Wiggly tails. Snuggly fur. Sweet eyes. Who doesn’t love to cuddle and play with a cute puppy? If you’re a dog lover, you’ve probably never met a puppy you didn’t want to take home and keep forever. But when is the best time to add a puppy to your family? Or the worst time? Is there even a right or wrong time to become a puppy parent?
Deciding to add a puppy to your family merits some serious soul-searching. One in four puppies ends up looking for a new home before he is one year old, so it’s important to avoid making an impulsive, emotional decision that could be harmful to you and the puppy. When you find yourself considering the addition of a cute little canine companion to your household, consider your marital status and family situation, living arrangements, and responsibilities and obligations, as well as the season. All of these factors play an important role in whether or not now is the best time for you to get a puppy.
One of the most important factors to consider when you are thinking about adding a puppy to your home is your family situation and marital status, as these can play a significant role in how conducive your life really is to raising and caring for a puppy.
If you’re single…
If you’re single, a puppy can prove an excellent companion, but you do have to ask yourself a few important questions. Begin with: Do I have the time and finances to take care of puppy on my own?
Properly training a puppy requires time to attend the classes and to practice at home, as well as money to pay for the trainer or classes. Taking your puppy to the veterinarian requires funds to pay vet bills, as well as potentially taking time off work; vet visits are frequent in the early stages, with necessities such as vaccinations, deworming, and spaying or neutering.
Exercising your dog requires time, as well. Do your work schedule and social life allow ample time for regular dog walks, fetch in the backyard, or trips to the dog park? Grooming also requires both time and money.
Finally, a puppy requires a lot of supplies: food, a crate, a bed, toys, treats, gates, fencing, a coat, a collar, a harness, a leash, poop bags, medicine, food and water bowls, shampoo, clippers–just to name a few. Are you able to afford the initial, and in some cases, on-going purchase of these necessary items?
If you’re married…
If you and your spouse are considering getting a puppy, you enjoy the benefit of teamwork. You can help each other and share the responsibility of puppy parenthood. Anne and Matt Shaw were in their early twenties when they got their first puppy, Bungee, a maltese/shih-tzu mix. Though they both worked full time, “We … had no children. We each planned to trade off coming home during lunch for the first couple months until he was comfortable and housetrained,” Mrs. Shaw explains.
Even if you are married, do you and your spouse both travel or work a lot? If so, there is no good time for you to get a puppy; you need to be home. As Mrs. Shaw says, “You need to have the time for your pet. If you’re working really long weeks or long shifts, then it’s not the right time to get a puppy. They need lots of time, attention, and training. “Charlene Jimenez, dog mom to two puppies and twin girls, concurs. It’s “probably the wrong time if you go on a lot of vacations or travel for work and you can’t take the dog with you.”
If you’re planning to have children…
If you’re about to have a baby, a new puppy and your new child can grow up together. However, having a baby and a puppy is similar to having two children. Mrs. Shaw, who not only raised Bungee but is also the mother to two human children, says she “would never get a puppy while pregnant. One time my husband and I saw a couple leaving Petsmart. They had a newborn and a puppy. We just looked at each other like, ‘What are they thinking!’ I suppose they just wanted to get all the house-training and midnight wake ups done while both the baby and the puppy were in that stage anyway, but why introduce two beings into your home who will wake you up at different times?”
Having both a young child and a puppy can prove disastrous for your family. Mrs. Shaw explains, “We had Bungee for just over four years. We wanted and planned to keep him his whole life, but a few issues came up that made us decide to find him a better home. We were still both working and our careers had gotten more demanding with more travel. We had a two year-old, and we wanted to do things with her when we were home since she was often at daycare. This meant that poor Bungee was not only home alone all day, but that after a short walk when we got home, we couldn’t be outside with him much. On the weekends we were often out and about, so he just started seeming to get depressed. We felt guilty about not being with him enough, and I was pregnant with our second.” Mrs. Shaw goes on to explain that with the new baby on the way and both she and her husband still planning to work full time, they did not feel they were giving their puppy the attention he deserved.
If you have children…
If you have young children who still need you and demand much of your time, energy, and attention, now is probably not an advisable time to to get a puppy–even if your children are pushing for one. A puppy is a lot like another child. If you already feel strained, do not get a puppy. If you would not be able to care for another baby right now, you are not equipped to care for a puppy.
If, on the other hand, your children are old enough to help take care of a dog, a puppy can prove the perfect companion for them and can help teach them responsibility. Keep in mind, though, that your children may not end up being as helpful after the novelty of Puppy wears off, and the majority of the puppy care may end up falling on your shoulders.
