a lot.
Puppy fatigue is real and the mental load can be taxing. So if your brain is already loaded to capacity, I recommend waiting to get that cute little ball of fluff.
3. You aren’t just training a puppy, you are also training your kids.
I read the books, researched the Internet, made lists, and had a plan. I felt totally ready to train our new pup to be the perfect dog.
What I didn’t do was any research on how to train my kids.
My kids had no idea how to act around a dog.
Puppies nip, jump, and get the “zoomies” (what we call that little wild run around time they suddenly burst into). And they have no idea how to take a command.
My Kids with Puppies
1. They got incredibly frustrated really quickly. They just wanted to snuggle and play with this cute little puppy. But the puppy just wanted to bite their fingers and jump up on them. Naturally, they would run away which the puppy thought was a fun game of chase. It wasn’t.
2. They had no idea how to train a puppy. Sure, I read all the books and blogs, but they didn’t. I had to teach them what to do in each situation: how to discipline, how to hold the leash, etc.
3. They often pushed our progress backward. It was like having too many cooks in the kitchen. I would be trying to teach the dog something with three other little voices shouting “sit” and trying to give a treat. Or I would be working on teaching the puppy not to jump up on the couch, and then a kiddo would encourage the puppy to jump up on the couch to snuggle.
In retrospect, we should have spent more time pre-puppy teaching our kids how to act around a dog.
Have a Plan
It’s so important to have kids involved in all aspects of pet ownership, just make sure to have a plan in place for how and when they can help. And it’s good to have those guidelines and skills in place before you begin the process of adopting a puppy.
Another quick kid tip: assess their abilities.
I often found myself saying, “Thank goodness we didn’t get a puppy when our kids were younger.”
Our kids are 10, 7, and 5 years old and even at these ages they had a tough time working with and adapting to this puppy. They are also fairly independent, which was good because I was often consumed with taking care of the pet.
It can be done, but I think adopting a puppy with babies or young toddlers would be an extremely challenging. In my opinion, it would likely lead to more frustration than enjoyment.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Pets are wonderful. And having a dog in the home can teach kids to take on responsibility and learn new skills.
Just make sure to honestly assess if a puppy will fit with your lifestyle.
If you know what to truly expect, puppy fatigue will be minimized and more joy from your adorable new addition will be felt by all.
For more information on making a pet a part of your family, see Adopting a Pet In and Around Fargo.