Finally, before adding a puppy to your family, make sure none of the members of your current brood suffer from dog allergies. Getting a puppy only to later find out that a member of the family is allergic can prove a heartbreaking experience for everyone.
If you have other pets…
Before adding a puppy to your household, consider what that means for animals with whom you already share your home. Do you currently have a dog to whom you will need to introduce the new puppy? What about a cat? How will the addition of a new puppy affect the dynamics of your household overall?
Jimenez admits, “When we got our second puppy, we weren’t knowledgeable on how to introduce them. I learned later that we made some big mistakes. The first puppy was aggressive toward the new one, and I was horrified. We were about to give the new puppy back because I didn’t want her to get hurt, but then our first dog eased up and got used to her.”
Before deciding to add a puppy to your home already bustling with animal life, make sure you do your research. “I wish I would’ve done my research about how to introduce dogs. It would’ve saved us all a lot of heartache,” Jimenez says.
Where you live can play a big role in whether or not now is the best time for you to get a puppy. Do you own or rent your home? If you rent, check your complex or landlord’s policies to make sure pets are permitted to live on the property.
Once you have established that dogs are indeed permitted, consider the lifestyle a puppy would have in your current home. Do you have a backyard where he could sniff and play, or will he be confined to a small balcony or patio at best? If no yard is available, that doesn’t necessary preclude you from getting a puppy. For example, regular visits to a nearby dog park could substitute for a backyard if you commit to frequently taking your dog there for playtime. If a dog park is not an option, perhaps there are safe places in the vicinity where you would regularly walk your pup. If neither a backyard, dog park, or safe walking area is an option, you may want to wait to get a puppy until you find yourself in a living situation more suitable for a canine companion.
You also need to consider the interior space of your home. You will need ample space for a crate and at least one dog bed–as well as the puppy himself. Consider how much room you have and how big your puppy will become. A big dog in a small space is usually a bad idea.
Consider the layout of your home, as well. Is there a way to safely and easily confine your puppy, if needed? Are there good places to use doggy gates?
Remember, too, that most if not all puppies go through a destructive puppy stage. Consider how any roommates or a landlord might react to the potential for damage that may occur during this stage. Sarah Blanchard got her mini doxie, Rese, while she was still living at home with her parents. She recalls the destructive stage with some anxiety. “The hardest part of having a dog in the house was definitely potty training and not chewing on things,” she says.
Responsibilities and Obligations
If you have decided your family and living situation are puppy-friendly, try to get a puppy during a time of year when you can take vacation time or are not as busy with work and other obligations, so you can spend time playing with, bonding with, and training your new puppy.
You will also want to pick a time when you have an established routine. Mrs. Shaw explains, “Introduce a dog to your home when it’s fairly settled and peaceful, not right before or during a big change.” Similarly, avoid getting a puppy during times when you plan to travel soon. If you travel often for work or pleasure, be sure to consider what plans you will have in place for your puppy, such as a dog sitter or dog walker. These options are good temporary fixes when necessary, but may not be good long-term solutions, as the best companion for your puppy is you.
Finally, Jimenez advises, “If someone isn’t willing to put in the work of having a puppy, it’s always the wrong time. To have a puppy, you have to be willing to give up sleep to train them to go to the bathroom outside at night, among many other things. It’s a lot of work, but it’s absolutely worth it.”
Some seasons may be better suited than others to add a puppy to your home. Spring and summer are generally optimal times, as housebreaking your puppy may prove easier when the weather outside is comfortable. In addition, spring and summer offer more daylight hours for walks and backyard play time.
On the other hand, fall and winter may not prove the best seasons for adding a puppy to your home. Although a puppy may seem like an excellent Christmas gift, the holidays keep us very busy with decorating, hosting, traveling, and the like, and it may be harder to potty train your new puppy when you must contend with rain, snow, or cold. Plus, fall and winter offer shorter days for outside playtime.
Remember, when you get a puppy, you’re actually getting a dog. The puppy stage typically ends after about two years, so rather than considering whether you want a puppy, you should really ask yourself if you are ready for the lifetime commitment of a creature who will end up a senior dog. As Jimenez says, “The right time to get a puppy is when you’re ready to do whatever it takes to love, care for, and teach that puppy.”
Before getting a puppy who will spend his life with you, be sure you have considered your long-term plans or goals, and whether or not your future is conducive to owning a dog. After all, getting a puppy is a lifetime commitment.